The chief sustainability officer role is on the rise: 5 notes


U.S. Fortune 500 companies have increasingly hired chief sustainability officers in the last decade, with numbers of CSOs at publicly traded companies rising 228 percent, from 29 in 2011 to 95 as of March, according to the latest report from CSO recruitment firm the Weinreb Group

"By the numbers and issues, it is clear that the CSO role is having its moment. These are the people defining a vision of a sustainable future, developing strategies and targets to meet that vision and leading business to make progress on the crises of 2020 — and the social and environmental challenges yet to come," said Ellen Weinreb, founder and CEO of the Weinreb Group.

The firm's latest report is based on searches on LinkedIn, Google and Google News, as well as survey responses from 33 of the 95 identified CSOs during the first three months of this year. 

Five notes about the trend, according to the report:

1. Thirty-one of the 95 CSOs today were hired last year as their company's inaugural CSO. 

2. Women make up 54 percent of CSO positions today, up from 45 percent in 2018 and 28 percent in 2011.

3. Today's CSOs include roles at CVS Health (hired in 2013), Johnson & Johnson (hired in 2021) and Pfizer (hired in 2020). 

4. Of the CSOs surveyed this year, 48 percent have the standalone CSO title; 49 percent have two titles, and 3 percent have three titles.

5. A decade ago, 35 percent of CSOs said they report directly to the CEO, compared to only 21 percent of CSOs who reported this in 2021. 

The American Hospital Association acknowledged that the chief sustainability officer role is growing and said health systems are adding roles for environmental stewardship. 

Still, "we haven't seen the CSO role in hospitals yet — instead they tend to be 'director' titles. In a lot of cases, hospitals are keeping sustainability under the facilities management umbrella. But we do think that is going to be changing in the future," the association told Becker's.

To access the full report, click here.

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