Chief Sustainability Officers: Who Are They and What Do They Do?

Chapter 8 in Leading Sustainable Change, Oxford University Press, 2014

22 Pages Posted: 21 Mar 2014 Last revised: 5 Sep 2014

See all articles by Kathleen Miller

Kathleen Miller

Miller Consultants

George Serafeim

Harvard University - Harvard Business School

Date Written: March 20, 2014

Abstract

While a number of studies document that organizations go through numerous stages as they increase their commitment to sustainability over time, we know little about the role of the Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) in this process. Using survey and interview data we analyze how a CSO’s authority and responsibilities differ across organizations that are in different stages of sustainability commitment. We document increasing organizational authority of the CSO as organizations increase their commitment to sustainability moving from Compliance to Efficiency and then to Innovation. However, we also document a decentralization of decision rights from the CSO to different functions, largely driven by sustainability strategies becoming more idiosyncratic at the Innovation stage. The study concludes with a discussion of practices that CSOs argue to accelerate the commitment of organizations to sustainability.

Keywords: sustainability, organizational change, Chief Sustainability Officer, innovation, strategy

JEL Classification: M14, M41

Suggested Citation

Miller, Kathleen and Serafeim, George, Chief Sustainability Officers: Who Are They and What Do They Do? (March 20, 2014). Chapter 8 in Leading Sustainable Change, Oxford University Press, 2014. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2411976 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2411976

Kathleen Miller

Miller Consultants ( email )

1653 Beechwood Avenue
Louisville, 40204
United States

George Serafeim (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Harvard Business School ( email )

381 Morgan Hall
Boston, MA 02163
United States

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