Chief Sustainability Officer: The New Power Executive

Did you know that DuPont was the first company to have a Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO)? Or that CSO’s are largely internal hires that have been at the company for an average of 16 years?

When it comes to sustainability and organizational success, there is a ton of media chatter, but not a lot of hard data to support why companies should invest in a sustainability strategy. Now CSO Back Story promises to fill this gap by offering cutting-edge research in this thorough report on chief sustainability officers and their role to support the bottom-line.

The report, published by executive search and consulting firm Weinreb Group, builds on CEO Ellen Weinreb’s belief that sustainability is part of everyone’s job. With clients including Hewlett-Packard, Nestle Waters, Levi Strauss, and Clorox. Weinreb has witnessed firsthand the evolution of sustainability as a profession — and as a strategic business practice.

Take for example, the following report findings:

  1. There are 29 people with the title “Chief Sustainability Officer” working for companies traded publicly in the United States.
  2. 90% of these Chiefs report either directly to the CEO or are once removed.
  3. Only 4 CSO’s hold MBAs.

Conducted over three months, the extensive report underlines the emergence of a new executive role in corporate America’s C-suites, that is powerful in scope, strategic oversight, and overall management. Featuring companies like UPS, EMC, DuPont, AT&T, SAP, Kellogg, PG&E and Coca-Cola, CSO Back Story offers organizations a real framework on how to leverage a growing consciousness on sustainability for business growth.

These 29 CSOs are industry veterans who understand the business; they are change makers and critical thinkers who help the CEO lead organizations through economic upheaval, internal discord, and environmental ruin. “They are not freshly minted MBAs or environmental activists. They are business leaders with significant experience, a solid understanding of their sector and a history of handling a diverse spectrum of responsibilities,” says Weinreb.

The comprehensive report also includes a first-ever look at these executives’ functional responsibilities, key performance indicators and organizational structures, besides offering in-depth careers profiles of five sustainability chiefs: Kathrin Winkler, EMC; Peter Graf, SAP; Charlene Lake, AT&T; Scott Wicker, UPS; and Linda Fisher, DuPont.

“This data demonstrates the value for executive leaders to bring acute understanding of external factors such as climate change into business strategy. Having a Sustainability Chief on the executive team supports developing new business opportunities and avoid costly risks,” observes Weinreb. “Business dynamics are changing and so must those who manage. These CSOs are charting new territory that will increasingly define which organizations are successful in the long run.”

Below is an interview with Ellen Weinreb talking about the CSR jobs industry


Weinreb Group is an executive search firm specializing in Sustainability, Supply Chain and External Relations. Bringing 15 years of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability experience to their offering. Weinreb Group has regularly published reports on CSR jobs. More information available at or follow on twitter at @SustainableJobs