Friday, September 4, 2009

The Emerging Role of the Sustainability Officer

A number of folks have recently asked us about the role of a sustainability officer and the keys to its success. The sustainability movement mirrors many aspects of the quality movement. Like quality, sustainability is not an "office" or marketing slogan. Rather, it is an important aspect of particular jobs, processes, senior management viewpoints, business strategy, reporting metrics and compensation. It has been our experience that the most effective Sustainability Officers are those with a deep understanding of their business, who held one or more line positions and are viewed as a true partner to senior management. Key aspects of the role include evangelizing, collaborating, coordinating, and communicating to line management and stakeholders. Domain and technical expertise is important, but effectiveness relies heavily on operational and leadership skills.

Kathrin Winker, Chief Sustainability Officer at EMC, recently shared her thoughts on this on her blog. Companies continue to invest in this role (PGI, Flowserve and others have invested in this position). A dedicated role, however is uncommon, and we more often see this activities as an additional set responsibilities for EHS, facilities or environmental affairs.

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