For sustainability executives to climb the corporate ladder beyond the specter of sustainability, they must ensure that their firm’s sustainability efforts translate into increased sales or market share, according to Ethical Corporation.
It doesn’t help that sustainability itself is a relatively recent business sector that has many critics.
Even as corporate boards take an increasing interest in putting forth their best foot on sustainability and the environment, presidents and CEOs with a true sustainability mindset tend to be confined to companies which have sustainability as a bedrock principal, particularly ones that sell green products or services.
Otherwise, the possibilities for a sustainability director to later become a chief executive at the same company are slight indeed, said Adam Werbach, sustainability adviser to Wal-Mart, in the Ethical Corporation article.
For the most part, sustainability executives tend to come from marketing and technical backgrounds, lacking the sales or business acumen that is favored at the helm of a company.
Even for companies with sustainability at their core the ability to keep an executive with sustainability roots is difficult.
For instance, at sustainable paper goods supplier Seventh Generation, co-founder Jeffrey Hollender recently vacated the president and CEO roles to become Executive Chairperson. To succeed him as president and CEO, the company tapped Chuck Maniscalco, former president and CEO of PepsiCo’s Quaker/Tropicana/Gatorade business units.
The Quaker, Tropicana and Gatorade business units have done much in the realm of sustainability of late, including eliminating wooden pallets from the supply chain and adopting thinner bottles that use less plastic and have a lower carbon footprint.
Still, before Maniscalco’s time at the top of those business units, his background came as a senior vice president at Frito Lay, president at Quaker, vice president of marketing at Snapple, and other roles in marketing and market research at Quaker, which he joined in 1980, according to his LinkedIn profile. Maniscalco has written about his transition to Seventh Generation at his blog.
If you, or someone you know, has gone from a sustainability role to head of the company, please leave a note in our comments section.