If the headline is posed as a question, it is one that is almost impossible to answer.
Companies, industries, and corporate cultures are so different, it's clear that successful heads of CSR/sustainability don't come from any particular mould.
Instead, they share some characteristics, skill-sets and desires.
I chaired a dinner discussion on the topic with seven or so heads of sustainability last week. Here's a few of my notes/takeaways from our discussion:
- A good CR head is hugely patient and very ambitious.
- He or she cultivates board mentors.
- He or she works out who really matters and builds recognition and coalitions: Understands corporate geopolitics.
- Lacks ego and is prepared to help others take credit.
- Can be both the "Court Jester" and risk manager.
- Inspires others with the art of the possible.
- Is a change maker and innovation catalyst.
- Gains more pleasure from the success of others and change in the organisation than personal progression.
- COULD aim to be a CEO in the right environment: if corporate strategy is aligned with sustainability early enough in their career, for example.
- Career goals seem to be around making sustainable change, leading to corporate transformation where possible and noticably helping others make a difference across a wide variety of theatres: executives, shop floor colleagues, stakeholders, society and boards.
- If the CSO is to be close to the Chief Strategy Officer role and closely advising the executive or a part of it, this may be the ultimate career destination for many heads of CSR. But that, depends on the company...
The dinner was sponsored by CS Partners, a new and interesting headhunting firm in sustainability. (Disclosure: I was paid by them to organise and host the dinner)
We may be holding some further private discussion events later in 2012. If you are a head of CSR/sustainability and are interested in these kinds of dinner discussions with like-minded people, then do get in touch. We may host some in cities other than London at some point.