Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO)

Chief Sustainability Officers (CSOs) are the highest level of executives overseeing their company’s sustainability activities. As part of the "C-suite” of chief officers, CSOs provide visionary leadership and coordinate with management, shareholders, and employees to develop and maintain an effective corporate strategy for sustainability. To be successful in their executive role, CSOs need strong public relations skills, extensive staff management experience, good strategic planning skills, and a firm grasp of financial operations and budgeting. The position of CSO is a strategic role that focuses on effectively communicating the risks and opportunities related to sustainability and the bottom-line impact.

At a Glance

You wear many hats as the senior executive in charge of your company’s sustainability programs. In a single day, you might be leading a strategic planning meeting in one moment and then delivering a public speech to a large group of stakeholders in the next.

Today, you’re riding on a boat headed north through the Johnstone Strait into the pristine BC wilderness. Your destination is a small mountain stream used as a barometer to monitor salmon populations in BC’s waterways. In this visit to the local salmon enumeration project, you will learn about the people and processes behind the program and develop a clearer understanding of why this partnership with the federal government is so crucial to a healthy, sustainable salmon population. When you return to the office, you’ll shift gears and continue preparing for an important meeting with local politicians about your company’s latest sustainability initiative.

Your role as CSO is challenging and demanding – you would not be successful in it if you did not have outstanding leadership skills, the ability to think strategically, and a passion for developing people and programs. Your guidance and foresight enable your organization to positively contribute to the triple bottom line of people, planet and profits.

Job Duties

In their day-to-day work, CSOs carry out such tasks as:

  • Developing a broad understanding of how your business and industry work, including the resources your company uses, long-term business development objectives and existing environmental regulations.
  • Setting strategic priorities, goals, and objectives for your organization.
  • Coaching, mentoring and developing the management team.
  • Interacting with internal and external stakeholders, such as other executives within the organization, government representatives, potential funders, and members of the media.
  • Leading efforts to implement new programs that contribute to socially responsible operations.
  • Reviewing and approving financial transactions or operating budgets.
  • Exhibiting the courage and self-confidence to take a position on an issue that may be unpopular or controversial.
  • Taking decisive action on new objectives and initiatives.


Work Environment

CSOs work in a variety of locations, including:

In the office:

  • Leading stakeholder and staff meetings.
  • Meeting with other executives or junior staff members for training or coaching purposes.
  • Proposing new ideas to stakeholders and overcoming any resistance or objections from those stakeholders who may oppose new sustainability programs or initiatives.

In the field:

  • Participating in site visits to learn about the work that is accomplished within the programs or initiatives you oversee.
  • Leading public relations initiatives, such as completing interviews with media on your organization’s behalf, attending fundraising and awareness events, and hosting stakeholder input sessions.
  • Attending training seminars or other events designed to keep you informed on new regulatory and legislative developments affecting your organization’s operations.

Where to Work

As key executive leaders who shape their company’s sustainability policy, CSOs work in many different types of organizations. Common employers of CSOs include:

  • Municipal, regional, provincial or federal governments
  • First Nations, Métis and Inuit community organizations
  • Environmental professional or advocacy organizations
  • Large corporations that have incorporated sustainability into their core business activities
  • Utility companies
  • Natural resource extraction corporations, such as those in oil & gas, mining, and forestry

Search for jobs on the ECO Canada Job Board.

Education and Skills


If you are a post-secondary student seeking a CSO role in the future, consider pursuing a university degree related to:

  • Business administration or management
  • Public administration
  • Organizational management
  • Social sciences
  • Law
  • Green business administration
  • Environmental studies

In addition to the educational fields mentioned above, you will also need extensive management experience to become a CSO, with well-developed human resources management and leadership skills. Consider educational seminars or post-graduate studies that will hone your analytical thinking, such as:


  • Organizational or administrative management
  • Environmental law
  • Public speaking
  • Finance or Accounting

Our Environmental Professional (EP) designation can also help you progress in your chosen environmental career.


Technical Skills

  • Environmental Law
  • Green business administration
  • Environmental Sciences
  • Human Resources Management
  • Public Administration
  • Public Speaking
  • Finance and Budgeting

Personal and Professional Skills

  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills.
  • Superlative and creative problem-solving
  • Analytical skills.
  • Excellent organizational skills
  • Attention to detail.
  • Presentation skills

Environmental employers seek professionals who combine technical knowledge with personal and professional skills. Watch our free webinar “Essential Not Optional: Skills Needed to Succeed in Canada’s Environmental Industry” or take our Essential Skills courses.

Role Models

Your Impact

The role of a Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) is essential in driving environmental sustainability within an organization. The CSO's primary responsibility is integrating sustainable practices into the core business strategy and operations. CSO plays a significant part in mitigating the organization's environmental impact and promoting long-term sustainability.

CSOs have a range of responsibilities that contribute to their environmental focus. They develop and implement sustainability strategies, setting long-term environmental goals. CSOs also monitor and report environmental performance, resource consumption, waste generation, etc. Establishing key performance indicators and transparent reporting mechanisms ensures progress is measured and communicated effectively. Another crucial aspect of the CSO role is regulatory compliance. CSOs stay informed about environmental regulations and ensure the organization adheres to applicable laws and standards. They work to reduce the company's environmental footprint and manage any associated legal or reputational risks.

CSOs engage with internal and external stakeholders to foster sustainability partnerships. They collaborate with employees, customers, and governmental organizations to develop and implement sustainability initiatives. Through these collaborations, CSOs build relationships, communicate the organization's environmental commitments, and drive collective action. Employee education and engagement are also part of the CSO's responsibilities. They raise employee awareness about sustainability issues, provide training, and establish initiatives to encourage employee involvement. By promoting a culture of environmental responsibility, CSOs empower employees to contribute to sustainability efforts. In summary, the CSO role is fundamentally environmental, focusing on integrating sustainability practices and principles into the organization's strategy, operations, and culture. CSOs minimize the company's environmental impact and contribute to long-term environmental stewardship through their efforts.

Occupational Classification

Chief Sustainability Officers may be classified under the following occupational groupings:

NOC Code: 00011 – Senior government managers and officials

NOC Code: 00012 – Senior managers – financial, communications and other business services

NOC Code: 00013 – Senior managers - health, education, social and community services and membership organizations

NOC Code: 00014 – Senior managers – trade, broadcasting and other services

NOC Code: 00015 – Senior managers – construction, transportation, production and utilities

What is an NOC Code?

The National Occupation Classification (NOC) provides a standardized language for describing the work performed by Canadians in the labour market. It gives statisticians, labour market analysts, career counsellors, employers, and individual job seekers a consistent way to collect data and describe and understand the nature of work within different occupations.

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