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What is a Sustainability Officer?

A Sustainability Officer is a specialized type of Chief Executive. Also known as: Certified Sustainability Officer, CSO, Chief Sustainability Officer.

Ecology has become a very important factor to consumers and governments. It is only within the last twenty years that corporations have begun to make the environment a priority while producing goods or providing services. This is an ideal position for a person interested in business and a company's ecological impact.

This vocation is also referred to as a Certified or Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO). The CSO analyses and predicts a company or institution's future outlook, present stability and environmental impact. Previously, companies would hire outside consultants to make these predictions based on past performance. Corporations decided that hiring outside the company made no sense financially. The CSO sets policy, goals and objectives to assure that the corporation maintains and even exceeds productivity and profitability, and meets or exceeds environmental policy.

What does a Sustainability Officer do?

The CSO is responsible for providing an ongoing evaluation of the company's profits, personnel, ecological outlook and other factors that affect company performance. The CSO reports directly to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) or an Executive Management Team. The position of the CSO is to have direct contact with most, if not all, of the personnel involved in the production process. The job requires a person who is dedicated to reducing the company's carbon footprint, in and above compliance to environmental regulations set by the government. The position is multi-faceted and provides the opportunity to be involved at almost every level of production.

What is the workplace of a Sustainability Officer like?

A CSO's workplace is throughout the company. Personnel are interviewed while qualitative and quantitative data are gathered in order to provide 'white papers' or reports to the CEO or Executive Team Members. Reports are generated every quarter or three months. During those times that the CSO is not gathering data, he or she usually has a private office suite in which to study relevant data and compile reports.

How can I become a Sustainability Officer?

This office is relatively new, and current CSOs have a master's degree in business administration and seek certification in sustainability in order to advance to this position. A person planning to become a CSO would do well to complete an MBA and certification concurrently. Two to five years’ experience in supervisory role in business, with increased responsibility are valuable gateways to becoming a CSO.

One of the major responsibilities of this position is in developing a strategic plan. The strategic plan assesses a company's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to productivity. These types of plans provide the necessary information to analyze and assess performance while providing data to plan ongoing goals, outcomes and objectives. A person interested in analyzing and providing ongoing performance data is ideal for a position as a CSO.

A passion for the environment and the impact of a corporation on the environment are essential skill sets for a CSO. As ecological issues have become more important to the public and government policy regarding the environment has expanded, it has become necessary to add the position of CSO. The change has been very recent, meaning this is a fast-paced and growing field.

The workload of the CSO is relatively fast-paced compared to other business roles. A person interested in learning every facet of productivity, from human resources to finished product or output, is ideally suited for this position. A person interested in a position as a CSO is able to consider both details and the overall performance of the company throughout productivity. For example, the public has become more interested in products that are environmentally friendly to the point of rejecting products that do not fit this new paradigm. A CSO is involved in every phase of development, from R&D to potential profit to final production.

Abilities to work with and interview people are inherent to the job of CSO. The ability to report the hard facts to superiors is also a requirement. A CSO must be able to move comfortably between all levels of personnel with the ability to set anyone at ease, in order to discover how productivity can be improved and bad policy may be avoided. A person who thinks independently and communicates clearly is ideal for the position of CSO.

Skills important to a CSO include the abilities to think critically, independently and creatively problem-solve. Critical thinking is the ability to decide whether information is true, sometimes true, or entirely false, along with the ability to think 'outside the box'. Independent thinking may require gathering information, but ultimately the decision made must not be swayed by sources wholly unfamiliar with the entire problem. Perhaps above all the other skills, the ability to think and make decisions is the primary skill and at the very heart of functioning as a competent CSO. Creative problem-solving allows the CSO to choose solutions that are beyond previous measures. This aspect is likely the most energizing for any person choosing to become a CSO.


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