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The future of the Chief Sustainability Officer

A perspective from Deloitte and the Institute of International Finance

This report looks at the evolving role of the Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) in the financial services industry. We explore why some firms have CSOs and others do not, the typical mandate of the role, the skills needed to deliver that mandate, and various governance models.

We expect the role of the CSO to gain prominence over the next two years. The CSO is emerging as the “sense-maker in chief” in the organisation. They are being asked to interpret changes in the external sustainability environment and work out the strategic consequences for their firm. The CSO is also charged with influencing, communicating and cutting through the organisational complexity to allow their firm to deliver on ESG commitments.

This report by Deloitte and the Institute of International Finance is based on a survey and insights from more than 80 sustainability professionals exploring how financial services firms see the role of a CSO. The report looks at why certain institutions decide to appoint a CSO, what to expect from a CSO, and which governance models have worked better than others. We look at:

  • The mandate of the CSO’s role
  • The skill set of the CSO
  • Reporting lines and relationship with the CEO
  • The CSO’s contribution to governance
  • Future pathways for the role

The role of the CSO is evolving as organisations have a long way to go before sustainability is fully embedded into every function, process, and person. Please contact us if you’d like to discuss the findings of this survey and how to jumpstart your firm’s transformation journey.

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