#Syndicated: Why Your Organization Needs a Chief Sustainability Officer

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By Aglaia Ntili

Organization charts normally have boxes for lots of chiefs — whether it’s chief executive officer (CEO), chief financial officer (CFO), chief operating officer (COO) or even chief technology officer (CTO) — to indicate positions of senior responsibility for large areas the organizations’ day-to-day and strategic operations. However, organizations that are making an explicit commitment to more sustainable business practices have not yet granted the same seniority to the person in charge of those sustainability initiatives. There are a growing number of chief sustainability officers (CSOs) out there — DuPont appointed Linda Fisher as CSO as far back as 2004 — but for many organizations, sustainability is seen as being part of other strategic responsibilities such as compliance or environmental health and safety, corporate affairs, marketing, community relations, which precludes the creation of an entirely separate division.

Greenwashing

As we have discussed in other blog posts, greenwashing is the practice of using advertising and PR messages to promote a commitment to sustainability that has no real evidence in operational practice. Companies say all the right things but make no significant changes to their business practices to support those commitments. On that basis, many companies see no need to support sustainability initiatives with a formal organizational structure or operational metrics. The compliance department can make sure that the company isn’t breaking any rules, and marketing can make sure that we are promoting all of our good community efforts in the name of sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR). However, sustainability and CSR are about exceeding what is required by law and going beyond ordinary compliance.

Changing Expectations

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