Guidance for a Key Climate Leader in the C-Suite

How CCOs and CSOs can accelerate climate progress

I had a meeting during Climate Week in NYC with an accomplished Chief Climate Officer (CCO) looking for some advice. I was reminded how challenging it can be to serve in this still quite nascent role. I also recalled my personal experience serving as Goldman Sachs’s first CCO way back in 2005. 

Things were different back then. In many ways, it was much easier because there was so much “low-hanging fruit.” It seemed to me that every climate strategy we devised for GS presented “win-win” opportunities: outcomes that would be good for both the bottom line and the environment. Today, most of the easier victories have been achieved. It’s harder to find these “win-wins.” 

But CCOs should not be discouraged. Given all of the momentum behind the race to decarbonize — just think about the huge number of participants and all of the excitement on display during Climate Week — there remain many opportunities for CCOs and CSOs (Chief Sustainability Officers) to achieve environmental gains that also strengthen the business. These opportunities just aren’t as obvious these days. 

So. . . how best to proceed? I always find it productive to brainstorm with others on this topic. In that spirit, here are some of my suggestions for CCO/CSOs. I’d love it if others shared their views too.