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Europe's Top 20 CSOs Award Nominees by Futur/io: Their Biographies and Commitments to Sustainability

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By illuminem briefings

· 13 min read

After releasing Europe's TOP 100 Chief Sustainability Officers (as curated by Futur/io), illuminem is delighted to take a closer look at the biographies of the 20 nominees for the CSO Awards /24 and their dedication to sustainability.
The prestigious European sustainability prize will be awarded to the final three winners in Davos during the Annual Economic Forum, on January 15, 2024.
If you would like to attend the event, click here to join the waitlist.

Screenshot 2024 01 10 Alle 16.25.56

Alexandra Palt
, Executive Vice-President Chief Corporate Responsibility Officer, L’Oréal and CEO of the Fondation L’Oréal
Alexandra Palt is on a mission to guide the transformation of the business model towards a more inclusive and sustainable world through “L'Oréal for the Future”, the company's ambitious 2030 sustainability strategy. Her journey in France led her to focus on human rights, corporate responsibility, and environmental issues, culminating in roles such as Executive Vice-President for equal opportunity at France’s High Commission against Discrimination and as an independent consultant. Joining L’Oréal in 2012 as Chief Sustainability Officer and later CEO of the Fondation L’Oréal, she has spearheaded the industry's exemplary transformation over the past decade.

• Andreas Wade, Director Group Sustainability, Viessmann 
Andreas Wade has  been Head of Sustainability at Viessmann since September 2021. Andreas brings fifteen years of experience in the photovoltaic industry, where he has helped to enable a global sustainability framework in his roles as Global Sustainability Director for First Solar, president of PVthin and long standing chair of the sustainability workstream of SolarPower Europe. Prior to the photovoltaic industry, he made his first forays into the energy sector with Shell Exploration and Production in the UK and the Netherlands, where he worked on energy efficiency improvements, emissions reductions and carbon mitigation.

• Arthur Schneider, Head of Sustainability Management, Bechtle Group
Arthur Schneider has been with the Bechtle Group for seven years and is now heading the central sustainability team. He reports to the CEO and leads the sustainability strategy 2030 including all major projects and ambitions the company has set. With experience in Brussels and Public Procurement, he approaches social and environmental aspects with his network and partners.

• Catharina Belfrage Sahlstrand, Group Head of Sustainability, Handelsbanken
Catharina is Chief Sustainability and Climate Officer of Svenska Handelsbanken, prior to that she headed the Sustainable Finance team at the bank’s Debt Capital Markets, providing the bank’s large corporate borrowers sustainability advisory and green and sustainable bond and loans to support and accelerate their sustainable transition. Catharina’s commitment extends to her role in the executive management team of Svenska Handelsbanken, where, in the spring of 2022, she became the first sustainability manager among major Swedish banks to take a seat. Her multifaceted engagement underscores her dedication to driving positive change in sustainability and beyond.

Christelle Capdupuy, Chief Sustainability Officer, Louis Vuitton
Christelle Capdupuy began her career in Marketing at Unilever and Materis before joining the Bouygues group as Director of Sustainability. In 2018, she joined Louis Vuitton in order to shape the Sustainability strategy of the company. Being deeply convinced that luxury has a major role to play in regenerating biodiversity and then acting on climate change, Christelle Capdupuy is leading the shift at Louis Vuitton of every single step of the product designing, from responsible raw materials sourcing to green supply-chain, from full renewable energy for production to upcycling and long-lasting processes through repairability.

Constance Chalchat, Global Head of Company Engagement and Chief Sustainability Officer, BNP Paribas CIB
Constance’s mission centres around fostering, shaping, and supporting an ambitious and forward-thinking transformation agenda for the BNP's Corporate and Institutional business. This includes spearheading initiatives like digital transformation and the development of sustainable finance offerings, propelling the Group to become a global leader in Sustainable Finance. Beyond the transformation of services and processes, Constance firmly believes that BNP Paribas can play a crucial role in driving progressive change and contributing to the creation of a better, fairer, and more sustainable world. 

Daniella Vega, Global Senior Vice President Health & Sustainability, Ahold Delhaize
Daniella Vega is an accomplished sustainability professional with a proven track record in the media, fashion, and food retail sectors. Her extensive experience reflects her adeptness in navigating diverse industries, showcasing a rich history of contributing to sustainability initiatives across different domains. Daniella's skill set is finely honed in the development and implementation of comprehensive sustainability strategies, where she brings a nuanced understanding of the media, fashion, and food retail landscapes. Daniella excels not only in strategy formulation but also in the crucial aspects of communications and culture change, further solidifying her position as a versatile and impactful leader in the realm of health and sustainability.

Gianluca Ansalone, Head of Public Affairs & Sustainability, Novartis
Under his leadership, in less than three years, Gianluca has guided Novartis on a variety of sustainability forefront initiatives. Among them, the publication of the first Sustainability Report and a distinctive project, in partnership with the Italian Government, inaugurating the first ever Digital Museum on the History of Science. The project is aimed at associating unique masterpieces and arts crafts, hosted in paramount Italian museums, to the progress of science. Gianluca has served in the past as Chief of staff to several Ministers and to the Italian President of the Republic. He is the author of six books on strategy and international relations. 

Henri Bruxelles, Chief Sustainability and Strategic Business Development Officer, Danone
Henri Bruxelles is an accomplished Executive Vice President with a robust background in the food and beverages industry. Henri’s leadership and strategic acumen are reflected in a diverse skill set encompassing Marketing Management, Business Planning, Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), Advertising, and International Marketing. With a comprehensive understanding of the industry and a strategic mindset, Henri Bruxelles plays a pivotal role in steering Danone towards a future where sustainability and strategic business development converge for lasting impact.

• Inês Oom de Sousa, President of the Santander Portugal Foundation and Head of ESG, Santander Group
In her current capacity, Inês Oom de Sousa plays a dual role as the leader of the Santander Portugal Foundation and as the driving force behind the ESG initiatives for the Santander Group across Europe. Her extensive experience and strategic leadership have been instrumental in steering diverse areas within the bank, showcasing a comprehensive understanding of the financial landscape. With her academic background in Economics and a wealth of practical experience, Inês continues to contribute significantly to Santander's mission and values, both in Portugal and at the European level, emphasising the importance of responsible banking and sustainable practices.

Jean-François Pascal, Vice President Sustainability, Beiersdorf
Jean-François Pascal is the Vice President Corporate Sustainability at Beiersdorf in 2020, marking a pivotal moment in his extensive career with the company since 1994. With a background encompassing various leadership positions across the globe, including Marketing Director roles in France and Brazil, as well as overseeing global NIVEA businesses in Hamburg, Buenos Aires, and Paris, Jean-François brought a wealth of experience to his current position. Recognizing sustainability as a paramount challenge of our time, he is dedicated to amplifying awareness of the initiative among Beiersdorf's global workforce. Beyond his role in pushing the company's transformation forward, Jean-François is committed to enhancing Beiersdorf's sustainability image, both internally and externally, as part of the company's broader sustainability goals.

Karen Pflug, Chief Sustainability Officer, Ingka Group (IKEA)
As the Chief Sustainability Officer for Ingka Group and IKEA, Karen leads transformative initiatives to achieve their ambitious goals of being climate positive by 2030 and net zero by 2050. Guided by the People and Planet Positive strategy, she addresses interconnected challenges such as climate, unsustainable consumption, and inequality. Her 25-year career, marked by innovative thinking and business acumen, positions her as a high-impact leader, striving to create a prosperous, thriving, and equitable future. In her role, she fosters transparency and trust, connecting with over 170,000 co-workers and external stakeholders. Her multifaceted approach combines creative thinking, a passion for people, and strong business skills, driving transformative systems change. 

Linda Freiner, Group Head of Sustainability, Zurich Insurance
Since 2016, Ms. Freiner has been responsible for sustainability strategy development and integration across the Zurich Insurance Group. She also oversees management of the Z Zurich Foundation and is a member of the Zurich Leadership Team. Linda joined Zurich in 2013 to set up the Zurich Flood Resilience Program. Prior to that, she was a Global Leadership Fellow at the World Economic Forum from 2007-2013. She sits on the Board of the UNEPFI Principles for Sustainable Insurance. 

Lisa Malmquist Ekstrand, Vice President Sustainability, Vestas
At Vestas, Lisa spearheaded the development of the company’s ambitious sustainability strategy. Under her guidance, Vestas is committed to becoming a carbon neutral company by 2030, without the use of offsets and to producing zero-waste turbines by 2040. In a groundbreaking move in 2023, Vestas, under Ekstrand's leadership, announced a historic commercial partnership with Danish energy provider Ørsted. This partnership focuses on supplying low-carbon steel turbine towers and blades made with recycled content, showcasing Vestas' dedication to sustainable practices. Furthermore, in 2023, Vestas, in collaboration with Aarhus University and epoxy maker Olin, unveiled a groundbreaking achievement—the development of a new material for chemically recycling old turbine blades. Through these initiatives, Lisa Ekstrand is playing a pivotal role in Vestas' journey to revolutionise the wind industry and contribute to a more sustainable and circular future.

Marie-Claire Daveu, Chief Sustainability and Institutional Affairs Officer, Kering
Marie-Claire Daveu began her career as a technical advisor to the cabinet of Prime Minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, before becoming Principal Private Secretary to Serge Lepeltier, Minister of Ecology and Sustainability. In 2005, she became Director of Sustainable Development for the Sanofi-Aventis Group. From 2007 to 2012, she served as Chief of Staff to French politician, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, working in various secretaries of state and then at the Ministries of Ecology, Sustainability, Transport and Housing. In 2012, she was appointed Kering’s Chief Sustainability Officer and Head of International Institutional Affairs.  She sets out the strategy and ambitious objectives as well as implementing a set of best practices within the Group and the Houses. Today, Kering is a pioneer and recognized leader in sustainability.

Petra Wicklandt, Head of Corporate Sustainability, Merck
As Chief Sustainability Officer at Merck, Petra Wicklandt embodies a deep passion for patients and customers. With a steadfast belief in the transformative power of highly engaged teams, Petra's leadership principles revolve around innovation, improvement, and inspiration. Her professional journey has been marked by diverse leadership positions in critical areas such as Drug Development, Manufacturing, Sustainability, Government & Public Affairs, Global Health, Animal Welfare, Security, Quality, Regulatory Compliance and Crisis Management. In each role, Petra has consistently demonstrated her commitment to driving positive change and fostering a culture of continuous improvement. Guided by the principles of innovation and inspiration, Petra Wicklandt leverages her extensive experience to shape Merck´s ambitious sustainability agenda and steer its implementation as chair of Merck´s Sustainability Board and external Sustainability Advisory Board.

Rebecca Marmot, Chief Sustainability Officer, Unilever
Rebecca spearheads transformative initiatives across key focus areas of Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan. Priority areas encompass climate change and deforestation elimination, sustainable agriculture, support for smallholder farmers, water, sanitation, hygiene, opportunities for women, plastics and the circular economy, impact finance, and health and wellbeing. In her capacity, Rebecca not only oversees the ongoing commitments of the Sustainable Living Plan but also guides Unilever into the next phase of its sustainability journey beyond the USLP. In the past, Rebecca served as the Global Vice President of Sustainability at Unilever, where she led the global advocacy, policy, and partnerships team. Under her guidance, Unilever played a significant role in key sustainability milestones, including contributing to the 2015 Paris Agreement and the establishment of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals.

• Silke Jolowicz, Head of Sustainability, Munich Re
In her role as Head of Sustainability at Munich Re, she is tasked with ensuring that the company achieves its decarbonisation goals, not only within the climate technology of its own office buildings but also in the risk coverage provided to clients. This involves recent exclusions, such as insurance for oil and gas exploration in the Arctic or the extraction of oil sands, demonstrating her commitment to aligning the company's strategy with environmentally conscious practices. Her role at Munich Re involves addressing challenges and implementing strategies that go beyond the surface, reflecting a dedication to incorporating sustainability principles into the core operations of one of the most significant players in the reinsurance industry. Her outstanding contributions have awarded her Germany’s 40 under 40 Mention by Capital Magazine.

• Ulrike Sapiro, Chief Sustainability Officer, Henkel
As Henkel's Chief Sustainability Officer, Ulrike Sapiro assumes a leadership role in shaping the global sustainability/ESG strategy, reporting, and engagement for the company. With an extensive career spanning over 15 years in the field, she brings a wealth of expertise and a visionary approach to connecting strategies for climate, water, circularity, and nature, with a focus on supporting social progress and enhancing business value. Her journey at Henkel follows a distinguished career at The Coca-Cola Company, where she held various senior roles, contributing to the development and implementation of sustainability programs and partnerships across Europe and globally. Known for her strong track record in delivering results related to critical sustainability KPIs and targets, she is driven by a profound passion for driving transparency, governance, empowering stakeholders to take meaningful action toward a more sustainable future.

• Vanessa Butani, VP Group Sustainability, Electrolux
Canadian Vanessa Butani has been VP Sustainability at Electrolux Group since 2021.  She is passionate about driving sustainable business and integrating sustainability as a competitive edge in every aspect of the business, with a team of 50,000 employees.  Prior to her current role, Vanessa was Head of Sustainability for Electrolux Europe and before that Director of Sustainable Business at ScandicHotels.  Vanessa has held several senior managerial roles in connected appliances and sustainability.  She was part of developing Electrolux Sustainability platform: For the Better 2030 and helping Electrolux to achieve its first Science Based Target ahead of plan. Vanessa has worked to introduce more data-driven ways of working with sustainability, to drive strategy and action.

About the methodology applied

The Futur/io Institute serves as the independent curator of this compilation. Functioning as a prominent European think-tank, it is committed to shaping a future where sustainability, technology, and innovation play central roles in global progress. Collaborating with entities such as illuminem, the UNFCCC, and corporations, Futur/io engages in leadership training and hosts Executive Programmes aimed at inspiring the next generation of leaders in sustainable innovation.

A dedicated Nomination Committee, led by chairman Marc Buckley and comprising individuals such as Alan Moore (Beautiful Business), Dijana Galijasevic (Impact Hero), Heather Deeth (Hollyhock), Ida Faldbakken (KatapultX), Ingmar Rentzhog (We Don’t Have Time), Michael Winter (Pool Sparring mit der Zukunft GmbH), Nadine Michalske (Klima.Metrix), Nanda Bergstein (Camm solutions GmbH), Raphael Gielgen (Vitra), Vaitea Cowan (Enapter), and Zoë Red (Creatives for Climate), carefully selected the 20 leaders from the pool of TOP 100 European Chief Sustainability Officers.

The final nominees were selected based on the following considerations:
Showcasing impactful thinking and sharing knowledge to enhance efforts and exert influence on a broad scale, whether through media collaborations, social media engagement, authentic content creation, or other means
Going beyond regulatory requirements in advancing Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) progress, with a forward-thinking timeline towards Net-Zero and beyond. This involves embodying a courageous and bold mindset for transformation
Pioneering action projects within their industry, experimenting and innovating to pave the way for new initiatives and aspirations. This may include participation in international bodies, receiving awards, and earning public recognition
Demonstrating leadership through educational training initiatives, involving all team members and stakeholders by implementing educational programs that impact every sector of the company and instil sustainability thinking in its corporate culture
Upholding sustainability through branding and media content, exemplifying a commitment to transparency and impact in reporting efforts and communications.

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illuminem is proud to also present its exclusive rankings of the top Thought Leaders in CarbonClimate ChangeESGHydrogenMining and MetalsPower and UtilitiesRenewables, and Overall. If you'd like to be featured in our rankings, please contact us.

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