Jobs & employment blog

Jobs & employment blog

Your career is a journey with many opportunities to explore. As a trusted partner, we guide thousands of professionals and employers through every step of their way. From industry specific insights, interview preparation, to team management and in-demand jobs – we’ve got you covered.


The Rise of the CSO: Revolutionizing Business Strategy, Sustainability Careers, and Organizational Direction

Timothy Smith, Business Director, Hays Hong Kong SAR

Welcome to the revolution of the Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO), the CEO's new best friend in the rapidly changing business landscape. The new MVP.

In this article, I delve into the exciting era of the CSO and explore their career opportunities and their pivotal role in commercializing sustainability, shaping organizational direction, and fostering a culture of inclusion, health and wellness, and purpose-driven work.

The Importance of the CSO

Gone are the days when the title of CSO was unfamiliar. Today, having an Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) expert at the boardroom table is indispensable. This revolution is driven by a multitude of factors. From regulatory changes such as the adoption of the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) by HKEX listed companies, to moral imperatives, risk mitigation, costs reduction and customer attraction, businesses are recognizing the need for a dedicated CSO to navigate the complexities of sustainability and drive positive change.

Strategic Significance and Organizational Impact

Picture this: The CEO and CSO, working in perfect harmony, formulating ground-breaking strategies, and foreseeing upcoming trends and challenges. This powerful partnership is not only a game-changer but also a catalyst for growth and innovation. By collaborating closely, the CEO and CSO can transform challenges into opportunities, making sustainability a key differentiating factor within their market.

Moreover, the CSO is not just a figurehead; they are the architects of resilience, identifying growth opportunities and shaping the mindset of businesses, investors, and regulators alike. With their expertise, companies can develop robust sustainability frameworks, set ambitious goals, combat accusations of greenwashing, and proudly showcase their measurable achievements in ESG performance. The CSO is at the forefront of driving positive change, inspiring businesses to embrace sustainability as a core value.

Global Sustainability Disclosure Standards

The world is on the cusp of a momentous change. The International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) is gearing up to unveil global climate and sustainability disclosure rules in January 2024. These standards will revolutionize reporting practices, providing a comprehensive framework for companies to disclose material information on sustainability-related issues. From climate-related risks to the implications of greenhouse gas emissions, businesses will be required to showcase their dedication to a sustainable future.

Regulatory Changes and Organizational Adaptation

The recent regulatory changes, such as the adoption of ISSB standards by HKEX listed companies, have further emphasized the need for a CSO. These standards provide a comprehensive framework for companies to report on their sustainability performance, ensuring transparency and accountability. The CSO plays a central role in implementing these standards, ensuring that organizations meet the reporting requirements and align their strategies with the principles of sustainability.

Inclusive Culture and Purpose-driven Work

The CSO is a catalyst for fostering an inclusive and purpose-driven culture within organizations. They understand that diversity is not just a buzzword—it's an essential ingredient for success. Imagine a workplace where people from different backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences come together to create innovative solutions and drive meaningful change. In some cases, the CSO champions inclusive hiring practices, promotes equitable opportunities, and creates an environment where everyone feels valued and empowered to contribute their best.

But it doesn't stop there. Many CSO’s also recognize that sustainable business practices go hand in hand with health and wellness. They understand that a healthy workforce is a productive workforce. By implementing initiatives that prioritize employee well-being, such as mental health support, flexible work arrangements, and sustainable workplace environments, the CSO ensures that organizations not only meet their sustainability goals but also create a thriving work environment where employees can flourish physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Meaning and Purpose as Drivers of Success

The CSO plays a crucial role in infusing organizations with a sense of meaning and purpose. Employees today seek work that goes beyond just a paycheck—they want to be part of something bigger, something that aligns with their personal values and contributes to a greater societal impact. The CSO understands this and integrates sustainability and purpose-driven initiatives into the organizational fabric. They attract and retain top talent by nurturing a workforce that is motivated, engaged, and committed to making a difference. This is invaluable when articulating an organisations Employee Value Proposition (EVP).

Talent Gap and Recruitment Challenges

As the transition gains momentum, the demand for ESG and corporate sustainability talent is skyrocketing. However, this surge in demand has created a skills gap in the job market. To thrive in this new era, companies must attract top talent that can seamlessly navigate the intricate world of sustainability reporting and implementation. Collaborating with recruitment partners becomes paramount in identifying the right candidates who share the vision and passion for sustainability, ensuring that businesses stay ahead in this dynamic and competitive landscape. The LinkedIn Green Skills index suggesting that this skills gap is widening, and action must be taken if the region wishes to meet their sustainability goals.

Unprecedented Career Opportunities for ESG Experts

The emergence of the Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) role has opened a world of unparalleled career opportunities for ESG experts. In the past, sustainability professionals may have had limited opportunities. However, the tides have shifted, and ESG experts are now in high demand at the executive level, playing critical roles in shaping organizational strategy and driving sustainable business practices. As organizations recognize the fundamental importance of sustainability for long-term success, they are seeking visionary leaders to spearhead their sustainability agendas. This has resulted in the creation of executive-level positions dedicated to sustainability, offering ESG experts an exciting path to influence decision-making and drive transformative change.

Furthermore, the demand for ESG expertise extends beyond the CSO role. Companies are now actively seeking sustainability professionals for various executive-level positions. These roles include Vice Presidents of Sustainability, Directors of ESG Strategy, and Heads of Sustainable Business, among others. ESG experts in these positions could shape strategy, drive innovation, and embed sustainability into the DNA of organizations.

The career prospects for ESG experts have expanded into industries and sectors that were once considered unrelated to sustainability. From technology to insurance, banking to healthcare, organizations across various fields are recognizing the importance of sustainability and seeking professionals who can navigate the complex world of ESG. This presents ESG experts with exciting career opportunities and a pathway to impact diverse industries, contributing to a more sustainable and equitable world.

Potential Salary Opportunities

The increasing demand for ESG expertise at the executive level has also resulted in unprecedented salary opportunities for sustainability professionals. As organizations prioritize sustainability and recognize its strategic value, they are willing to invest in top-tier talent that can drive their sustainability agendas forward.

Salaries for ESG professionals at the executive level are on the rise, and in some cases, even surpass those of traditional C-Suite executives. The critical role that CSOs and other sustainability leaders play in shaping organizational strategy, mitigating risks, and driving innovation has elevated their perceived value within organizations. Beyond competitive salaries, ESG professionals also have the opportunity to earn bonuses, incentives, and stock options tied to sustainability performance.

Moreover, the link between sustainability performance and financial success is becoming more apparent. Companies with strong ESG performance are increasingly viewed as more resilient and better positioned for long-term growth. As a result, some organizations are willing to invest in ESG experts who can ensure their sustainability strategies are effective, impactful, and aligned with business goals.


With rise of the CSO and executive-level opportunities for ESG experts represents an exciting and transformative time for professionals in the field. Corporate Sustainability gurus, who were once considered non-essential, are now regarded as critical drivers of business success. The career prospects and financial recognition for sustainability professionals have expanded exponentially, allowing them to shape organizational strategies, drive innovation, and contribute to a more sustainable future while being rewarded with competitive compensation packages.

Again, lets imagine this: Sustainability leaders standing shoulder-to-shoulder with traditional executives like CEOs and CFOs. This elevation of the CSO position signifies the recognition of sustainability as a core business imperative and signals the critical role ESG experts play in shaping our future.

It is an exhilarating time for ESG experts as they seize these unprecedented opportunities and make their mark on the business world.

If you are searching for your next sustainability expert, feel free to reach out to me for a confidential conversation at



Timothy Smith
Business Director, Hays Hong Kong SAR
Timothy has twelve years of APAC recruitment experience and over this time has managed diverse teams specialising in Sales & Marketing, Retail, Professional services, FMCG, B2B, Travel / Tourism, Ecommerce, Fin-tech, Construction, Property, Engineering and Manufacturing recruitment. Tim also leads the Hays Sustainably practice, recruiting mid to senior level roles within the Sustainability and ESG space.​

His success has come from executive search assignments where he has successfully placed some of the region’s most influential sustainability leaders. As organisations map out ambitious sustainability targets, Timothy and his team are well geared up to identify great talent to assist companies accelerate towards these goals, through strategic talent acquisition. ​



/lead-in-the-new-era box

As the world of work evolves, we are here to support you through both the current challenges and your longer-term planning. Discover all our latest insights.

/embrace-the-new-era box

As your lifelong career partner, we are here to help you navigate an evolving world of work – and move forward in your career. Discover all our latest tips, advice and guides.

right block_search for jobs

Looking for a new role? Search here for your ideal job or get in touch with one of our expert consultants.

right block_get in touch

Let's get in touch to find the right talent for your business. Request a call back now.

right block_office locator

Hays has offices across the whole of the globe. Contact us to discuss your employment needs.