What is a Sustainability Officer?

Depending on the resources available you might appoint a sustainability officer or support an existing member of staff to be a sustainability champion. Creating this role shows a firm and public commitment to sustainability.

Changing the culture of an organisation and implementing new ideas can be hard and making sustainable changes is an ongoing process. New programmes and ideas can start with enthusiasm only to peter out before real behaviour change can be made. A sustainability officer or champion can push a sustainability programme forward, embedding it in the culture of your company.

Sustainability Officer

What does a Sustainability Officer/Champion do?

A sustainability officer is needed to push sustainability programmes forward. A good sustainability officer is an agent of change for the company - it’s not just about separating waste, the sustainability officer position is innovative and thinks outside the box, is creative, persuasive, and good at communicating.

  • Assess where the company is on sustainability
  • Work with management to set realistic goals.
  • Help define mission, strategy, policies and messages, and working out an action plan.
  • Integrate a culture of sustainability and corporate responsibility from the ground up, engaging employees.
  • Gather feedback from employees and adapt plans to encompass what they feel is important. A good sustainability officer will have their finger on the pulse of the company culture, understanding what motivates employees and devising a strategy for implementing change that aligns with the workforce.
  • Provide an environmental lens to all areas of the company and embed the change so that it is enduring rather than a passing fad.
  • Engage key organisations outside the company, including NGOs and local communities.
  • If your business sells products, work with the product throughout its lifecycle, measuring impacts of raw materials sourcing, supply chain, production, distribution, and end of life stewardship.
  • Report on the company's sustainability work, providing clear and transparent information for staff and customers.
  • Make submissions on your local councils public transport and cycling infrastructure.

Who should be my sustainability champion?

In appointing a sustainability officer/champion you will need to be strategic. A suitable sustainability officer will:

  • Be well networked within the organisation and respected by peers
  • Want to make a difference in a organisation they are fully committed to
  • Have the courage to speak up for what they believe in
  • Be seen as ‘go to’ people and opinion makers
  • Have a broad understanding of the organisation and how it works
  • Be able to translate the overall change vision into local 'what’s in it for me' scenarios
  • Feel passionate about the change while being empathetic to the mindset and behaviour shift their colleagues will need to go through
  • 'Tuned in' to the mood of the area they are in and able to pick up on resistance to the change, lack of understanding of the change journey and communication gaps between the business and the programme

References

What Do Chief Sustainability Officers Do?
Why Your Company Needs a Chief Sustainability Officer 
Make change sustainable with 'change champions'

How Smart Sustainability Communication Is Bringing SMEs Out of the Shadows
Employee engagement: a sustainability super-strategy?