The word “sustainability” has never been more popular in the corporate world. The number of companies appointing a chief sustainability officer (CSO) is rising rapidly: In 2021 more CSOs were hired than in the previous five years combined, Harvard Business Review reports.
But despite good intentions — and widespread acceptance of the importance of sustainability — there is still a lack of clarity about a CSO’s tasks and accountabilities. For example, at one large European consumer goods firm we consulted with, there are numerous job titles in a variety of units that include the word “sustainability.” The result is fragmented ownership, internal competition for visibility and resources, and inefficiency with a great deal of overlap and duplication.
To clear the fog and help C-suites define the position and responsibilities of the CSO, we created a simple visual framework.
It breaks the CSO role into eight distinct tasks:
Ensuring regulatory compliance.
ESG monitoring and reporting.
Overseeing the portfolio of sustainability projects.
Managing stakeholders’ relationships.
Building organizational capabilities.
Fostering cultural change.
Scouting and experimenting.
Embedding sustainability into processes and decision making.
The 8 Responsibilities of Chief Sustainability Officers (Harvard Business Review)