CSOs propel shift towards sustainable business practices

Supported by CEOs, CSOs are amplifying sustainability impact and embedding it across organisational operations.

Sustainability transformation is no longer a passing trend but a persistent driving force, steered by forward-thinking Chief Sustainability Officers (CSOs). 

Egon Zehnder, a global leadership advisory organisation, has delved into the insights of CSOs from diverse industries and regions to reveal three major findings that highlight their role in steering sustainability transformations.

To maximise impact, CSOs are broadening their reach by expanding the scope to encompass all five domains of the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) framework. This approach ensures sustainability is embedded across every aspect of an organisation’s operations. Egon Zehnder’s study found that three-quarters of respondents oversee all five key domains, including Environmental, Social Capital, Human Capital, Business Model and Innovation, and Leadership and Governance. This marks significant progress in its survey in 2021, indicating a growing consensus on the multifaceted nature of sustainability. 

Second, the support of the CEO is paramount to the success of any sustainability transformation. The Egon Zehner survey revealed that nearly half of CEOs (47%) take full ownership of the sustainability agenda, while four in 10 CEOs actively seek guidance from their CSO.

READ MORE: CEOs see ESG investment as part of sustainable long-term growth

Lastly, boards of directors are urged to be more aware of the tension between short-term financial results and long-term sustainability goals. The study found that 40% of CSOs already have direct access to the board, with an additional 28% integrated into the board’s Sustainability Committee. This deeper connection signals a growing recognition of sustainability’s central role in organisational success. However, 32% of CSOs lack this level of direct involvement, highlighting an area for potential development.

Catherine Zhu, Global Leader of the Sustainability Practice at Egon Zehnder, emphasised the pivotal role of CSOs, calling them, ‘architects of sustainable transformation,’ with unwavering commitment, the power to inspire, and unflagging dedication. “They are guiding organisations towards a more sustainable future,” she said.

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