Why every company needs a Chief Sustainability Officer

Every C-Suite needs to make room for this increasingly important role, argues Sam Kimmins, head of RE100, Climate Group

by Sam Kimmins

There’s no doubt about it; boardrooms suddenly require more chairs. The last few years have seen demand for an ever-expanding table of attendees – seats for everyone from the likes of the Chief Evangelist and Chief Innovation Officer, to the Chief Culture Officer and others. But while some might raise an eyebrow about the need for some of these emerging roles (Chief Internet Evangelist anyone?), there’s one that definitely shouldn’t be overlooked – that of the Chief Sustainability Officer, or CSO.

Way back in 2012 (and arguably ahead of its time), Ingka Group (which owns IKEA), set out its first People and Planet Positive strategy and committed itself to owning and operating wind and solar farms. Since then it has announced plans to become completely climate positive by 2030. Fast-forward to today, and the organisation has managed to increase its sales by 6.3% to €37.4 billion this year despite the pandemic, allowing it to invest a further €4 billion into renewable energy projects.

Initiatives such as these form the cornerstone of what CSO activities should be. While not every organisation is large enough to support a large C-suite, having a senior member of the business in charge of sustainability should now be an essential role. As the former Bank of England governor, Mark Carney once said, firms that don’t adapt to climate change will end up going bust.

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