Every two to three years since 2008, AASHE has conducted a survey of sustainability professionals employed in higher education. These surveys collect information from sustainability staff as well as more specialized positions such as recycling & waste staff and energy management staff. This report presents the results of the 2020 Higher Education Sustainability Staffing Survey and serves as an update to our 2017 report. It examines the nature of sustainability positions at colleges and universities in the United States, Canada and other countries, providing insights into salaries, funding, supervision, job satisfaction, challenges and more.
The survey on which this report is based closed on February 14, 2020. As a result, the findings capture the higher education sustainability sector on the eve of a global pandemic that closed many campuses and triggered a major economic downturn. Since then, the financial outlooks for many institutions have changed dramatically. There is no doubt that the impacts are being felt within the higher education sustainability community too, in ways that almost certainly would have impacted responses to some survey questions. Similarly, the survey closed just before a rise in widespread, global protests calling for an end to police brutality and systemic racism. The work that higher education sustainability professionals are doing to advance equity and social justice (see page 36 of 2020 publication) may have changed in response to these events.
The results of this survey may not fully represent the current circumstances of higher education sustainability staff given recent events. Nevertheless, the results are useful in understanding how the field has evolved over time and in providing a baseline for determining how a global pandemic and widespread calls for racial equity impact the profession moving forward.