Chief Sustainability Officers


Education and Training Requirements

High School

A good foundation for sustainability officer work includes classes in business, accounting, economics, mathematics, environmental studies, and computer science. Strong communication skills are important in this type of work, so be sure to take English, writing, and speech classes. Foreign language classes, such as Spanish, French, or Mandarin, are also beneficial for working with international offices.

Postsecondary Education

Many chief sustainability officers have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in business administration or in an area related to their field of work. For example, a CSO who works for an engineering firm might have an engineering degree. Other types of degrees that employers may prefer for chief sustainability officer jobs include accounting or finance, law, public administration, or the liberal arts. Some colleges offer degrees and minors in sustainability. 

Other Education or Training

Chief sustainability officers mantain their knowledge and skills by taking continuing education courses that are offered by professional associations such as the International Society of Sustainability Professionals and the National Association for Environmental Management. They also keep up with general administrative and management knowledge through ongoing courses offered by the American Management Association, Financial Executives International, and the National Management Association, among others.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Becoming certified shows employers that you have achieved a recognized level of skills, knowledge, and experience in your field. Individuals who are new to the field can receive the Sustainability Associate certification from the International Society of Sustainability Professionals. Applicants must pass a credential exam that tests their knowledge of the field and gauges their skills and abilities. The society also offers the ISSP Certified Sustainability Professional designation for those who have a bachelor's degree, have received the Sustainability Associate certification, meet experience requirements, and pass an exam. CSOs may also receive certification in general management practices through the Institute of Certified Professional Managers.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Five or more years of experience in lower level management role, combined with contributions to successful sustainability programs, are usually required to secure a chief sustainability officer position. This job requires strong leadership skills and the ability to effectively interact with people of all levels within and external to the organization. CSOs have extensive knowledge of environmental issues and regulations and are able to develop and implement corporate policy changes and processes to address environmental concerns. They use software programs regularly to conduct their work, such as database software like Microsoft Access, enterprise resource planning software like SAP, and e-mail, spreadsheet, and video conferencing software.

CSOs are creative thinkers who can gather information from a wide variety of sources, analyze this information, and come up with solutions that are best for the company and the environment. They have a flexible mindset and are able to deal with the many changes they face on a daily basis in their work. They are decisive, honest, have integrity, enjoy working with others as wells as independently, and they value achievement.