The evolving role of a Chief Sustainability Officer
Sustainability, Strategy and Finance

The evolving role of a Chief Sustainability Officer

As a prospective CSO perhaps one of the first questions you should ask of your new employer is 'who will I report to'. The closer we are to the financial and strategy decision makers, the more influence we can have.

You have been working in sustainability for a few years now. You have built up expertise in ESG scoring and reporting, and you have some good subject matter knowledge in your chosen field. You now feel it's time to step up. That you are ready for a Chief Sustainability Officer role - partly because you have started to understand that that is where you will get a real chance to 'make a difference'.

And then you get the call from the reputable sustainability recruitment company. What should be your first question? Is it who is the employer, as you only want to work where you can really make a difference? Is it the salary? Or maybe it's about flexible working?

All good questions, but maybe the first question you should ask the recruitment person is 'who will I report to?'

The details

This blog was previously published as a Thought Leadership piece for Farrell Associates.

We are big fans of the work of Alison Taylor, who is now an Associate Professor at NYU Stern School of Business. She is also the author of an upcoming book entitled Higher Ground, which comes out in February next year (and that we are very much looking forward to reading).

One area where Alison is focused is on the changing role of the Chief Sustainability Officer.

In a recent article for HBR, she (with Robert Eccles) pointed out that historically CSOs have acted like stealth PR executives, telling appealing stories to the company's many stakeholders. This has made the CSO responsible for everything, but with limited power to actually deliver. Or to quote Alison "they currently have a lack of role clarity, and insufficient power and resources. With a wide range of reporting lines".

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