These Days, Sustainability Is Part of Everyone’s Job Description

Guest Blog – Heather Clancy of GreenBiz

In early June, GreenBiz published its fourth annual 30 Under 30 list of twenty-somethings who are making a notable early-career, positive impact for the cause of corporate sustainability. It’s worth noting that fewer than half of this year’s cohort actually have the word “environmental” or “sustainability” in their title.

In the words of Microsoft manager Holly Beale, who is helping the company’s data center team consider issues of energy efficiency and electronic waste: “If I do my job well enough and sustainability was embedded into the culture of what we do, my job would be unnecessary.”

Unilever diversity champion Kamillah Knight, another woman who was part of this year’s class, likewise told GreenBiz that she wasn’t actually considering a job with the consumer goods company — until a recruiter began talking up how deeply the entire company is attempting to embed the concept of sustainable development into its business strategy. “I believe my purpose is to be a change advocate,” says Knight, who is part of the company’s human resources team as a diversity champion.

For me, this is a hopeful sign. Slowly but surely, companies are waking up to the notion that environmental and social stewardship — whether it’s reducing water consumption, drawing down greenhouse gas emissions, investing in renewable energy, or ensuring better policies across a complex supply chain — is not the job of a siloed team that includes just a few people. What’s more, it’s on the minds of many employees that most businesses would love to welcome to their workforce. For example, about one-third of millennials surveyed in early 2019 by technology company Swytch indicated that they would decline a job offer from a company that didn’t have a strong sustainability culture.

Yes, companies still need employees dedicated to matters of sustainability strategy and messaging, but the more time chief sustainability officers (CSOs) spend getting other executives to make business decisions grounded in sound environmental, social and governance metrics — and getting their staffs to think about these things — the better. Who knows, one day the title “CSO” may be obsolete.

Listen to Heather’s feature on the Taking Care in Business podcast here.

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