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The Chief Sustainability Officer Role: Emerging & Critical

The Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) is very much front of mind for both the Board and Executive Committee. Fidelio sees this clearly in our own Executive Search practice. We therefore recently hosted a webinar to share trends as to how the role is structured, relevant professional experience and background, and importantly to give comfort that there are excellent candidates for this key role.

The CSO is rarely a Board role, and not a Board appointment, but across Fidelio’s Board assignments we are seeing keen interest in this role. This is for a number of reasons:

  • ESG / Sustainability is clearly a Board matter and, therefore, the CSO is of critical importance and often a key partner for the ESG Committee

  • Sustainability experience is increasingly a requisite for CEO succession

  • There is greater linkage between remuneration and progress towards sustainability and ESG objectives

  • And Boards are more and more alert to the risks of greenwashing

The Search for CSO Excellence Given the above there is substantial evidence that the CSO role is becoming more senior. In the recent webinar, Fidelio explored:

  1. The evolution and development of the role, and when the CSO role becomes essential

  2. The CSO as a de facto ‘new Strategy Director’, moving well beyond compliance and a narrow focus on risk

  3. Reporting lines and leverage, and how the CSO most typically works through influence within the organisation

  4. Resource and remuneration, with the CSO frequently combining authority and seniority but overseeing a small team and lean function

  5. Optimal experience and background for the role, with no one standard career path emerging but clearly identifiable attributes for CSOs who succeed in the role

To learn more about the CSO role and to view Fidelio’s presentation ‘The Chief Sustainability Officer Role – Emerging & Critical’, please click here.


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Gillian - Karran Cumberlege

Head of

Board Advisory

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