Until a few years ago, sustainability teams of startups were rare, but today they’re everywhere, with job boards advertisements and promotions for chief climate officers, chief carbon officers and even heads of sustainability.
Then there are the chief impact officers (CIOs), who are becoming more common in later-stage firms. With evolving customer expectations, a CEO must take the lead in establishing a company’s purpose and embedding it throughout the business.
Companies are relying on these key executive roles to operationalize, lead alignment, assess success, and be accountable for impact at all levels of the business, given the focus on combining purpose and impact.
Chief Impact Officers and Chief Purpose Officers have the same goal of maximizing the organization’s vision, mission and values to achieve maximum impact.
However, there are significant variances between the two functions that distinguish them. Internally, CPOs typically work on a micro-scale to ensure that a company’s mission is ingrained in all of its activities.
CIOs, on the other hand, are more concerned with the impact of the company’s actions and how they connect with the company’s vision and values from the outside.
A CIO’s job is to assist businesses, investors, and charities in tracking, measuring, and reporting on their impact.
It’s also their job to keep up with new effect regulations and policies, such as the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures and how it pertains to ESG.
CIOs are frequently in charge of obtaining — and keeping — B Corp certification.
CIOs also collaborate with other companies (and even competitors) in their industry to track stakeholder impact, educate customers, and advocate for initiatives such as net zero.
They also collaborate with other parties to improve the status quo for people and the environment. This includes examining concerns such as natural resource consumption and the use of green/renewable energy.
The following are some of the role’s additional specialized responsibilities:
- Defining the company’s desired positive effect and the tactics required to achieve it
- Impact measurements are being tracked to help guide decision-making.
- Communicating the good and negative consequences of a company’s operations
- Using an existing framework, such as the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, to align your impact plan.
- Serving as a spokesperson for the organization’s cultural, social and environmental issues to external stakeholders.
If companies are unable to designate dedicated chief impact officers, it is important to ensure that effect is ingrained throughout the organization.
It’s critical to have an impact plan in place from the start, with everyone responsible for impact, and after you have additional data, you can assign ownership to that data.
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