We are currently seeing sustainability becoming part of a value-based narrative. CSOs and their C-suite colleagues can facilitate this transition to value-led sustainability, turning ESG into a business, as well as a moral, imperative.
Companies should examine what new customers they could attract by becoming carbon-negative or achieving net-zero emissions, and how existing customers would respond to such a move. Working with the chief executive, there is a leadership role here for CSOs. Emissions targets are becoming more and more ambitious as organizations compete for competitive distinction, but it is important not to over-promise.
It is also important for CSOs to present a coherent story of their organization’s purpose and how it delivers long-term value to stakeholders, including employees. They can then move the narrative beyond environmental sustainability to purpose-led sustainability.
Whatever journey organizations take, sustainability will likely remain one of the defining issues of our lifetimes. Companies can make a lasting and positive social impact in the communities in which they operate, while still satisfying the financial demands of shareholders and other stakeholders.
As we plan for life beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, now is an opportunity to look to the future through a new lens. CSOs can help their companies to build an even better working world than before, where the way we live and work today does not compromise our ability to live and work tomorrow.
The importance of the chief sustainability officer role has been recognized by the creation of the S30 forum, which brings together leading CSOs to accelerate business action on sustainability. CSOs help to explain how profit and purpose can be complementary, demonstrating that environmentally-conscious organizations protect their finances as well as the planet. In a post-COVID-19 world, CSOs will likely facilitate a transition to value-led sustainability, turning ESG performance into a business, as well as a moral, imperative.