The rise of the two new Chiefs – Customer and Sustainability. In the 21st Century, it is difficult to find a company that doesn’t care about customers or care about being a good corporate citizen. Yet, companies continue to show disregard for their customers and often display little or no well-being for their community or the public.

Attending the Sustainability Awards lunch in earlier this month, Mr Robert Fitzgerald AM, Commissioner, Productivity Commission, explained that “Companies are not just publicly traded stock but (they are) part of the public”.

For any company who is brand conscious, this should bring serious concern, particularly as consumers and the general public are nowadays empowered by the use of global social media platforms to communicate their opinions and often dissatisfaction.

In major organisations globally, two new executives are emerging;
the Chief Customer Officer (CCO) and Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO). In Australia, an ASX20 company has recently appointed a CCO who has effectively been granted the ‘keys to the kingdom’ to act on anything customer interfacing, almost as if were Deputy CEO. This same organisation has also appointed a CSO to focus on the company’s CSR, environment, and community stakeholder alliances.

There is a significant opportunity for these two executives to work in collaboration to achieve particularly in FMCG or B2C consumer driven markets since the customer is often the broader general public and community. In 2005/06, Australia led the way with the ‘then emergence’ of the Chief Risk Officer (CRO); the ASX200 had a greater percentage of CROs than any Stock Exchange listed country in the globe. Some might argue the fact that Australian companies were risk management conscious could stand to reason as to why many have managed the turmoil better than most other nations during the GFC and surrounding
economic turbulence.

There lies the opportunity for companies to lead the way in the economy of tomorrow and be focused on customer and sustainability. Since most corporations today report on a 3-Pillar framework, People-Planet-Profit, it makes sense that both the CCO (people) and CSO (planet) alignment can strive towards the first two, which can only lead to the core company goal – (profit); ultimately maximising shareholder returns.

Regardless of your nation’s carbon conscience or commitment to planet, promote the sustainability focus across your company and entice and communicate with customers in this regard because the customer-community and people-planet connection is becoming an ever increasing way in which we will think tomorrow.