Are we seeing the emergence of a new type of CEO – the Circular Economy Officer? I’ve been wondering about the validity of creating dedicated circular economy roles within companies and organisations for some time, and it’s a question I will be exploring in more depth over the next couple of weeks for a forthcoming article.
Such roles are still thin on the ground, but it’s notable that those businesses which have already created them are demonstrating real leadership on this agenda. The argument here could be that a dedicated CEO has the freedom to act as a ‘rapid response’ change agent – more nimble-footed when it comes to accelerating the types of transitions needed.
A counter-argument to having a CEO is that circular strategies and activities should be baked into existing roles. We are seeing more CSR leads tasked with innovation remits – in many cases, this includes anything relating to the circular economy. The danger here of course is that circularity gets smudged into an already cluttered sustainability spectrum, and thus falls behind in the pecking order.
It might be that CEO works best as a temporary role, and that’s the view I’m currently leaning towards. The building blocks of any circular strategy, especially if the starting point is linearity (which in most cases, it is) will only be created by a ‘Big Bang’ moment – and that requires a mental fuse to be lit. The CEO is perfectly placed to act as that catalyst.
Once the CEO has helped to facilitate the types of collaborations needed, and identified the best touch points to unlock innovation – both internally and externally – the role would likely evolve into one of governance. At that point, it could be absorbed by any decent middle manager.
The article I’m writing will also be asking a number of other questions pertaining to CEOs:
- What should the core remit be?
- What skill sets are best suited for such a job function?
- What professional disciplines should they be recruited from?
- How can their value be measured?
Depending on what comes out of my research, the thinking may well get refined. But I have a hunch that we’ll be seeing more CEO roles spring up as time goes on. Not just on an organisational basis, but also on a geographic basis as regions, countries and governments start to formulate circular action plans.
Because of this, don’t count out the possibility of a new piece of Go Circular research relating to CEO opportunity and potential. Watch this space.