Chief Sustainability Officer

Governments across the world are grappling with issues that concern human development, resource consumption and climate change. It was deemed necessary, that an institutional framework needs to be developed to govern development on a sustainable basis, to ensure equitable resource consumption, environmental conservation, among other global agendas of providing employment and poverty alleviation. To help in all this, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) was developed by the United Nations (UN). To support participation in the SDG’s, nations around the world have made commitments on development agendas and also their intended nationally determined contributions (INDC) which pertain to mitigation and adaptations strategies for climate change issues.

While governments have made commitments to SDG’s and the INDC’s, the fulfilment of these commitments will fall on the shoulders of every citizen of a country. A large chunk of the fulfilment responsibility will fall on the shoulders of the private sector, because of its large reach and influence. Policy frameworks, legislations and laws will be drawn up, and incentives planned, for the private sector to comply with the national agendas that will be in line with the international commitments.

While we await legislation, the private sector will be prudent to plan and prepare for its impending implementation. Many are already in the mode of ‘beyond compliance’ as a strategy, to ensure preparedness. These is also an overwhelming sense of ‘demonstrating responsibility’, in line with progressive concepts of ‘conscious capitalism’, that is driving the private sector to adopt principles, processes and practices of sustainable development. As they tread this path, the benefits include being seen as a good corporate citizen by the governments, shareholders and customers. The ‘collateral marketing benefit’ of this is obvious.

The role of the CSO

To help in this process, the role of a Chief Sustainability Officer is being created by large corporations. The role of the CSO will be to draw policy for the company to prepare itself for the future. Other aspects of the role may include;

1)     Advise the Board on sustainability issues and oversee a corporate sustainability strategy.

2)     Advise on issues such as energy use, resource conservation, recycling, pollution reduction, waste elimination, transportation, education, and building design.

3)     Develop methodologies to assess the viability or success of sustainability initiatives.

4)     Oversee the development of, marketing or outreach media for sustainability projects or events.

5)     Evaluate proposals for sustainability projects, considering factors such as cost effectiveness, technical feasibility, and integration with other initiatives.

6)     Identify educational, training, or other development opportunities for employees or volunteers.

7)     Identify and evaluate pilot projects or programs to enhance the sustainability agenda.

8)     Identify leadership opportunities for industry wide stewardship.

It is a question of time before companies are forced to adopt sustainable principles, processes and practices in their functioning, in a format that is identifiable by governments. The appointment of a full time chief sustainability officer to oversee this is not always feasible and necessary, depending on the size of the corporation. However, companies are contemplating appointment of a Consulting chief sustainability officer, to start the process of orienting and aligning companies to the issue of sustainability. This will future proof the companies, and make them compliance ready.

ram is able to take on consulting assignments for corporations and play the role of a consulting chief sustainability officer for those who want to start their journey towards sustainability, or advance their sustainability status if they have already started the journey. write to ram on, if this is of interest to you. 


ram has also been certified by APMG international as a 'project management for sustainable development' professional, enabling him to take on and execute large sustainable development projects in any sector. 

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