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Chief Sustainability Officers

History

In the Middle Ages, corporations were created as alternatives to private partnerships and businesses. These early types of corporations were typically town governments, universities, and religious orders. Corporations grew more complex during the industrial revolution due to innovations in manufacturing products and processes. By the late 1800s, the United States had about half a million chartered business corporations. Organizational charts at that time included titles such as president and vice president. It was in the 1970s that roles such as chief executive officer started to be recognized.

The profession of chief sustainability officer is a type of chief executive officer, and this job title emerged in the early 2000s, as companies started adopting sustainability practices in an effort to help reduce carbon emissions and improve energy efficiency. Before this new job title was introduced, corporate presidents and vice presidents may have had the added responsibilities of monitoring environmental issues and their companies' sustainability practices. The tightening of environmental laws and the public's awareness of corporate practices that affect the environment warranted the creation of a job that focused on sustainability. Many industry-related reports point to DuPont as being the first corporation to have a chief sustainability officer. In the past 10 years, companies such as Georgia-Pacific, Sun Microsystems (now Oracle), and SAP, among others, have appointed chief sustainability officers.

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