January 24, 2023 – The demand for sustainability in business is driven by broad awareness of the danger of climate change. But also, corporate decision-makers are beginning to recognize the business benefits sustainability practices can provide. Leadership teams now have a responsibility to prioritize sustainability in their sourcing, operations, and partnerships. This is driven by customer expectations, a changing regulatory environment, and pressures from investors. As sustainability continues to be a critical factor in leadership decisions, the role of the chief sustainability officer (CSO) and the creation of sustainability committees are also gaining prominence.
This topic will be explored more tomorrow in an interactive webinar with an expert panel led by David Callaway, founder and editor-in-chief, Callaway Climate Insights and supported by Hunt Scanlon Media and BoardEx. We invite you to join Mr. Callaway, who will explore the external pressures driving the need to find board members and C-suite leaders with sustainability experience and focus.
Sustainability practices offer obvious benefits. “In addition to providing a broader social good role for business, which attracts investors, sustainable practices help corporate leaders develop efficiency and risk management, preparing them for both economic and environmental challenges in the future,” said Mr. Callaway.
Senior leadership teams can also help make their businesses more sustainable. “One token chief sustainability officer is not enough,” Mr. Callaway said. “It’s like the old days when everybody thought they were on social media if they had one social media editor. Sustainability must be integrated into every department. A chief sustainability officer and a board sustainability committee are a good start. Sustainable practices should also be integrated into all performance evaluations.”
“Investors drive this,” Mr. Callaway said. “They provide capital to businesses which respond to sustainable demands, which lowers borrowing costs, among other things. Investors identify the businesses doing it right, which sets an example for other corporate leaders.”
The chief sustainability officer role developed out of legal and/or HR, but has become more important as investors and boards have demanded improved sustainable practices from their companies and management, according to Mr. Callaway. “It is now somewhere between the C-suite and legal, while the best companies are using the role as a top management position that directs practices across the company,” he said.
“Few executive candidates have a history of sustainable leadership more than a few years old, so at present at lot of companies are simply moving existing executives into the role,” he said. “As time goes on, a talent pool will emerge and for at least the next decade will command premium compensation as there is little competition for their skill-sets.”
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David Callaway is Callaway Climate Insights’ founder and editor-in-chief. He directs this publication’s reporting on the intersection where the world’s financial markets meet innovation, science and public policy. Mr. Callaway draws on his experience as an award-winning journalist and commentator, former president of the World Editors Forum, former editor-in-chief of USA Today and MarketWatch, and as chief executive officer of TheStreet Inc.
Heidi DuBois is the global head of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) at AEA Investors. In her role, she oversees the creation and implementation of ESG policies and procedures across AEA’s portfolio companies as well as at the management company level. Before that, Ms. DuBois was global head of ESG at Edelman, a global public relations consultancy firm, where she worked with boards and senior executives to design, execute, and communicate their ESG strategies with investors and other stakeholders, including employees, regulators, and non-governmental and civil society organizations. Prior to that, Ms. DuBois was ESG director for the Society for Corporate Governance, where she developed new programs and managed thought leadership and engagement on emerging ESG trends for boards of directors, business leaders, and corporate governance professionals.
Jennifer Skylakos is a managing partner and global head of the sustainable infrastructure and energy funds (SIEF) practice at DHR Global. Her team recruits investment, fundraising and asset management professionals, and portfolio companies’ C-suites and boards. With over a decade of experience in sustainability and ESG initiatives, Ms. Skylakos also leads the ESG practice, working with our clients across industries to hire leaders and develop ESG capabilities to meet their specific goals. In addition to recruitment, the team provides organizational review, design and implementation services and makes strategic introductions for funds or management teams seeking GP sponsorship. Ms. Skylakos started her career as an attorney through the attorney general’s honors program at the Department of Justice, and then as an associate at Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy in New York City, specializing in corporate immigration law.
Paula Luff is the director of ESG research and engagement at DSC Meridian Capital where she is responsible for integrating ESG within the investment process and leading the company’s engagement with portfolio companies on ESG matters. Prior to this, she served as director of sustainability and impact for Inherent Group from 2017 to 2020. Ms. Luff worked across the investment team to integrate ESG into the firm’s investment process and engaged with companies on financially-material ESG issues. From 2007 through 2015, she was vice president of corporate social responsibility for Hess Corp., where she established and led the global social responsibility function for the company and integrated key ESG issues into operations. Ms. Luff also led engagement efforts on a range of sustainability issues with host governments, NGOs, investors, and other external stakeholders.
Akiba Smith-Francis, based in New York, belongs to Egon Zehnder’s consumer, sustainability, and public and social sector practices. Within consumer she focuses on the retail and consumer packaged goods industries. She is also active in the supply chain officers practice and does considerable leadership development work, specifically executive coaching. Prior to joining Egon Zehnder, Ms. Smith-Francis was a director and partner at leadership advisory firm YSC Consulting. There, she led the executive coaching practice for the Americas and served as a member of the Americas leadership team. Before that, Ms. Smith-Francis served as a senior consultant with The Exetor Group, helping strengthen the integration of people leadership and business impact for long-term organizational success. She began her career at McKinsey & Company before transitioning to brand management at The Clorox Co.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media