The evolution of the sustainability profession has given rise to an array of roles and responsibilities across industries.
Jobs in the field of sustainability stretch across several industries, from clothing and technology to brewing and food. A particularly popular sustainability role among such industries and others is chief sustainability officer, a role that, according to Weinreb Group, has grown significantly among Fortune 500 companies in the past 10 years. However, not all high-level sustainability positions are held by sustainability officers and executives, as the field has managed to birth some unique roles across companies.
Director of philosophy — Patagonia, Inc.
Vincent Stanley, one of Patagonia’s original employees, is the company’s in-house philosopher. Through his position, Stanley educates employees on the company’s history and values. Patagonia’s brand strongly revolves around using its business to protect nature and causing no unnecessary harm. The company makes it a point to be extremely self-aware of its impact. So, having a head of philosophy at the company is likely crucial, which makes Stanley a driving force behind Patagonia’s commitment to sustainable and responsible business practices.
Executive fellow, regenerative business and climate solutions — Clif Bar & Co.
Clif Bar is a company with an extensive sustainability background backed by an environmental stewardship program started by Elysa Hammond, the company’s first executive fellow for regenerative business and climate solutions. Through her position as executive fellow, Hammond is in charge of identifying regenerative business strategies for Clif Bar and making it easier for the company to track the impact of its products.
Head of tea — Tata Consumer Products (International)
Sebastian Michaelis is head of tea at Tata Consumer Products, where he has made a name for himself as a master tea taster who is able to identify hundreds of flavors of tea. The skill is so valuable that Tetley, a subsidiary of Tata, insured Michaelis’ tongue for $1.18 million. Now, as head of tea at Tata, Michaelis is responsible for things such as product sourcing, overseeing the buying and blending of tea and even sustainability efforts. Specifically, he manages the company’s sustainable sourcing strategy of a 100 percent Rainforest Alliance-certified supply chain. He is also a board member of Stanand (Africa) Ltd., Stansand (Central Africa) Ltd. and The Ethical Tea Partnership.
Director, Better World communications — Anheuser-Busch
Sustainability is a key factor in the brewing industry, a sector that can affect the environment through water consumption, wastewater and energy emissions among other ways. Anheuser-Busch has a high-level position meant to help with that, in the form of director of Better World communications. The position, once held by sustainability leader Hugh Share, has three pillars: responsible drinking; environmental sustainability; and community affairs. According to a posting for the role, for which Anheuser-Busch is hiring, some duties involve contributing to the company’s sustainability council and working with Supply, Better World and Procurement Sustainability leadership. The director role also supports flagship breweries with the company’s sustainability agenda, partnerships and storytelling.
Chief environmental officer — Microsoft
Although the title itself does not sound particularly unique, Microsoft’s chief environmental officer, Lucas Joppa, is the first person to hold the position at the company. Having previously served as a computational ecologist and chief environmental scientist at Microsoft, Joppa plays a different C-level role through his work as its first chief environmental officer. Joppa oversees the company’s sustainability strategies and evaluates how Microsoft’s products and projects intersect with environmental issues.
Principal sustainability architect — Higg
Sustainability insights platform Higg allows consumer goods businesses to better understand the social and environmental impact of their materials, products, stores and more. To run a software-based operation predicated on sustainability insights, the Bay Area company seeks a principal sustainability architect who will build out the company’s software tools and act as a peer reviewer of the company’s researchers and data scientists, among other things. Higg has had proven case studies with companies such as Target that used Higg’s platform to strengthen its environmental standards.
Cosmic engagement officer — Dr. Bronner’s
Dr. Bronner’s is a leader in the sustainable products space and is led by CEO David Bronner. However, Bronner’s form of CEO stands for cosmic engagement officer, as opposed to the traditional definition of the acronym. According to the company’s website, Bronner guides the company to “champion the Regenerative Organic Certified standard, an integrated and comprehensive program that addresses soil health, animal welfare, and fair labor practices to advance sustainable and ecological alternatives to industrial agriculture.” The cosmic influence is also found in Dr. Bronner’s six cosmic principles, which among other things prioritizes direct, personal and sustainable relationships with its organic suppliers.
Vice president of sustainable infrastructure & growth initiatives — National Hockey League
This position within the National Hockey League, held by Omar Mitchell, evaluates places where hockey is played, such as stadiums, multipurpose spaces and local rinks, for their usefulness as a means of growing hockey’s popularity. According to the Green Sports Alliance, Mitchell specifically explores business models and innovations that address economic, social and environmental sustainability within physical infrastructures geared toward hockey. Mitchell was the NHL’s first environmental sustainability director when he joined in 2012. He was responsible for overseeing the league’s green initiative, which is still active today.
Chief enabling officer — GPEKS
Green Power Environment Knowledge Systems (GPEKS) is led by its founder and chief enabling officer Frederic Pouyot, who has worked in the renewable energy sector since the 1980s. GPEKS is focused on early-stage cleantech project development, according to its website. Pouyot’s post as the company’s chief enabling officer sees him conduct project development, financial engineering and business planning for GPEKS’ work in clean energy, green buildings and electric vehicles.
Sustainable households manager — Urban Green Lab
Urban Green Lab is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with the goal of teaching places such as classrooms, households and workplaces how to make sustainable choices through daily habits. One of its key positions is sustainable households manager, a role filled by Jordan Owens, who dedicates her time to teaching people at the individual/neighborhood level how to lead sustainable lifestyles. Owens, who started the position this year, also helps Urban Green Lab staffers with unique programs such as the Nashville Food Waste Initiative. According to the nonprofit’s website, the initiative “drives citywide policies and strategies that reduce food waste by preventing wasted food, rescuing surplus food for those in need, and composting and recycling food scraps to build healthy soil.”