Chief sustainability officers prosper as ESG risks mount

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Here’s a note from Alison Taylor about this FT article entitled “Chief sustainability officers prosper as ESG risks mount”:

Chief sustainability officers are more and more likely to be in the C Suite. I’ve heard the role is being fought over by internal candidates, which might account for the finding here that “deep climate expertise” is less important than it used to be. (No paywall!)

Last year, 28 per cent of 1,640 public companies surveyed by management consultancy PwC reported that their CSO was part of the C-suite — the highest executive level — up from just 9 per cent in 2016. This reflects what I’m hearing anecdotally, though people in the top job seem to be hiring more junior people that actually know what they are talking about to do the heavy lifting.

Still, as this piece makes clear, there is no consensus on what this role is actually for. Identifying and managing risks? Reporting? Dealing with activists? “Revenue opportunities”? This article also predicts that it will soon be bifurcated into two roles, with one focused on reporting. Hmm 🤔. That reporting role couldn’t be less appealing, also this sounds like the perfect way to undermine any strategic influence for the function.

Every idea and quote in the article suggests that whatever the specific emphasis, the role is still envisaged as defensive impression management.

You won’t get the best candidates if that’s how you see it #justsaying.