CSOs: Insiders or Outsiders?

By Kathy Miller on April 4th, 2014



The appearance of Chief Sustainability Officers in corporations is becoming more prevalent.  Recently, we conducted a study to find out more about them.  We are interested in why companies decide to create the position and how they decide whether to look internally or externally for a person to fill the position.  On the one hand, someone who is already employed within the company might understand the culture better and have more credibility and closer ties with decision-makers.  On the other hand, those who are hired from the outside tend to have a deeper educational and experiential background in the issues that go with sustainable strategies.  Also, they bring fresh eyes to the organization.  They may be able to see the culture more clearly than those who are embedded in it.  And of course, this internal/external issue isn’t isolated to sustainability.  The same question can apply to anyone who is assuming a position that involves the need to influence others and/or lead change in the organization.

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