Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Growth of Green School Sustainability Officers

Increasingly colleges and universities are including staff positions devoted to advancing sustainability on campus. The individuals that occupy these positions are sometimes referred to as Sustainable Coordinators or College Sustainability Officers.

A school sustainability officer is someone who is responsible for coordination, management, and administration of the school's environmental programs. In its simplest essence, this implies reducing the usage of non-renewable resources and better management of existing resources.

College Sustainability Officers are similar to the Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) in the corporate world. Other job titles for environmentally oriented postions include:

Director of Sustainability
Environmental Policy Manager
Director of Environment, Energy, & Safety
Director of Social & Environmental Responsibility
Chief Officer of Environment
Social & Environmental Sustainability Manager
Chief of EHS
Chief Green Officer (CGO)
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

A CSO is an executive position within a corporation that is in charge of the corporation's environmental programs. Starting in the 21st century, companies began creating such positions to formalize their commitment to the environment. As sustainability initiatives have expanded, so has the importance of the position to what is now a C-level executive role.

Examples of CSOs include Charlene Lake at AT&T, Paul Gilman at Covanta Energy, Linda Fischer at Dupont, Robyn Beavers at Google, Dr. Peter Graf at SAP, Barbara Kux at Siemens, Mike Kelly at YRC Worldwide and Ian Hill at Openreach. In September 2010, General Mills appointed Jerry Lynch as their new CSO, and AECOM named Gary Lawrence as the firm's Vice President and CSO.

As of 2005, nearly all of the 150 largest companies in the world had a sustainability officer with the rank of vice president or higher, and numerous MBA programs had incorporated sustainability training.

According to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, there are now 88 permanent sustainable positions in colleges and universities in North America and this number is growing each year.

Next: AASHE Survey of Sustainability Positions in Higher Education

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