Aspire Impact, under the aegis of the Impact Future Project (IFP), a thought-leadership platform supported by global tech giant Capgemini, has launched a groundbreaking report on the evolving role of Chief Impact Officers and their potential influence on organizations. This research publication is a first-of-its kind effort to understand, define and champion adoption of this crucial C-suite role.
The Rise of Chief Impact Officer – Report by Aspire Impact
As a comprehensive deep dive into the Chief Impact Officer’s role the report features direct voices and opinions from 25 global ESG, Sustainability, and Impact leaders from varied organization types and sectors across 10 countries and 6 continents. The thorough inquiry offered 12+ insights and trends based on responses to an online survey and a series of in-depth interviews, which explored the need, readiness, role, skills, key performance indicators, and future prospect of the role.
As we approach pivotal milestones like 2030 and, subsequently, the 2050 goals, the role of a Chief Impact Officer emerges as crucial. As each Chief Impact Officer contributes to transformative solutions within their organizations, a network of socially conscious leadership should emerge that is collectively equipped to steer capitalism towards a more responsible and sustainable path.
Organizations must heed the following key implications: Firstly, there is an urgent need for organizations to recognize, prioritize, and formalize the Chief Impact Officer role—an imperative supported by 95% of survey respondents. Secondly, appointment of Chief Impact Officers are driven by an investor-led movement, with a growing demand for transparency and disclosures on ESG, Sustainability, and Impact data and its linkage to financial performance. Thirdly, above all else, this role demands collaboration and consensus-building, given the possibility of encountering opposition from other CXOs, an apprehension highlighted by as many as 67% of the participants. Many participants in the research believed in and pressed the necessity to derive authority from the CEO and the Board.
Delving further into the expectations and responsibilities associated with this position, the research reveals a notable transformative trend. 33% of respondents recognize the triple bottom line as a critical focus, with a substantial emphasis (52%) on integrating Impact into corporate values and culture. Chief Impact Officers play pivotal roles in developing long-term transformation plans for total impact performance, achieving net-zero/circularity/SDG targets, and measuring and managing overall impact. The report underscores the imperative for CIOs to possess a profound understanding of the interplay between ESG, Sustainability, and Impact to formulate effective strategies that lead to positive organizational and societal outcomes. Additionally, the report emphasizes the need for extensive research, ample content, and pedagogy to prepare existing CSOs/ESG Heads, enabling them to confidently transition to the role of Chief Impact Officer and guide their boards and corporations into the era of Impact Capitalism and Impact Accounting.
Amit Bhatia, Founder & CEO, Aspire Impact, emphasized the urgency of creating the Chief Impact Officer role, stating, “While 42% of Fortune Global 500 companies have made commitments to reduce emissions by 2030 and 25% have adopted net-zero targets, only a handful have a Chief Impact Officer. There cannot be a better time to push a stronger business case for creating this role and thus a new cadre of protagonists who can catalyze, inspire, integrate, and orchestrate impact.”
Expressing contentment with the research findings, Corey Glickman, CEO of Ecostart and Founder of Greenman Black (formerly Partner, Head of Sustainability & Design (ESG) at Infosys), highlighted its particular significance for the Indian corporate landscape. “The role of the Chief Impact Officer (CIO) is gaining prominence in the corporate world as companies increasingly recognize the importance of sustainability and social impact. The CIO is responsible for ensuring that the company’s operations align with its social and environmental goals. The evolving role of the Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) is central to the integration of material ESG issues into corporate strategy. The rise of the CIO role is a natural progression of this trend, as companies seek to create long-term value by aligning their business practices with their social and environmental goals.”
Sangeeta Robinson, Chief Sustainability Officer, PVR Limited, expressed her delight at being part of this research and said, “Sustainable Value Creation is a journey not a destination. It is a journey of continual improvement. The impact you create in year one becomes your baseline for the next. This is why I believe that leading Sustainability requires not just skills and qualification, but passion too.”
Harpreet Ghai, Director, Knowledge Development, Aspire Impact, and Co-author of the publication said, “Those who can proactively negotiate these challenges and conjure up initiatives to create green pathways for their companies, won’t be wizards with magic wands, but 21st century transformation leaders, aka the new Corporate Sherpas, or Chief Impact Officers.”
ESG, Sustainability, and Impact leaders interviewed included Anirban Ghosh, Head, Centre for Sustainability, Mahindra University (formerly Chief Sustainability Officer, Mahindra Group); Kumar Anurag Pratap, Vice President, CSR, Capgemini Technology Services India Ltd.; Aradhana Lal, Senior Vice President, Sustainability & ESG, Lemon Tree Hotels; Dr. Arvind Bodhankar, Executive Director & Chief Risk Officer, Dalmia Bharat; Carlos Enrique Cavelier Lozano, Dream Coordinator & President, Alqueria; Carla Duprat, Director for Sustainability, Grupo Camargo; Corey Glickman, Co-founder and Partner Strategy & Consulting, EcoStart Ventures Inc, and Founder, Greenman Black LLC (formerly Partner, Head of Sustainability & Design (ESG) at Infosys); Denise Hills, Board member, UN SDG Pioneer, ESG and Sustainability Advisor (formerly Global Sustainability Director, Natura&Co); Désirée Lucchese, Head of Ethics and Impact, U Ethical Investors; Ellen Martin, Chief Impact Officer, Circulate Capital; Fernando Cortes McAllister, Vice President, CSR, Grupo Bolivar; Giuliana Ortega, Sustainability Director, Raia Drogasil; Dr. James Robey, Executive VP, Global Head of Environmental Sustainability, Capgemini; Jill Weise, Vice Chair and Managing Director, Kroll; João Figueira, Chief Strategy Officer, Betterfly; Jyotin S Kutty, Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer, Tata Motors Ltd.; Milind Mungale, Advisor, Information Security and Technology NSDL (formerly EVP & Chief Impact Officer, Protean eGov) ; Nana Yaa Ofori-Koree, Head of Partnerships, Sustainability and CSR, Fidelity Bank Ghana; Octavio Rocha, Chief Impact Officer, New Ventures; Prabodha Acharya, Chief Sustainability Officer, JSW Group; Pratyush Panda, Head ESG, LTIMindtree; Sabina Curatolo, Senior Director Impact, Breakthrough Victoria (formerly Partner & Head of Impact, Bridges Australia); Sangeeta Robinson, Chief Sustainability Officer, PVR INOX Limited; Viiveck Verma, Founder and CEO, Upsurge Global; and Zarmeen Pavri, Co-Founder and General Partner, SDGx. Guest Contributors included Swapnil Joshi, Director, Sustainability & Design (Smart Spaces), Infosys; and Radha Sule, Deputy Vice President, Corporate Sustainability, Tata Capital.
Prominent figures at the launch event who delivered keynote addresses included well-known names like Vineet Rai, Founder, Aavishkaar Capital; Kieron Boyle, Chief Executive, Impact Investing Institute, UK; Tatiana Glad, Executive Director, Impact Hub Network; and Kumar Anurag Pratap, Vice President & CSR Leader, Capgemini. Capgemini has been dedicated to supporting Aspire in conducting ground-breaking research within the impact economy ecosystem since 2020, showcasing their commitment to advancing research initiatives in this field.