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Chief Sustainability Officers: The Growing Role of the Sustainability Manager

Chief Sustainability Officer.

"Innovation is not about new products, new processes, new services or even new business models. It is about adaptability."
Stephen Shapiro (Best Practices Are Stupid, 2011)

What is a Chief Sustainability Officer?

A new report from the Weinreb Group regarding the changing role of the chief sustainability officer (CSO) has found that:

  • The CSO's role is more strategic and less tactical. Instead of focusing on environmental and social projects, he or she is part of the company's overall plan to deliver value to both stakeholders and shareholders.
  • CSOs often have a more central role as companies develop projects with a goal to inspire new manufacturing processes, products and technologies.
  • The CSO is taking on more responsibility for communicating the company's commitment to sustainability to external and internal stakeholders.
  • CSOs surveyed in this report reported that they had access to the business across all functions and levels.

Last, but not least, the Weinreb Group found that sustainability is a growing field for women: "Women now make up 42 percent of CSO positions—that is more than double the past two years. Watch for this role to evolve even more this decade."

How many sustainability manager jobs are there?

My top five hits when I Google "sustainability manager" are:

  1. Sustainability Manager Jobs | LinkedIn ("Apply to 2500 Sustainability Manager jobs on LinkedIn")
  2. Sustainability Manager Jobs, Employment | ("5508 Sustainability Manager Jobs available on")
  3. The Wikipedia entry for Chief sustainability officer
  4. Sustainability Manager Jobs on ("787 available sustainability manager jobs found on"), and
  5. A 2008 article from Grist on, "Job market sees growing demand for sustainability managers."

That makes 8,795 sustainability manager jobs wanted now, just in the first three Google job search sites.

The 2008 Grist article is a good read. Among other helpful info, it asks, "What do sustainability managers actually do?" and finds three approaches to the position:

  • The champion and coordinator
  • The sustainability facilities manager
  • Sustainability = environmental planning and design

If a position similar to the one above appeals to you, you might consider Ecotech Institute's Associate of Applied Science program in Facility Management Technology, where projected jobs are expected to grow 10%-19% from 2010 to 2020, according the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Or if something a little less technical, but just as sustainable, is more appealing, you might consider our Business Administration – Sustainability program.

While we can't all be CSOs, we can all be sustainability managers – at home and work, wherever we live and work.

As Grist relates, "The first steps toward sustainability management at many institutions are to:"

  • Start talking up sustainability as an institutional goal.
  • Find out what's going on already.
  • Bring together existing people and departments to set short-term objectives.
  • Set up an information sharing system to assure institutional coordination.
  • Agree on initial projects to pick "low-hanging fruit."
  • Prepare and release annual "sustainability" reports.

"The most effective way to manage change is to create it" ~Peter Drucker

Kyle G. Crider (MPA, LEED AP ND) is a professional science and sustainability "story teller." In his spare time he is pursuing his Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary (Environmental Health) Engineering and traveling the highways and by-ways of home state with his wife Beverly in search of fact, fiction, and folklore for Strange Alabama.

Hat tip to for opening and closing quotes