Participating in an internship or part-time job at a company with a sustainability department is a good way to gain valuable work experience. Search for sustainability projects and volunteer your time; this will give you firsthand experience with the types of programs that chief sustainability officers develop and oversee. If you are still in school, join an environmental club and volunteer for environmental projects and events. Investigate the sustainability programs that are in place at your school. If such a program does not exist, offer to work with professors and college staff to develop one.
Another great way to develop business skills that will be beneficial for future sustainability officer work is by joining national student clubs such as Business Professions of America (http://www.bpa.org) and Junior Achievement (https://www.juniorachievement.org). Get involved in a local chapter near you.
Keep up with corporate and management issues by reading publications such as Barron’s (https://www.barrons.com), the Wall Street Journal (https://www.wsj.com), Forbes (http://www.forbes.com), Bloomberg Businessweek (https://www.bloomberg.com/businessweek), Fortune (https://fortune.com), and Financial Times (http://www.ft.com). (Note: Certain sections of these publications online may be available only to subscribers.)
Set up an informational interview with a chief sustainability officer. Find candidates through an online search and contact them by e-mail. You can also find interviews with CSOs by conducting a keyword search using the phrase "chief sustainability officer."
Chief sustainability officers (CSOs) are top-level executives who focus on environmental issues with the goal of ensuring the companies they work for are operating in sustainable, responsible ways. They work closely with other top executives, staff members, and consultants to develop and implement sustainability programs for better energy use, resource conservation, and waste elimination. Other issues that they may focus on include environmentally friendly transportation and building design.
CSOs review their company's sustainability programs to assess where improvements can be made. They take environmental regulations into account and make sure that the sustainability policies and goals are in compliance with federal and local laws. These sustainability programs are incorporated into the company's business practices, such as reducing the generation of waste by increasing recycling efforts.
Depending on the size of the corporation, CSOs may oversee employees as well as the volunteers who work on sustainability programs and projects. In addition to being knowledgeable about management and customer service principles, they have strong administrative skills. They create quarterly and annual reports on their sustainability research and programs. They may also have knowledge of building materials, techniques, and designs for sustainability.
Other responsibilities of CSOs include helping to create, communicate, and implement their company's corporate culture and mission. CSOs meet regularly with the company's board of directors and staff members to discuss strategies, goals, and other issues. They work closely with the company's internal departments on areas such as marketing, public relations, production, pricing and sales, business development, and legal issues as related to the company's environmental practices. They also work with financial officers, to make sure sustainability program expenses are within approved budgets. CSOs may also interact with the media, civic and environmental groups, and shareholders.