Is the Grass Greener When You Have a Chief Sustainability Officer?
Last week, Bloomberg News featured our Chief Green(washing) Officer research from the end of last year. This inspired us to revisit the role of “Chief Green Officer” (CGO), or as it is more commonly called “Chief Sustainability Officer” (CSO), to learn more about their responsibilities and impact.
Below are the ten industries where the role is most common. Notably, the list is headed by industries with rather heavy ecological footprints, suggesting that there are efforts by companies to curb their unintended impacts on the environment.
The Bloomberg article remarked on the lack of a common thread regarding the requirements, backgrounds, and goals of CSOs. By analyzing the role descriptions of CSOs, we’re able to extract the most common activities for the job.
One set of CSO responsibilities is external-facing interactions, like shaping sustainability policies and engaging with regulators and stakeholders. Another set of responsibilities is more internal-facing, focusing on compliance with existing regulations and the development of sustainability initiatives within the company.
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But do any of these responsibilities make a difference? Do employees at companies with a CSO notice a difference in their company's environmental and sustainability efforts? Below we compare the mentions of topics related to environmental impact in negative company reviews, both at companies that have hired CSOs, and those that have not.
Companies with CSOs are better at managing public perceptions when there are issues related to the environment. The negative mentions of environmental policies, climate issues, or pollution occur less frequently in companies with CSOs.
- CSOs, while increasingly popular within the C-suite, remain a highly heterogeneous group of executives with varying backgrounds and goals.
- Industries with a heavy footprint on the environment like Furniture, Cosmetics, and Utilities have the highest shares of CSOs.
- CSOs' activities have a distinct focus on internal and external environmental policies, and employees notice the difference.