Effective Steps for New Chief Sustainability Officers

Many companies are creating a position in the C-Suite for a sustainability leader within the company. The Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) can help bring substantial transformation to a company’s strategy. The mere presence of a CSO in the Board Room keeps a company’s long term strategies on track for anticipating future needs and limiting resources, engaging employees, and staying ahead of public relations snafus. In addition, with large purchasers like Wal-Mart and the Federal Government incorporating sustainability into RFP’s and other purchasing protocol, a company without a CSO risks losing large contracts to more nimble and progressive competitors.

In a recent post, I wrote about how Avon Corporation began its sustainability journey and the initial strategies that came from the process of bringing sustainability into its Board Room. So how does a newly appointed CSO begin an effective journey toward bringing their company to the front of the line? 

In a recent Op-Ed, Peter Graf, the CSO of SAP, gave his advice for the five steps a new CSO would need to take in order to achieve a successful transition for the company:

  1. Understand the company’s stakeholders, and find out what really matters to them.
  2. Include the rest of the leadership team in strategic visioning.
  3. Take the lead on a short to medium term plan for projects in energy, water, supply chain and waste with agreed-upon metrics for ROI.
  4. Seek to understand the trends in customer demand, and backcast to incorporate these end goals into your company’s sourcing, production, delivery, and messaging.
  5. Get to know the company’s employees, and engage them to work toward shared goals.

What do you think? Anything else to add to the list?

Scott Cooney is the author of Build a Green Small Business (McGraw-Hill), and covers green business strategy on GreenBusinessOwner.com. Sign up here to receive regular green entrepreneurship strategies and announcements of free web classes through GreenBusinessOwner.

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Scott Cooney, Principal of GreenBusinessOwner.com and author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill, November 2008), is also a serial ecopreneur who has started and grown several green businesses and consulted several other green startups. He co-founded the ReDirect Guide, a green business directory, in Salt Lake City, UT. He greened his home in Salt Lake City, including xeriscaping, an organic orchard, extra natural fiber insulation, a 1.8kW solar PV array, on-demand hot water, energy star appliances, and natural paints. He is a vegetarian, an avid cyclist, ultimate frisbee player, and surfer, and currently lives in the sunny Mission district of San Francisco. Scott is working on his second book, a look at microeconomics in the green sector.In June 2010, Scott launched GreenBusinessOwner.com, a sustainability consulting firm dedicated to providing solutions to common business problems by leveraging the power of the triple bottom line. Focused exclusively on small business, GBO's mission is to facilitate the creation and success of small, green businesses.