As society continues to navigate the climate crisis, the role of a Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) has never been more urgent or important. Today's CSO is expected to assess risk and build resilience, identify emerging opportunities, and influence the thinking and behaviour of businesses, investors, governments and regulators - all for the better.  

Part of understanding and strengthening this ever-evolving role means unpacking the skillset required and the challenges faced. With that, Acre has launched a series of interviews with Sustainability leaders across different industries and from around the world to share their perspectives on the current and future role of the CSO.  

With each interview conducted virtually, the sustainability leaders took part in a conversation with the British Retailer Marks and Spencer’s Former CSO Mike Barry, alongside a representee from Acre to explore three main topics:

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The Evolution of the CSO's Role

How has the role and the sustainability leadership landscape developed over the last 3 years and how will it change in the coming 5 years?

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The Skillset Required

What advice would you give to anyone aspiring to become a CSO? What skillsets and networks are needed to become future change-makers?

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Reflection on COP26

Reflecting on COP26, what’s next for tackling the climate crisis?

Meet the Team

Meet the Sustainability Leaders

  • Harriet Talbot

    "​When you get in your lane and you’re really curious about something there’s no stopping you. If you continually read and think about things in your life, you can build that picture of how you want to make an impact through your career."

    Harriet Talbot - Global Sustainability Manager

    Unilever
  • Michael Dickstein

    ​“In order to perform on such a level, you need to have past experience in sales, stakeholder engagement or supply chain - there are various areas of the business that interrelates with sustainability. The more background you have, the better it is”

    Michael Dickstein - CSR Leader

  • Miguel Veiga-Pestana

    "​To be able to play your part alongside your peers in a leadership team, it helps to have business acumen. My advice would be to try and find a way to get that capability and insight as it’s so important. If you want to be strategic and play that strategic role, everything we are doing is about embedding it into a business strategy."

    Miguel Veiga-Pestana - Chief Sustainability Officer

    Reckitt
  • Martin Kathriner

    ​“We need to train young people to be creative with the planning and with the execution of strategies that are either creating opportunities or creating risks”

    Martin Kathriner - Corporate Affairs & Sustainability Director

    Coca Cola HBC
  • Rebecca Marmot

    ​"When you are thinking about the Chief Sustainability Officer role, you have got to be curious - read, engage with others. I spend a lot of time reading different forms of media and other people’s opinions from different areas to really understand the big emerging macro-level issues."

    Rebecca Marmot - Chief Sustainability Officer

    Unilever
  • Deeksha Vats

    "​In my view, the one person who is actually the Chief Sustainability Officer of a company is the CEO or the Managing Director. They have a viewpoint of what the customers are asking about from their head offices and marketing department, and therefore know what changes need to be made.”

    Deeksha Vats - Chief Sustainability Officer

    Aditya Birla Group
  • The Future of the CSO

    ​“The changes are all around taking a holistic view of business and being able to translate that into a vision, into a strategy and practical actions. The requirements for the Chief Sustainability Officer have exploded and we have to be able to do all of those things, all of the time.”

    Daniella Vega - Global Senior Vice President of Health and Sustainability

    Ahold Delhaize
  • The Future of the CSO

    ​“Sustainability is something that should be embedded in everyone’s functions within the company and everyone should take responsibility for their part.”

    Annamiek de Graaf - Specialist Health and Sustainability

    Ahold Delhaize
  • The Future of the CSO

    “Lose the emotion, lose the triple bottom line - it’s not about being pragmatic, it’s asking if your business is sustainable and if not why not.”

    Tony Henshaw - Experienced Board Member

  • The Future of the CSO

    ​"Doing what I do is the best job in the world."

    Julia Barrett - Chief Sustainability Officer

    Willmott Dixon
  • The Future of the CSO

    “It’s now much more about working together. If you lead a team, it’s about finding cross functioning teams, upskilling people and getting the right experts within the company on board. It’s about being the glue and facilitator, being consultative and empowering others - This is more important now than ever before."​

    Dorothée D'Herde - Head of Sustainable Business

    Vodafone

Watch the Full Series

  • The Future of the CSO | Episode 8 | Coca Cola HBC

    ​Michael Dickstein, former Group Director Sustainability & Community at Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company (HBC) joined us for the eighth episode of the 'Future of the CSO' series. Having been with Coca Cola HBC for over 4 1/2years, Michael led the company’s change in climate action, circular plastic, water stewardship and youth empowerment, alongside developing and implementing the ESG strategy.

    The Future of the CSO | Episode 8 | Coca Cola HBC
  • The Future of the CSO | Episode 7 | Unilever

    ​Joining us for the seventh episode of the CSO series is Harriet Talbot, Global Sustainability Manager at Unilever. Harriet joined Unilever three 1/2 years ago, starting out within their ‘Future Leaders Programme’. The programme allows passionate young people the opportunity to make a positive impact whilst learning all about Unilever’s 400 diverse brands, business and sustainability efforts. With a desire to be a force for good, Harriet shared valuable advice for aspiring CSOs looking to build their careers.

    The Future of the CSO | Episode 7 | Unilever
  • The Future of the CSO | Episode 6 | Reckitt

    Miguel Veiga-Pestana, Chief Sustainability Officer at Reckitt, joined us for the sixth episode of the 'Future of the CSO' series. Miguel has more than 25 years of global experience from leading cross-functional global communications teams, providing strategic counsel and communications at the board level, to inspiring employee and community relations engagement. Miguel shared an incredible insight into the development of the CSO role, the skillset required and valuable advice on what it takes to get into the space.

    The Future of the CSO | Episode 6 | Reckitt
  • Future of the CSO | Episode 8 | Coca Cola HBC

    Martin Kathriner, Public Affairs & Communication Manager & Executive Board member at Coca Cola Hellenic Bottling Company (HBC) Switzerland also joined Episode 8 of the 'Future of the CSO' series. With a wealth of international experience having worked in Corporate Affairs at Samsung Electrics and as a lecturer at the University of Applied Science in Business Administration, Martin shared valuable and insightful knowledge on what it takes to work in the industry.

    Future of the CSO |  Episode 8 | Coca Cola HBC
  • Future of the CSO | Episode 7 | Unilever

    ​Rebecca Marmot, Chief Sustainability Officer at Unilever joined us for the seventh episode of the 'Future of the CSO' Series. Since joining Unilever in 2007, Rebecca has played a pivotal role in leading the business’s sustainability strategy. Pioneering and ensuring that the business complies with sustainable practices, Rebecca has taken great strides in reducing Unilever’s carbon footprint with her sustainability strategy, titled Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan. As a true leader who has made a positive impact throughout her career, Rebecca brought her passion and knowledge for sustainability to the conversation.

    Future of the CSO | Episode 7 | Unilever
  • The Future of the CSO | Episode 1 | Aditya Birla Group

    To launch the 'Future of the CSO' series, we were joined by Deeksha Vats, Chief Sustainability Officer for Aditya Birla Group. With over 25 years of experience in both consulting and corporates at group and company levels, Deeksha has worked across diverse industry sectors. As a regular speaker and panellist at sustainability events, she has been at the forefront of the sustainability agenda in India through participation in working groups, industry bodies and expert networks. With her dedication, knowledge and vast experience across the industry, we are delighted to have Deeskha open the series.

    The Future of the CSO | Episode 1 | Aditya Birla Group
  • The Future of the CSO | Episode 5 | Annemiek de Graaf

    Joining Daniella in the fifth episode is her colleague Annemiek de Graaf, the Specialist Health and Sustainabilityfor Ahold Delhaize. Having been with Ahold Delhaize for 4.5 years, she started as a Management Trainee gaining experience in different parts of the organization, including a full year in one of the supermarkets. With knowledge across all areas of the business, Annemiek shared valuable advice for aspiring Chief Sustainability Officers looking to build their careers.

    The Future of the CSO | Episode 5 | Annemiek de Graaf
  • The Future of the CSO | Episode 5 | Daniella Vega

    ​Joining the conversation in the fifth episode of the Future of the CSO series is Daniella Vega, Global Senior Vice President of Health and Sustainability at Ahold Delhaize. Daniella has a wealth of experience within retail and communications alongside designing and implementing sustainability at the heart of business strategy. Her knowledge and passion for sustainability made for a valuable conversation.

    The Future of the CSO | Episode 5 | Daniella Vega
  • The Future of the CSO | Episode 3 | Tony Henshaw

    Joining Acre for the third episode of the 'Future of the CSO' series is Tony Henshaw, an Experienced Board Member who has expertise in developing Sustainable Business Management Systems and strategies for leading MNC Organizations and Fortune 500 / FTSE 100 Companies.

    The Future of the CSO | Episode 3 | Tony Henshaw
  • The Future of the CSO | Episode 4 | Willmott Dixon

    Joining us for the fourth instalment of the 'Future of the CSO' series is Julia Barret, Chief Sustainability Officer for Willmott Dixon. Julia currently leads the Group Sustainability function which supports Willmott Dixon Group in its social, economic and environmental sustainability activities.

    The Future of the CSO | Episode 4 | Willmott Dixon
  • The Future of the CSO | Episode 2 | Vodafone

    In this week's instalment of the 'Future of the CSO' series, we were joined by Dorothée D'Herde, Head of Sustainable Business at the Vodafone Group. Currently leading the sustainability team at Vodafone, her aim is to work with colleagues across the company to deliver their purpose - Digital Society, Inclusion & Planet.

    The Future of the CSO | Episode 2 | Vodafone

Who is Involved?

With Acre’s two decades of experience in sustainability recruitment, combined with Mike Barry’s knowledge and long-standing dedication within the industry, the 'The Future of the CSO' series is based on a strong partnership. Acre’s team is made up of passionate individuals who are dedicated to sourcing talented people and developing their skills to ensure they make a true impact. With the role of the CSO ever-evolving, Acre has the duty of uncovering the skills, knowledge and insights from our network of current leaders in the industry to share with the next generation of change-makers. It is important that as an industry, we keep learning, sharing and developing. 

About Acre

At Acre, we work with the most aspirational businesses with the potential to make real change; from those who are just starting out to those who are well on the journey to crafting a legacy. Our 18 years of experience in sustainability recruitment, combined with our extensive global network, enables us to provide talent solutions that are designed to deliver this change. Through our unique behavioural assessment technology, we also understand the types of people, skills and behaviours required to create impact. We find talented people and develop their skills to ensure they make a true impact in ambitious, progressive organisations.

Mike Barry, Director at mikebarryeco

Mike is a leader in sustainable change. During his time at M&S, he helped evolve Plan A to become a change management programme designed to make sustainability 'how M&S did business'. The business achieved zero-waste-to-landfill status, moved to 100% renewable electricity and achieved carbon neutrality across its global estate of stores, offices and warehouses. Having worked at an international level of business, with charities, with think tanks, and with start-ups, he has a broad array of experience. Upon leaving M&S he formed mikebarryeco ltd in order to support organisations across society and the economy to deliver sustainable change.