CSOs: Here’s How to Get CEO Support for Sustainability Initiatives

CSOs: Here’s How to Get CEO Support for Sustainability Initiatives

By Caroline Klatt, COO, Flowcarbon
January 30, 2024

To achieve your goals, a chief sustainability officer needs to collaborate with C-suite peers such as your CFO, CMO, and CHRO. At the same time, you must also court the ultimate decision maker: your CEO. 

My experience as chief executive at Headliner Labs and discussions with CEOs through Flowcarbon have given me up-close exposure to the relentless demands these leaders face. They must balance short-term needs with long-term growth — while also managing employee, investor, and board member expectations. Amid all the pressure, it’s easy for a CEO to push your sustainability initiatives to the sidelines.

The key to getting your CEO’s interest? Demonstrate how your strategy will position them — and your entire company — for lasting success. Here, I outline how to do that in this fourth installment of my Flowcarbon Strategy Series. 

Get Buy-In from Your CEO

Your CEO has limited time and an abundance of issues to handle. You can get their attention by presenting these key points. 

Sustainability is the Wild West. That’s an opportunity for us. Some companies follow recommended emissions guidelines. Others don’t. Some exaggerate claims, while others stay mute for fear of a greenwashing backlash. Even regulators can’t decide how to regulate, with the SEC hinting it may pull back on upcoming Scope 3 emission disclosure requirements. Amid the chaos, it’s an ideal time for us to step up as industry leaders on the sustainability front. 

  • Opportunity: Become the sustainability standard-bearer for our industry. We can use our ethics, insights, actions and influence to set and achieve new standards. By taking the lead, we’ll become the go-to example when investors, regulators and the press want to showcase who is doing it right.
  • Opportunity: Out-innovate our competition. We can solidify our trailblazer identity by pioneering sustainable solutions and practices. At the same time, we’ll differentiate ourselves from our competitors and appeal to the growing ranks of environmentally conscious customers, investors and job seekers.

Climate change is coming fast and furious. Non-believers remain, but the reality is that we all must prepare. Failure to mitigate climate change and natural disasters/extreme weather are among the top four risks affecting the world in the next two years, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2023.

  • Opportunity: Reduce our environmental-related risks. We must develop climate resilience strategies, safeguard our supply chains and diversify our energy sources. Sure, this means spending up front, but in the long run, we’ll save money and improve efficiency while safeguarding our business. 
  • Opportunity: Stay up on climate-related tools and trends. We can’t predict when the next storm will hit, but by tracking environmental updates, staying aware of trends, and creating solutions, we can be early adopters of the tools and technology that can help mitigate the effects.  

The world needs our help. The environmental resources that sustain life are under threat,” with trends moving backward since the 2015 adoption of the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The business case here is that we need to sustain the Earth to sustain our business (and our families, as well as future generations). During their tenure, other CEOs, from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos to Pepsi’s Indra Nooyi, have made tremendous strides on this front. We can too. 

  • Opportunity: Influence suppliers and customers to do more. With incentives and education, we can slash Scope 3 emissions and ensure that our products and services are being developed, used and disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner. 
  • Opportunity. Invest in global and local initiatives that support sustainability. In exchange for giving our time and money, we’ll help safeguard the Earth. I’d say that’s a pretty significant payoff. 

As business professionals, we need to ensure that our organization thrives. And as humans, we need to extend that to people and organizations across the globe. 

There are many efficient, affordable ways to mitigate the effects of climate change, such as using renewable energy and recycled materials. At Flowcarbon, we also help corporates source carbon credits to offset company emissions as part of a holistic sustainability plan. What’s most important is to choose something. Any step forward is better than standing still as the world around us needs assistance. 

Learn more about how Flowcarbon can help your company’s holistic carbon emissions strategy at flowcarbon.com.

About Flowcarbon

Flowcarbon is a pioneering carbon finance and technology company working to scale the voluntary carbon market through innovative investment and carbon finance structures and sales.

Caroline Klatt is COO of Flowcarbon, which she co-founded in 2021.

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