My green dream job: Chief Sustainability Officer

green-jobs-nowWhile browsing Dan Smolen’s blog – a real must read – I came across what became instantly my green dream job: Chief Sustainability Officer, a job solely dedicated to make companies more sustainable.

According to the article an increasing amount of large American corporations now have such jobs. I wonder if smaller companies have similar position. Likewise, I would like to know if such jobs can be found in Europe or Asia.

Today’s post brings definitions as well as tips to become a successful Chief Sustainability Officer (also known as Chief green or Chief Environmental Officer).According to Dan :

The C-level is no longer exclusively for CEOs, COOs, CIOs and CMOs. With the rapid rise of corporate sustainability consciousness has come an entirely new entrant to the C-Suite: The Chief Green Officer.

Green or Sustainability executives – at senior or middle management levels – are popping up all over.  Most major U.S. corporations now have them.

From a story in the Dallas Morning News:

There’s a pent-up demand in the marketplace for sustainability specialists, but you have to ask who wants them and what does the DNA of a sustainable expert look like?” said Stephen Stokes, vice president of business and climate change at AMR Research in Boston.

“Are they a scientist, a PR specialist, a business consultant? And just where does sustainability reside at organizations?”

According to sustainability expert Rick Walker, The (Chief Green Officer) is tasked with leading his or her company by being an advocate and educator, a visionary, a change manager and a cheerleader, and above all else, a results-driven manager:

(These officers) must serve at least three roles: They must look inward, end-to-end driving business opportunity; they must look outward, walking the talk and communicating with customers and other stakeholders; and they must lead.

(They) must articulate, implement and sustain the organization’s vision of sustainability and provide visibility and transparency of that vision both internally and externally.  And (they) must have both the charisma and compelling message for the organization to want to follow and recognize the benefits, both financial and environmental.”

Hiring a passionate and effective Chief Green Officer will also make a positive and indelible impression on your current and future green marketing-executive hires, by communicating that your organization is committed to sustainability.

Glenn Croston in his most interesting book, 75 green businesses you can start brings us more details :

The market need : Business need to understand and act on risks and opportunities of environmental issues ;

The mission : Guide businesses to compete and succeed in the green playing field ;

(…) Some businesses still are assuming a wait-and-see attitude about climate change legislation in the United States, but those that get started early will be ahead of the game when legislation finally arrives, giving them a competitive advantage.

(…) The chief green is responsible not just for cutting back on greenhouse gases emissions, but also for helping the business to attend to the old-fashioned bottom line: making money.

(…) Having an advanced degree may help, but it’s more important that you be eager and open to learn, and make use of experts form a wide range of backgrounds.

(If you are looking for a green job and have the entrepreneurial fiber, I strongly recommend you this book.)

A Chief Sustainability Officer’s role would also comprise allowing companies to decrease their waste, water use and miles driven by and for the company and many many other things as the whole organization can benefit from green choices.

This most interesting position is likely to play an important role if a global green New Deal was to take place as companies would have to outgreen their competitors and do so in an continuous way.

To make a long story short: this is truly the kind of job I have been longing for.

Indeed, by occupying such a position I would be able to put into application both my international management education as well as the strong sustainability acumen gained throughout the writing of this blog.

9 thoughts on “My green dream job: Chief Sustainability Officer”

  1. If you want to stay around, the first step would be to find out the possible translation of “Chief Sustainability Officer” in French (or German in my case)… and right now, I have no freaking idea.

  2. Thanks for your comment Tim, it’s a pleasure ! 🙂

    Directeur à la Durabilité or something like this would be neet in French. (ca ferait Dédé dans les entreprises)

    In German, I would see something like Nachhaltigkeit Leiter but my knowledge in this language is decreasing (four years without using it much)

  3. Hi Edouard – thank you very much for the nice things you have said about my blog, Sturdy Roots.

    We’ve noticed an interesting “disconnect” affecting green business. On one hand, and despite the world economic meltdown, there are jobs in greentech/cleantech that have gone 6-8 months unfilled because the hiring manager requires 8-10 years of prior green/clean experience. Not too many professionals will be able to meet that particular requirement.

    On the other hand, there are scores of professionals like yourself and the readers of your excellent blog, who don’t have the required green/clean skill, but are passionate and do certainly possess the will to become a world-class green business professional.

    In posts planned for the weeks ahead, I will delve deeper into this disconnect.

    Remember, there is a fine line between crisis and opportunity. We’re working on mitigating the (economic and labor) crises while developing the (green business) opportunities.

    Thanks, again, Edouard!

    Dan Smolen

  4. Hi Dan,

    Nice to read you here, it’s a real pleasure !

    I have been interested in climate change mitigation since Spring 2003 and kept learning ever since. This eventually led me to begin this blog. (500th post real soon…)

    I have been today to the French renewable energies fair in Lyon. I will go back on Saturday. It was really interesting. The whole sector is booming and I agree totally with you, there are plenty of opportunities, and this even with the largest economic downturn in decades…

    Today, I feel confident. Not only we will solve this economic and financial problem but we will also eventually solve the environmental ones as well.

    Once again, it’s a pleasure to read you. Don’t hesitate to leave comments or questions, I will gladly answer them if I can.

  5. Dan:

    I was thinking at the discrepancy you are noting and really look forward to reading your views on that matter.

    Indeed, who was involved in clean tech or related stuff back to the 20th century ? Not many people. Even five years ago, the sector was totally confidential…

    I am like you totally confident. We can solve these issues !

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  7. Hi Tim, Edouard, Dan and co:
    My practice within Monta Rosa specializes in recruiting Chief Sustainability Officers for Fortune 500s []. We are seeing many interesting trends. There is a movement from CSO as a lower-mid level, PR job to a central strategic role delivering core business value at the C suite level.

    This requires senior business and leadership talent/track record to get internal buy-in from up (Board) and down(operational executors in various functionalities or units) as well as out (shareholders, regulators, ngos).

    Because this is a new role backgrounds are extremely varied. Different integrated skill sets from communications to operational management arre required in different mixes depending on the particular business model/strategy of the company hiring. It is quite clear to me that this trend will accelerate this year and beyond. The move to the low carbon world seems inevitable – in the UK for example a massive winpower project has just been announced aiming to provide 25% of National electricity requirements by 2020.

    But it’s not just about clean tech – in multiple ways businesses are realizing their consumers want this, talent wants it, institutional investors are getting far more concerned about it, B2B customers want it, and regulators at local and regional if not National and international level are starting to demand it. The world is definitely, albeit slower tah some of us would like, changing.

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