CSO role gains ground as Coca-Cola appoints PerezJune 2011
Coca-Cola has become one of a growing group of companies to create a post of chief sustainability officer (CSO) to oversee corporate responsibility matters close to board level.
The Atlanta-based multinational has given the role to company veteran Beatriz Perez with effect from 1 July.
Perez, at present chief marketing officer for Coca-Cola North America, will be responsible for integrating Coca-Cola’s sustainability projects across the business, working through a new global office of sustainability and reporting directly to executive vice-president and chief administrative officer Alex Cummings.
A number of companies, particularly in the US, have created CSO posts in an effort to give sustainability a higher priority at top management level. Recruitment specialists predict the new function will increase rapidly in popularity worldwide during the next three years.
CSOs typically sit above old-style CSR directors and managers, and may sometimes have influence comparable to that of chief financial officers. Additionally, they can be a link between the board and functional heads of departments such as environment, health and safety, corporate affairs and human resources.
Businesses already employing them include the engineering company Aecom, the software specialist CA, Dow Chemicals and the global law firm Nixon Peabody.
Perez’s appointment reinforces the general view that most CSOs will initially be internal appointments, and will often have broad business knowledge and change management experience rather than being out-and-out sustainability experts.
Muhtar Kent, Coca-Cola’s chief executive, said that although Perez has been heavily involved in sustainability projects throughout Coca-Cola’s North American marketing programmes, her key strength is her ‘deep experience at the company’ and track record of leading cross-functional teams since she joined in 1996 as an associate brand manager.
‘We’ve made significant progress with our sustainability initiatives, but our current approach needs focus and better integration to further accelerate our system sustainability agenda and meet our 2020 vision goals,’ said Kent.
‘The idea is to create a unified team, strategy and business plan that connects our sustainability work and actions.’
Under Perez, the office of sustainability will create and oversee an integrated global sustainability strategy, set ‘high-level goals and commitments’, and keep track of all global partnerships and key sustainability projects.
Perez will focus in particular on the areas of water consumption, climate protection, packaging and recycling, and community involvement.
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