ICRS Fellows Hub: A Seat at the Table – The Rising Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO)

You cannot get there on your own…as you step up, ensuring you have the right team with the right skills and the right development opportunities is key.

Lucy Newcombe, Chief People & ESG Officer at Computershare

ICRS Fellows Hub: A Seat at the Table – The Rising Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO)

There is no denying that sustainability professionals are in high demand. There has certainly been a growth in job opportunities for both entry level and senior positions, particularly with more businesses focusing on ESG, compared to the longer standing traditional concepts of CSR.

With increased reporting requirements, legislation and macro-level challenges sustainability has become a Board-room discussion. Yet, traditionally there have been scarce opportunities for senior professionals to make that next step and reach the C-suite. 

With more Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) appointments being made and a likely upward trend, the ICRS Fellows Hub came together to discus what it takes to gain that seat at the table, hearing advice and insights from Lucy Newcombe Chief People & ESG Officer at Computershare.  

Fellows discussed:

  • What it takes to get to the C-suite
  • What C-suite representation can mean for the business and us as practitioners
  • The barriers we face and the capabilities we might need to get there

Shared insights from Lucy and Fellows included:

  • Owning what you want – using mentors and internal sponsors to talk openly about your goals in making it to the C-Suite
  • Recognising that impact can be made from many areas of the business
  • C-Suite aspiration may not be right for everyone but be true to your values and what’s important to you
  • Persistence and resilience are key, learn from setbacks and have the courage to stand up for what you believe in
  • Be willing to lean into the priorities of other C-Suite members – how does an ESG lens support their deliverables?
  • Get commercial – demonstrating the commercial value of ESG initiatives is imperative
  • Work cross functionally, irrespective of what function you might sit in
  • Lead the way – push boundaries to set you and your business apart

Lucy and Fellows discussed what appropriate C-Suite representation can mean for business and individuals. Shared experiences included:

  • Better alignment with other business functions, particularly commercial strategy
  • The function is taken more seriously and considered strategic
  • Driving change is easier
  • Credibility from internal and external stakeholders
  • Easier to embed into strategic deliverables, that will need to be delivered on whether your career progresses outside of the organisation.


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