Chief sustainability officer? I'll second that.

The Internet Age spawned a new C-level title: CTO, or chief technology officer. The case for hiring a CTO was clear: The business-technology tides were turning quickly and dramatically, and traditional, old-school C-level execs really weren't equipped with the tech savvy to make sure their organizations were keeping pace and staying competitive. Well, we've entered a new age, the next logical step to follow the

Well, we've entered a new age, the next logical step to follow the Internet Age. Some might call it a Green Age; I prefer referring to it as an Age of Sustainability (hence the name of my blog). We've set up the infrastructure to do "e-business" (which is really, now, just business as usual), but now companies are waking up to realize that they're wasting a lot of money, energy, and valuable real estate keeping, for example, datacenters up and running.

It doesn't stop there, of course. There are numerous ways businesses can cut energy usage and lessen their environmental impact on this little blue planet of ours (Earth) -- from the materials we use to build offices to the energy sources we use to keep the lights on to the vehicles we use in our fleets to distribute goods (hybrid big rigs? Go, Wal-Mart!). We're seeing energy-efficient, renewable innovations cropping up left and right.

And the motivation to think green, er, sustainable, is increasing. Yes, there's money to be saved, and yes, there's eco-considerations, but those, alone, might not be sufficient incentive. Even the government is recognizing the threat of global warming, and companies need to start worrying about environmental-regulation compliance.

So given all these challenges that seem potentially to affect just about every facet of an organization, and all of the potential solutions, I can see the wisdom in a proposal set forth by Rich Walker over at GreenBiz.com. He's suggesting it's time for a new C-level position: CSO, or chief sustainability officer.

Here's a sample of what he says:

"A CSO is an advocate and educator, a visionary, a change manager and a cheerleader, and above all else, a results-driven manager."

"CSOs must serve at least three roles: They must look inward, end-to-end driving business opportunity; they must look outward, walking the talk and communicating with customers and other stakeholders; and they must lead. A CSO must articulate, implement and sustain the organization's vision of sustainability and provide visibility and transparency of that vision both internally and externally."

That sustainable vision, he observes, is critical:

"Lots of innocuous 'feel good' statements exist on corporate web pages, but vision is lacking. And that's okay: We're new at this. But in 5 years we will go from a small handful with a vision to many hundreds with a vision. The organizations that have articulated visions and driven them into their organizations will have the influence to drive innovation that truly will transform their respective industries."

That's an important observation indeed. Many companies are already scrambling to lead the pack in terms of developing sustainable technologies and business practices, as well as influencing the government's environmental policies. Thus, it makes sense to select a point person at your company to lead that charge, lest your company be left scrambling to catch up down the road.

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