Sustainability Excellence Credentials

Sustainability Excellence Associate (SEA) Sustainability Excellence Professional (SEP)

GBCI’s Sustainability Excellence Associate (SEA) and Sustainability Excellence Professional (SEP) credentials recognize individuals dedicated to making the world a more sustainable place – economically, socially and environmentally. Credential holders help organizations and communities integrate sustainability best practices throughout business operations.

The SEA and SEP credentials provide third-party verification of competency in the field of sustainability and recognize individuals who have the skills to foster innovation, transform culture and lead sustainability initiatives for organizations and communities throughout the world. They are designed for sustainability professionals in every industry and region, including those who might not have a sustainability-related job title.

Earning an SEA or SEP credential demonstrates to the market that you:

  • Understand and can communicate sustainability topics to diverse audiences
  • Are up-to-date on the most current sustainability issues, tools and techniques
  • Are able to apply systems thinking in developing sustainability solutions and assess sustainability risks and opportunities in any organization, community or industry
  • Are involved in planning, implementing and evaluating the integration of sustainability into organizational culture and practice

Each credential is valid for 2 years and requires ongoing professional development activities.

Sustainability Excellence Associate

The Sustainability Excellence Associate (SEA) credential demonstrates an understanding of core sustainability concepts and is designed for those who are new to or are interested in entering the sustainability field, including students, recent graduates and/or early career professionals.

How to become a certified Sustainability Excellence Associate

Step 1: Study at your own pace
A comprehensive set of study materials is offered through ISSP to help you prepare for the
Sustainability Excellence Associate exam. If you have questions or comments as you review these materials, contact ISSP.

  • SEA Study GuideThe most comprehensive preparation tool for the SEA credential exam. The SEA Study Guide walks readers through the Core Sustainability Concepts tested by the SEA exam, broken down into 10 detailed chapters. Each chapter highlights a set of Key Concepts, linked to the Study Guide's glossary and index.  Both seasoned professionals and part-time practitioners will find this digital Study Guide is the ultimate way to prepare for the Sustainability Excellence Associate (SEA) exam. 
  • SEA Flash CardsCovering more than 300 sustainability terms and their definitions, the SEA Flash Cards are an easy-to-use study tool for credential exam candidates. Each purchase includes a digital set that allows for convenient studying on mobile devices with just a few clicks, plus a printable set if you prefer real cards. The digital Flash Card set is perfect for studying at home or on the go. Just download to your laptop, tablet, or smartphone, and navigate the sustainability terms and their definitions. 
  • SEA Exam Practice QuestionsThe SEA Sample Exam Questions Booklet was created to help candidates prepare for their SEA credentialing exam. This convenient booklet contains 42 questions that probe your understanding of Core Sustainability Concepts--the first Domain of knowledge in the exam's Job Task Analysis. The questions are representative of type of questions you may find on the exam, but do not necessarily mirror the content of the actual exam

Step 2: Register for the Sustainability Excellence Associate exam
When you feel prepared to take the exam, you can read the SEA Candidate Handbook and register. The SEA exam includes 100 multiple choice questions focused on Core Sustainability Concepts. The exam can be taken online from home or in a testing center. Earning the SEA credential is a requirement to pursue the more advanced Sustainability Excellence Professional designation. 

Step 3: Share your accomplishment
After passing the SEA exam you will earn a professional credential that you can share with prospective employers and your professional network demonstrating that you have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to lead sustainability initiatives at organizations and communities of any kind. 

Step 4: Continue learning and maintain your credential
The Sustainability Excellence Associate credential is valid for 2 years and requires ongoing professional development activities. Learn more in the CMP Guide. Whether you are launching your career for the first time or looking to get more involved in sustainability, there are a variety of skills and concepts that are fundamental to the field of practice. USGBC and ISSP offer comprehensive online education to increase your knowledge of core sustainability concepts and strategies and support ongoing credential maintenance and professional development. A sample of these courses is shared below.

ISSP Courses USGBC Courses
Sustainability & the Language of Business Stakeholder Engagement
Basics of Business Sustainability Native Landscaping and Biodiversity
Greening Your Operations Measuring Progress on Sustainability
Accounting & the Triple Bottom Line Green Building 101
Managing for Sustainability Overview of Environmental Issues
Vision & Goal Setting Introduction to TRUE certification for zero waste
Marketing for Sustainability Preparing the Workforce for a Clean Energy Economy
Environmental & Social Sustainability Issues How Green Buildings Improve the Health & Wellbeing


Sustainability Excellence Professional

The Sustainability Excellence Professional (SEP) demonstrates advanced knowledge and extensive experience in the sustainability field and recognizes leaders and experts who are at the forefront of the transition to a more sustainable world. In order to earn an SEP, candidates must demonstrate professional excellence in and mastery of several key fields including core sustainability concepts as well as stakeholder engagement, planning and implementing sustainability strategies, evaluating efforts and adjusting sustainability plans.

Registration and eligibility

Earning an SEA is a prerequisite to becoming an SEP. Candidates must have a bachelor’s degree or global equivalent, sustainability-related professional experience or a combination of education and experience (5 years of professional experience within the last 10 years, 4 years of professional experience within the last 8 years plus one year of education/training, or 3 years of professional experience within the last 6 years plus two years of education/training) and three professional references. Registrants must agree to abide by the GBCI Disciplinary and Exam Appeals Policy.

In order to apply to take the SEP exam, you must submit a complete application form. Once the application is accepted, you must purchase, schedule and pass the exam. View the SEP application instructions.


The SEP exam requires successful completion of 100 multiple choice questions and must be completed within 2.5 hours. Learn more by downloading the Candidate Handbook below.


A comprehensive set of study materials is offered by ISSP to help you prepare for the exams. For a detailed walkthrough of the credentialing process, including rescheduling, cancellation and refund policies, download the Candidate Handbook below.

Download the Sustainability Excellence Candidate Handbook


SEA Fees USGBC and ISSP Members and Students Nonmembers
SEA Exam $175 $350
SEP Fees USGBC and ISSP Members Nonmembers
SEP Application $75 $150
SEP Exam $175 $300
Renewal Fees Every 2 Years USGBC and ISSP Members Nonmembers
SEA $75 $150
SEP $100 $200

In 2016, the International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP) launched the ISSP Sustainability Associate (ISSP-SA) and ISSP Certified Sustainability Professional (ISSP-CSP) credentials. These two professional credentials were acquired by Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) in November 2019 and were rebranded as the Sustainability Excellence Associate (SEA) and Sustainability Excellence Professional (SEP) credentials. GBCI is responsible for administering and delivering the credentials, and ISSP now delivers education to support exam preparation, credential maintenance and professional development.

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