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From Ego to Eco: the collaborative role of the Chief Sustainability Officer

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By illuminem

· 3 min read

Futur/io Institute has hosted a 1,5 day-long event for Chief Sustainability Officers, Top100 CSOs and sustainability leaders. This dynamic gathering provided a platform for collaborative learning, insightful exchanges, and the cultivation of robust connections aimed at advancing sustainable practices and initiatives. 

A rare opportunity to discuss the role of the CSO in organisations and to collaborate with others with similar challenges. That's how the sustainability leaders at the CSO Leadership Forum described the event which reunited 80 people at the Vitra Campus, in Germany, on the 13th and 14th of May. 

“This is the perfect size and number of people,” said Tobias Wollermann, Vice President of Corporate Responsibility at the Otto Group. “The location is very important too. This was not just a conference, but an experience.”   

The iconic surroundings helped to create the positive mood enjoyed by the participants. The talks took place in an impressive ex-fire station by Britsh architect Zaha Hadid, and the program included a visit to the Vitra Design Museum, where an exhibition about Enery Transition inspired lively discussions. 

"We are surrounded by art and design here”, observed Carolin Friedrich, Managing Director of Stakeholder Reporting at Mazars. “It reminds us that to solve problems, we need creativity.” 

The drive to innovate and join forces was clear in all panels and discussions, with themes that ranged from sustainable finances to loneliness in society, from supply chains to AI. 

“Collaboration and connection are essential”, added Inês Oom de Sousa, President of the Santander Foundation Portugal. “For this, we must transcend the egos in the companies, and really work together.” ì

“It’s important to have a safe place like this, where people can ask questions and talk about new ideas. That’s how we reach innovative solutions,” said Livio Scalvini, Founder and Executive Director of the Leonardo Centre on Business for Society at Imperial College.

During the event, Scalvini presented the study “From Sustainability to Business Strategy”, including a framework to assess the maturity of the role of the CSO within organizations, ranging from a PR and communication position, with no direct sistemic impact, to the most mature and integrated position, directly informing strategy and core business decisions.

"As CSOs, in practice, we have many different roles: we are leaders, negotiators, communicators, and much more,” observed Petra Wicklandt, CSO of Merck. 

During the launch of the book "Leadership for Sustainable Futures,” on Monday evening, the authors shared their personal stories, and how all of them were inspired by their families to see the need for change in the world, which led each of them on their unique journey. 

“Futur/io events have this unique characteristic,” highlighted Nick Heine, CCO & CSO of IntegrityNext. “We don’t talk only about the problems. Instead, we discuss solutions, and leave bringing with us new connections and fresh ideas to be put into practice.” 

“We see the role of CSOs become more mature and getting a seat on the board among other C-levels. The feedback of experiencing trustworthy and off-the-record co-creation was overwhelmingly positive for the CSO Leadership Forum. We are inspired by the collective experience of building an ecosystem for this vital role in corporate ambition & action,“ stated Harald Neidhardt, CEO & Curator of the Futur/io Institute.


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