Selling Sustainability From Inside Corporate America

Making the Pitch: Selling Sustainability From Inside Corporate America

2012 Report of Sustainability Leaders


What Makes a Sustainability Leader Successful?

“Sustainability,” little more than a buzzword in the corridors of corporate America a decade ago, is today a business concept that has been embraced by many companies in principle and, increasingly, in practice. Yet, while more and more companies are integrating corporate sustainability strategies and programs into their daily business operations, “sustainability,” is prone to multiple interpretations.

For this reason, and in an effort to understand the skills, drivers and collaboration strategies necessary for executive success, VOX Global, Weinreb Group Sustainability Recruiting and Net Impact, Berkeley conducted a national survey of sustainability leaders.

Learn more about VOX Global’s sustainability practice here.


Who Responded?

32 sustainability professionals from various industries, and 7 sustainability professionals provided in-depth interviews




Sustainability means different things to different people and different companies.  And, because there is no universally accepted definition, it makes it more challenging to embed social and environmental issues into a company’s business strategies.

To be successful, sustainability leaders must provide context for their work in the same terms as other business units and define their impact in the “lingua franca” of the business. Rather than using sustainability jargon, they must use words and phrases that are consistent with a company’s culture and business strategy.  Only after trust is earned and collaboration is underway can they expect to be successful implementing programs that will deliver a return on investment — both reputational and financial — to their companies.


What Industry Leaders are Saying

THIS REPORT underscores the critical and difficult role sustainability professionals play inside companies: building bridges, busting through silos, spurring collaboration, and serving as Translator in Chief, helping various business units and functions understand what sustainability means in their own language. This is an important contribution to illuminating these professionals’ work and furthering understanding of what makes them succeed.

Joel Makower, Executive Editor, GreenBiz.com


THIS REPORT does a great job crystallizing the important insights gained by leaders and change agents in a field that has changed almost beyond recognition over the past several years. While in some ways we have moved beyond the “why” to the “how” of more sustainable business practices, the examples and conclusions here remind us that both (the why and how) need to be clearly, credibly,  and constantly communicated and reinforced in ways that resonate with our colleagues in all parts of a given company.

Eric Olson, Senior Vice President, Advisory Services, Business for Social Responsibility


THIS REPORT provides excellent insights into how sustainability leaders are integrating social and environmental issues inside their companies.  Driving this type of systemic change inside companies will position the successful innovators to take advantage of potential growth that will also be good for the planet.  Solving so much of the sustainability problem is in fact a business opportunity, and this report helps show how it can be done.

Peter Boyd, Chief Operating Officer, Carbon War Room


I FIRMLY BELIEVE in the power of collaboration to drive change, and that honed interpersonal skills are fundamental to succeed in the field of sustainability.  This report will assist sustainability practitioners of any level to foster collaboration and leverage their personal qualities to help push environmental stewardship up the corporate agenda and catalyze the large-scale change that we need.

Paul Dickinson, Executive Chairman of the Carbon Disclosure Project