What Do 'Sustainability' Executives Do? Let Us Know: Survey

Many companies now have chief sustainability officers or the equivalent. What roles do they play? That's the question we're asking today as we launch a new survey.

In less than a decade, sustainability has gone from a feel-good buzzword most people associate with environmentalism or community involvement to a movement among global companies to secure natural resources and top employees for their long-term survival.

Calling all sustainability officers! Please click here to take this short survey.

Wal-Mart Stores and General Electric deserve credit for bringing seriousness and scale to the endeavor in the mid-2000s. Some large investors, such as CalPERS and PGGM, have encouraged their portfolio companies to embrace long-term strategy and take responsibility for the external impacts of operations. New laws and halo-topped civil society groups have offered sticks and carrots for companies that adapt to 21st century thinking.

Many companies have created the role of chief sustainability officer, head of corporate responsibility, or head of social responsibility. The titles vary from place to place and the jobs themselves change with each company, industry or region's particular needs and challenges.

Everybody knows what the chief executive officer and the chief financial officer do, and where they fit in a company's hierarchy. With sustainability officers, the situation is less clear. That's why we hope our colleagues and friends in the corporate sector will spend a few minutes answering some questions about the role of the sustainability executive in their organizations.

We hope to identify trends that are shaping the emergence of sustainability executives, the challenges the officials are facing, and how they are addressing them. The results will be released here, at Bloomberg Sustainability News, by mid-November, and we'll be publishing a longer journal article later on.

Thanks in advance to our corporate colleagues for participating in this survey.

Eccles is a Professor of Management Practice at the Harvard Business School. Miller Perkins is the CEO of Miller Consultants and the primary author of the survey.

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