Sustainability a full-time job


Steven Hedlund

Published on
December 1, 2009

Still think sustainability is a fad? Then it’s been a while since you’ve looked at the job classifieds.

Sustainability is becoming such an important part of a company’s business philosophy and growth strategy that it’s now a full-time job. You’ve heard of a CEO or CFO, but have you heard of a CSO? If not, you’ll be familiar with the acronym soon.

Seafood suppliers, retailers and foodservice operators are among the dozens of companies worldwide that are creating a position, commonly called a chief sustainability officer, just to manage their ecological footprint. Seafood suppliers such as High Liner Foods and Marine Harvest have done so, and so has retail behemoth Walmart.

On Tuesday, the National Fisheries Institute unveiled that it, too, has established a position solely to juggle sustainability matters. Ron Rogness is filling the role, effective 1 January. Rogness has a diverse background in the U.S. seafood industry. Beginning as a salmon fisherman in Dillingham, Alaska, he has worked as an economist for the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and as a seafood buyer for Long John Silver’s and Unified Foodservice Purchasing Co-op.

Though the specifics of his responsibilities at NFI are still being ironed out, Rogness envisions himself as a unifying voice, providing the U.S. seafood industry with “a seat at the table” in the global seafood sustainability debate.

The role of CSO “will only grow in importance. NFI created this position because there’s a need for it,” Rogness told me on Tuesday. “I appreciate everyone’s perspective because I’ve been there. I have to be empathetic in this position.”

“Sustainability is a complex issue that doesn’t include many one-size-fits-all solutions and doesn’t always fit neatly into sound-bite science,” added NFI spokesman Gavin Gibbons. “Communicating the challenges and the solutions is where Ron comes in. Having someone who knows the fisheries management side and the procurement side is paramount, and NFI recognized that our members and our members’ customers were in need of a resource like Ron to help us navigate this issue.”

If you haven’t contemplated adding a CSO to your corporate hierarchy, you better get on board. Sustainability is too difficult to grasp without a leader to unify your company’s vision.

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