Online Sustainability Courses | Certified Sustainability Curriculum

Sustainable Practices Program | University of Colorado Boulder


To earn one of the non-credit certificates in sustainability management, enrollees are required to complete three core seminars and the specialty seminar that corresponds with their chosen focus (Business or Community). You can also choose to complete both specialty seminars and earn both non-credit certificates. They are designed to be completed sequentially, building on each other to help you develop what you’ve learned into a practical, complete base of knowledge. Seminars may be taken out of sequence, but we highly recommend taking the seminars sequentially. One non-credit certificate can be finished in six to eight months.

The sustainability courses are designed to focus on sustainability as a whole, providing unique, expert insight into how you can go about creating, developing, and implementing sustainability initiatives – whether at work or in your community.

The first three seminars have minimal instructor interaction, allowing you to set your own pace for study. The final seminar offers direct interaction the program’s accomplished faculty, all leaders in the field of sustainability with experience in a broad array of industries. During the final seminar, you’ll have access to an engaging online learning platform that supports real-world exercises and interactive assignments. The program also provides useful templates and tools that you can use in the field.

Core Seminars

Fundamentals of Sustainability and Resource Management

The course objective is to develop a foundational understanding of organizing principles and analytical frameworks that can be used to develop, execute, and monitor sustainability initiatives, as well as the skills, values and abilities required of the “generic” Sustainability Professional. We will review the history of sustainability, cover core frameworks and principles, and consider climate change from both a mitigation and adaptation lens. An overview of resource conservation such as energy, water and waste, as it applies to sustainability for organizations will also be covered. Examples of topics we will cover include definitions of sustainability, population and climate change, systems approaches to resource management, the energy pyramid and demand side management, zero waste and recycling, and sustainable transportation issues.

Organizational Change and Communication Strategies

The objective of this Seminar is to prepare students for successful leadership in sustainability by addressing the role of sustainability professionals as change agents in any organization. Students will learn about the process of promoting a culture of sustainability, encompassing change at the human, departmental, and organizational levels. Topics covered include: leadership qualities and skills for sustainability professionals, adaptive vs. transformative change, laying the foundation for change, relationship building, sustainable characteristics of organizations, recognizing disincentives, community-based social marketing, community partnerships, dealing with resistance and creating buy-in. Communication strategies covered in this seminar include how to design successful strategic communications among employees, clients, and the public. We will tap into the latest research from policymakers, think tanks, researchers and organizations who are on the forefront of messaging about sustainability, and we’ll examine what is working, what has not, and why. Students will gain an understanding of how to frame sustainability, how to create effective messaging, and how to shape messaging to match the values of audiences. In the course, students will also learn strategies for creating a shared narrative around sustainability that enables their organizations to convey a values-informed identity and purpose.

Applied Sustainability: Planning, Implementation and Assessment

The objective of this course is to prepare students for further leadership in sustainability within organizations by providing training in sustainability assessment, planning and implementation. This seminar will bring together many of the foundational concepts and skills learned in the previous two seminars and provide guided practical experience into the application of sustainability within organizations. Students will gain experience in applying and implementing sustainability tools such as assessments, setting goals, ranking and determining initiatives, measuring and reporting tools and employee engagement tools for organizations. In order to successfully lead sustainability initiatives, participants will also learn the basics of life cycle cost accounting, carbon and GHG planning and accounting, and making the case for initiatives including return on investment, as well as hands on experience in integrating sustainability into existing strategic plans.


Specialty Seminars

A major focus of the culminating Seminar in the program is the opportunity to engage in a personal project under the direct mentorship of one of the program’s accomplished instructors. Students will identify and undertake a sustainability project that fits with their career aspirations or personal learning objectives, including a project deliverable of their choice that can be used to further their organization’s sustainability program and/or the student’s career. Clear direction and guidance, along with project milestones, help guide students to successful completion within the six week Seminar format.

Business Sustainability Management

In the 21st century, sustainability is an imperative for business success, as well as a source of new opportunity. The intention of this seminar is to integrate the concepts of sustainability into a comprehensive business model that is based on the triple bottom line of social, environmental and financial performance, or People, Planet, and Profit. This seminar will examine some of the other key issues and opportunities facing private sector business as contrasted to public sector organizations not covered in previous Seminars, including rethinking capitalism and corporate models, corporate social responsibility and social enterprise, sustainable supply chain and purchasing, and stakeholder engagement. Topics will include an in-depth review of an exemplar private sector company’s journey to sustainability, Creating Shared Value; as well as the positive impacts of business models that incorporate corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices. Participants will learn to identify and map stakeholders, consider engagement techniques and more.

Community Sustainability Management

Today, sustainability is an imperative for community vitality, as well as a source of new opportunity. The intention of this seminar is to integrate the concepts of urban sustainability into a comprehensive sustainable cities model that is based on the triple bottom line of social, environmental and financial performance, or People, Planet, and Profit. This seminar will examine the issues, challenges and concerns of providing Sustainability Leadership specific to the three primary social sectors (government, private, nonprofit), including making the business case, the social justice case and the environmental protection case. Topics will include an in-depth review of policy and regulation, the effects of business practices on local sustainability, social justice, human health, and climate change; as well as the positive impacts of alternative community development models. Participants will learn to align sustainability with concepts of governance, local economic vitality reporting, and community infrastructure changes for the future. They also will learn and practice stakeholder engagement and facilitation techniques to use in their own organization.


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