Professionalism on the Line

Published on October 11, 2019

Professionals who received their education over 10 years ago and haven’t upgraded to understand the implications of sustainability trends, risks and opportunities may be putting their organizations at risk.

The world is a very different place for those who graduated in 2010 or earlier: climate change, increasing scarcity of resources and water, declining biodiversity, digital disruption, and changing government, public, consumer and workforce expectations are creating a perfect storm for professionals leading and advising their organizations. These trends are anticipated to affect organizations directly – or indirectly through their supply chains. Professionals need the insights to understand the impacts of these trends on their organization’s operations, not to mention viability – and learn strategies to address or influence them. Some professional groups such as accountants, engineers, and governance professionals are reskilling for the new reality, guided by forward-thinking professionals and professional associations.

But many professional associations are waiting for demand from their members before taking the initiative. Therein lies the problem – a vicious cycle has been created in which association leadership is waiting for demand from their members for sustainability upgrading, while their members expect professional associations to alert them to the new requirements. This has created a logjam which inhibits progress.

The Real Estate Foundation of BC (REFBC) commissioned research into this topic, seeking to understand the nature of the demand for “sustainability” competencies within the real estate profession. As documented in the report “Beyond the Transaction: Enhancing Professional Excellence in Real Estate in BC”, the real estate profession believes in the merits of sustainability and is eager to contribute its expertise to building healthy environments and communities. The report lays out the competency pathway: the need for research on the sustainability trends affecting the profession, the consumer business case, best practice examples, education, tips, guides and resources.

Remarkably, the research found a solid 20 per cent of realtors were personally committed to advancing sustainability through their work. However, they lacked the guidance to put them on firm footing and create greater social impact. Fortunately, research on the sustainability competencies needed by leaders is available, as are guidelines for professional associations that seek to equip their members with sustainability competencies.

Professional associations need to know that their members are waiting for their leadership! Here are some of the steps professional groups can follow to ready their members for the future:

Sustainable Professional Association Roadmap

  1. Define sustainability for the profession
  2. Understand the sustainability business case and trends affecting the profession
  3. Include sustainability in the competency model and professional development programs
  4. Create a transformational professional model – to incent continuous improvement
  5. Identify early adopters and create case studies and awards
  6. Become a social purpose professional association and inspire “for good” professionalism
  7. Collaborate on sustainability along the professional value chain

The REFBC report offers more details on these steps and is a call to action to realtors, their associations and professionals everywhere to up their game to cross the line towards a more sustainable future for their organizations and for the communities in which they live.

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