Defining the role of Chief Sustainability Officers


20 December, 2018



In this issue brief released at the end of 2018, the EXCEL Partnership underscores the fact that corporate sustainability leaders are now entering a phase whereby integrating environmental and social issues into business decisions and processes needs to go further than ever before. This milestone is reflected in the fact that leading companies have had for many years now, roles, strategies and processes in place related to sustainability. Given this passage of time, it is important for corporate leaders to lead on how to integrate these concepts further in their organizations in ways that directly contribute to business value.

The brief highlights the extent to which the role of Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) is evolving, similar to other relatively new C-suite positions, such as Chief Technology Officers or Chief Information Officers. The following strategic requirements are highlighted:

  • Briefing the Board of Directors on sustainability issues
  • Engage executives
  • Drive and manage sustainability throughout the organization
  • Engage external stakeholders

The brief also delves into the future of the CSO, in particular its role as change agent, alongside the challenges to overcome in the position.

The EXCEL Partnership is a unique learning partnership that empowers Canadian companies to improve corporate performance through sustainability leadership. It facilitates cross-sector innovation and provides industry leaders with access to cutting-edge research, analysis, and insights. Founded in 1996, the EXCEL Partnership has become Canada’s most trusted and influential business group focused on sustainability. EXCEL is an initiative of GLOBE Series and is managed in part by The Delphi Group. EXCEL is also a member of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s (WBCSD) Global Network.