The rapid rise of the Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) role across many organisations is something that gives us real hope for the future of the planet. While individuals can undoubtedly make a difference to climate change and sustainability through recycling, switching off electricals etc, it’s Governments and the big corporations worldwide who hold the greatest potential to make a material positive impact.
CSOs are emerging everywhere. It feels very much like the challenges with Digital 10 years ago, where corporations gave accountability and funding to a new C-Suite role, to work out where Digital should land across their functions, for example, should it be with the Product teams, Marketing or Technology? And how could they establish a customer centric ‘omni-channel’ offering?
Where should management of Sustainability sit?
Many of the organisations we work with are now wrestling with the challenges of working out where sustainability should land – and are similarly addressing the problem by giving accountability to a new C-Suite role. Sustainability should impact every role, every person, every decision, everyone in the supply chain and every investee – as well as the customers. It is all pervading and fundamentally important for all current and future inhabitants of this planet.
For Governments and for-profit organisations, the only way to avoid the green-washing scenario and drive genuine and meaningful change is also to embed sustainability on commercially viable terms. This is no mean feat and requires dedicated resourcing and full collaboration across many functions to succeed for the long term. This requires a co-ordinated and managed change programme for most to achieve.
Sustainability will become everyone’s job.
Much like with Digital, the operating models will evolve, however with a dissemination across other parts of the organisation rather than seeing it as something separate and stand-alone. What we’re seeing is that the CSO is there to assess and drive the changes from every lens, but then ultimately bring it all back together into a joined up whole. The outcome in the next three to five years is likely to be an operating model which seamlessly embraces sustainability as part of the DNA of the organisation and a core part of everyone’s role – at which point maybe the CSO will no longer be needed and instead the accountability may become embedded across other C-Suite roles.
Our hope is that Sustainability will be embedded everywhere. It will become built into the vision and strategic goals, the value propositions, marketing, the production processes themselves, the way suppliers are chosen, the way office space is chosen – and heated – the way goods and services are supplied, how returns are handled and how waste is disposed of. It should be a driving force in the ways of working for the organisation – embracing home working to minimise travel for example. The sustainability impact of every part of the business and supply chain should be a day-to-day part of the data and reporting – and decision-making across the whole organisation.
Do you need change expertise?
Successfully embedding this level of systemic transformational change requires innovation, creative thinking, data insights, agile delivery, supply chain transformation and highly effective change management. If you, like so many of the customers we work with, are grappling with these same challenges as part of your sustainability programme, then please talk to us. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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