Sustainability goals were once distinct from core organisational goals. However, recent times have seen a sweeping change in how companies and their stakeholders prioritise sustainability. Large enterprises are now focused on managing their environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals. This drive has resulted in the expansion of the typical C-suite - beyond CEOs, CFOs and COOs, and has raised a new crucial executive role - that of the Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO).
A recent PwC report shows how empowered CSOs now are, and have taken a key role in keeping the organisations credible and competitive. In 2016, only 9% of CSOs were a part of the C-level in their organisations. However, in a span of mere five years, this number has more than tripled to 28%. Today, a rising number of CSOs report directly to CEOs and positively impact board and business decisions.
The Role of CSOs in Businesses Today
With each passing year, the role of CSOs in driving businesses towards a better future is becoming more relevant and critical. The primary responsibility of a CSO, in an enterprise, is to facilitate a paradigm shift within the organisation and help make sustainable decisions that impact the entire value chain. CSOs, however, also play a pivotal role in establishing supply chain accountability.
Here are some of the main functional responsibilities of a CSO:
- Ensuring compliance with local and global sustainability regulations
- ESG monitoring and reporting
- Monitoring an organisation’s sustainability projects
- Exploring emerging sustainability tech and promoting sustainable innovation
- Integrating sustainability and ESG goals into everyday business processes
- Roadmap to carbon neutrality and net-zero
Facilitating Sustainability in Supply Chain SMBs: An Important Part of the CSO’s Journey
● Managing data - the first step towards ESG compliance :
An enterprise’s supply chain is a complex mix of different kinds of suppliers. Procurement partners can range from other large global enterprises to small and medium-sized businesses. While large companies in an organisation’s supply chain may have readily available ESG data, smaller suppliers often don’t.
CSOs can help bridge such data gaps by collaborating with supply chain SMBs guiding them to use tools and practices for data gathering and reporting.
● Encourage SMBs to Adopt ESG Goals for the Right Reasons
Organisational culture is often driven by its leaders. CSOs can not only influence how the CXOs within their organizations perceive sustainability but also affect a chain reaction by changing the perspectives of leaders within their SMB suppliers.
CSOs can help SMBs identify the benefits of ESG adoption and reporting like gaining a competitive advantage, promoting customer satisfaction, and operational efficiency, and boosting the brand image and investment opportunities over the long term
● Identify Areas for Improvements
Playing the role of consultant, keeping a constant eye on the ESG KPIs, CSOs can identify areas of improvement within the enterprise as well as its entire supply chain. They may include upstream activities like material handling and purchasing or downstream factors like distribution and consumer end use. This opens up another significant area of opportunity - reuse, recycle and upcycle
● Establish Sustainability as a Way of Life
CSOs have the power to help establish sustainability as a way of life in a business and its ecosystem. By increasing awareness of ESG goals among the SMBs that make up an enterprise’s supply chain, CSOs can lead the change towards more sustainable procurement practices at all levels, right from primary procurement to the last mile
Key Activities Of Highly Impactful CSOs Across the Supply Chain
Sustainability professionals who are successfully leading the change towards better business practices, tend to engage in some key efforts to make their organisational supply chains ESG-compliant. Here are some such crucial activities of impactful CSOs across the supply chain:
● Ensuring Systematic Data Capture
ESG data is vital because it allows investors, customers and employees to evaluate an enterprise and make informed decisions. Systematic data capture becomes a pillar of decision-making and a competitive edge
● Prioritisation of Sustainability Initiatives
With accurate and recent data as the guide, it becomes easier to recognise the sustainability initiatives that may be necessary to bridge gaps in sustainability and ESG compliance of any organisation. Prioritisation f the initiatives that require the most focus can lead to a faster and more relevant compliance journey and thus better adoption
● Monitoring Sustainability Regulations
To ensure that an enterprise’s procurement process is compliant with local and global sustainability regulations, competent CSOs consistently monitor relevant rules and laws. It helps them identify the pending regulations or those newly launched, that apply to their enterprise or their SMB supply partners, and take measures for timely compliance
● Facilitating Beneficial Partnerships
Sustainability leaders in the C-suite can also drive the change towards innovation and real, measurable change by facilitating beneficial partnerships between their enterprise and ESG-focused SMBs. Ground-breaking sustainable work can only happen if they are all in it together
Ensuring collaboration with supply chain SMBs is a key activity that CSOs can enable, amongst many initiatives to help the organisation achieve their sustainability goals. CSOs can be the true cheerleaders of sustainability and help bring real change.
To facilitate easier ESG data capture across the supply chain, CSOs can rely on new-age SaaS platforms like Treeni’s resustainTM SMB, which makes cost-effective ESG reporting possible for small and medium-sized businesses in the supply chain.