The Rise of Chief Sustainability Officers at CPG Companies
Cheryl Winokur Munk
The CPG Specialist article, "The Rise of Chief Sustainability Officers at CPG Companies," quoted Russell Reynolds Associates Consultant Seema Kathuria on the growing role of sustainabiliy leaders in the consumer packaged good companies and references our paper, "Pressure to Evolve: What Sustainability Requires of the Consumer Industry." The article is excerpted below.
As the business imperative grows for thought leadership and action in areas related to environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, more CPG companies are carving out a new executive position—that of chief sustainability officer.
It’s a trend that seems to be picking up steam, especially as pressure mounts from all sides for CPG companies to make ESG and sustainability more of a strategic priority, according to executive recruiters who consult with CPG companies on these matters.
“This role is in its infancy” at CPG companies, but it’s growing rapidly, says Seema Kathuria, Chicago-based consultant in the consumer practice at Russell Reynolds Associates. CSOs advise companies on measurement and reporting, partner with customers and supply chain vendors to embed sustainability in their own businesses, and they liaison with investors and external organizations, among other things, she says.
Kathuria of Russell Reynolds says her firm worked recently with a CPG company that initially wanted to have three impact-related leaders across the organization: One would have focused on inclusion and diversity, another on environmental and the third on corporate responsibility. But the company quickly realized that the model wasn’t going to be effective because there was no one person in charge and no across-the-organization approach, Kathuria says. After going through this strategic review, the company redefined its vision and is in the process of hiring someone for a unified role, she says.
Indeed, Russell Reynolds recently analyzed leadership teams at 53 publicly traded consumer companies, 14 of whom are CPG players. Within the CPG sector alone, 78.5% had a sustainability leader with an average tenure of 3.3 years. Notably, 82% were internal appointments, according to the data.
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