Thursday, July 5, 2007

Chief Sustainability Officer

An increasing number of companies are hiring Chief Sustainability Officers to up their green credibility, according to an article in the New York Times excerpted below:

The new environmental chiefs are helping companies profit from the push to go green.
“Environmental vice presidents usually spend company money, but this new breed is helping companies make money,” said Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. The upshot, said Geoffrey Heal, a business professor at the Columbia Business School, is that “what started out as a compliance job has evolved into one that guards the value of the brand.”
The titles vary, mixing and matching “chief” and “vice president,” “sustainability” and “environmental,” making it impossible to track how many people fill the role. But whatever they are called, the new environmental chiefs — many of them named in the last two years — wield extraordinary power.
They are exploring partnerships with vendors and customers to create green products — and they have the power to close the deal. They are also getting a vote — often, the deciding vote — on product research and advertising campaigns.
Since he became
Dow Chemical’s first chief sustainability officer in March, David E. Kepler has been talking to Dow’s technology, manufacturing and finance people about alternative fuels and green products. “We usually agree,” Mr. Kepler said. “But if a critical environmental issue is in dispute, I’ll prevail.”
Linda J. Fisher, the chief sustainability officer at
DuPont, scuttled the purchase of a company that was not in a “sustainable” business. “We’re building sustainability into the acquisition criteria,” she said.
And when two business chiefs at
General Electric blanched at the cost of developing green products, Jeffrey R. Immelt, G.E.’s chairman, gave Lorraine Bolsinger, vice president of G.E.’s Ecomagination business, the research money. “I have an open door to get projects funded,” she said.
The evolution was probably inevitable. Corporations are facing demands from all quarters to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and to buy and produce green products. So, many chief executives are urging their managers to “figure out what products they should sell in a warming world,” said Jonathan Lash, president of the World Resources Institute.

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