Climate change officers have different responsibilities depending on the extent to which the organization’s climate-related risks and opportunities fall within their purview. The following sets of knowledge, experience, and skills encompass the most comprehensive set of responsibilities. Professionals for whom only part of their job duties pertain to climate will need to demonstrate specific subsets of each category.

  1. Foundational knowledge and skills include science literacy, environmental literacy, knowledge of the policy landscape, and management acumen.

  2. Organizational knowledge and experience include strategic planning, decision-making, compliance, enterprise risk management, asset management, the management of value and supply chains, corporate communications and corporate social responsibility, and organizational governance.

  3. Strategic execution competencies are largely skills-based and include supporting organizational change, helping to mitigate risk, engaging stakeholders, being actively involved in policy efforts beyond the walls of the organization and maintaining other external partnerships.

As ACCO continues to develop training and education programs supporting these competencies, ACCO envisions subsets of competencies that apply to all types of professionals, while other subsets of competencies may apply to individuals with niche roles or in sectors with distinctive challenges and opportunities related to climate change.

Foundational Knowledge and Skills

Competencies in the foundational category are primarily oriented toward general knowledge about climate and organizational change.

Science Literacy

  • Possess an understanding of anthropogenic climate change, with a sound basis in climate science
  • Engage others in obtaining credible information on climate-related opportunities and risks related specifically to the organization
  • Apply systems thinking to the organization’s operations and its markets in order to identify opportunities and risks and to address potential challenges posed by climate disruption

Environmental and Economic Literacy

  • Identify the impact of climate change on the availability of natural resources of strategic importance to the organization’s operations and mission
  • Maintain up-to-date knowledge of current trends seen in the impacts of climate change on ecosystems and the availability of natural resources on which the organization depends
  • Develop strategies for optimizing the organization’s natural resource usage given current understandings of climate change impacts, for example, potential risks to and consequences of the organization’s use of energy, water, and land
  • Establish and continually improve a rigorous system of accounting for the organization’s greenhouse gas emissions, based on the Greenhouse Gas Protocol and with appropriate third-party verification
  • Evaluate and validate programs for carbon offsets and renewable energy credits, and related emissions markets
  • Identify adaptation strategies for ecosystem impacts resulting from climate change that are strategic to the organization’s operations and mission

Understanding of the Policy Landscape

  • Develop the organization’s ongoing positions on and implement its responses to voluntary mandates (e.g., Carbon Disclosure Project, Global Reporting Initiative, Water Disclosure Project, CEO Water Mandate, government partnership programs, etc.)
  • Establish and continually improve the organization’s capacity to track and assess the impact on the organization’s operations and mission of existing and evolving financial, energy, and climate legislation and regulations
  • Assess and continually improve the ability of the organization’s own policies and those of its supply chain partners to leverage opportunities and mitigate risks associated with climate change

Management Acumen

  • Ensure that the organization takes into account the economics and future prices of energy, water, air, and other natural resources in its strategies, plans, and decision-making
  • Understand and advocate for the appropriate use of system tools such as biodiversity assessments and product life-cycle assessments
  • Develop, continually improve, and secure resourcing for a portfolio of projects to advance the organization’s strategy for opportunities and risks associated with climate change
  • Define, structure, and resource the successful execution of high-value, complex projects that contribute meaningfully to the mitigation of and/or adaptation to climate change
  • Use sound cost/benefit analysis to convince the organization’s leadership to resource initiatives that will lower the organization’s contributions to climate-relevant emissions and to protect the organization from the impacts of climate disruption

Organizational Knowledge & Experience

Competencies in the organizational category pertain to how the climate change officer combines his or her foundational knowledge with organization-specific knowledge and experience.

Strategic Planning

  • Contribute relevant climate change considerations to the strategic planning process by providing the necessary data on the organization’s own operations as well as global climate data
  • Conversely, articulate how the organization’s strategy, mission, and strategic plan can inform the organization’s climate change program
  • Assess the vulnerabilities of assets, product lines, and service offerings to physical climate change impacts as well as to potential regulations and legislation

Decision-Making

  • Ascertain which types of decisions in the organization require or warrant the incorporation of climate change considerations, and implement a system to codify their incorporation
  • Identify the key people in the organization whose participation is essential for the successful implementation of the climate change program
  • Provide guidance to the organization’s leadership on optimal ways to incorporate climate change considerations into critical decision-making
  • Engage key stakeholders to catalyze the key decisions relative to mitigating and/or adapting to climate change that the organization needs to make

Compliance and Enterprise Risk Management

  • Apply the climate change perspective to the organization’s compliance and enterprise risk management programs to enable the organization to increase value in the short- and long-term
  • Utilize a systems approach and compile necessary data for the relevant climate change considerations to be incorporated into the compliance and enterprise risk management programs

Asset Management

  • Assess and develop strategies to address the relationship between carbon emissions and the impacts of climate change on natural resources critical to the organization’s assets
  • Utilize a systems approach and compile necessary data for integrating the relevant climate change considerations into the organization’s asset management strategy
  • Develop mechanisms with which to factor in upstream and downstream considerations when the organization considers upgrades or other changes to assets

Value and Supply Chains

  • Collaborate with the organization’s leadership to apply the lens of climate change to continually identify risks and opportunities associated with the organization’s value chains (e.g., innovation, product/service development, operations, etc.) and supply chains
  • Work effectively with the organization’s leadership overseeing innovation, product/service development, operations, and supply chains to mitigate risks and develop opportunities associated with climate change
  • Team up with organizational leadership to prioritize any climate-related opportunities by understanding the relationship between climate impacts and the organization’s market drivers, such as customer requirements, investor requirements, and the regulatory landscape

Communications and Corporate Social Responsibility

  • Work effectively with the organization’s communications unit to incorporate the organization’s position on climate change into reputation management and meaningful messaging that is credible with key stakeholders
  • Build the organization’s capacity to position products and services responsibly with regard to climate change and related environmental impacts
  • Identify and develop the organization’s capacity to support non-profit efforts aimed at driving social consensus on anthropogenic climate change, mitigating climate change, and adapting to the impacts of climate change

Governance

  • Establish an effective governance structure, such as a climate impacts committee, that will allocate the necessary resources and establish organizational policies and procedures to identify and mitigate risks and develop opportunities associated with climate change as these pertain to the organization
  • Serve as chair or support the chair of the governance body
  • Orchestrate strategies to deliver increased organizational value through solutions and processes that go across organizational boundaries and silos

Strategic Execution

Competencies in the strategic execution category center around the climate change officer’s ability to put his or her organizational knowledge and experience into action, bringing the key climate considerations to bear on the organization’s operations, strategic planning, risk mitigation, and stakeholder engagement.

Enterprise Risk Mitigation

  • Perform economic risk assessments of climate change impacts that the organization can use to inform its risk mitigation actions and plans
  • Demonstrate to stakeholders the organization’s strategy for addressing climate risks through its risk mitigation plans and actions
  • Address the climate-related risks to market drivers and market requirements through risk mitigation plans and actions
  • Address longer-term risks that have the potential to substantially impact the organization by beginning risk mitigation efforts as early as possible
  • Ensure that risk mitigation plans are articulated and executed across all levels of the organization

Supporting Change Within the Organization

  • Develop education and communication plans to support the changes needed at all levels of the organization
  • Raise awareness within the organization about the potential impacts of climate change on its mission and operations, in order to inspire action aimed at leveraging the opportunities and mitigating the risks
  • Provide employees with a frame of reference to enable the right level of action to address climate change, according to the organization’s mission and operations and each employee’s job duties or overall level of concern
  • Participate in relevant professional networks devoted to climate change mitigation and adaptation in order to relay to the organization the best practices and optimal tools for successful climate change programs
  • Enlist the key people within the organization, as well as external people and organizations, whose involvement is essential for the successful implementation of the organization’s climate change programs
  • Support employees as they build their climate change expertise, think through system-wide issues, and take action according to their role and place in the organization
  • Work with people and departments that pose obstacles to the organization’s efforts to address short- and long-term risks posed by climate change, converting them into supporters of the organization’s climate change programs
  • Embed the urgency of climate change impacts in decision-making, strategies, processes, and initiatives at every level of the organization

Stakeholder Engagement

  • Provide stakeholders with the strategic context for the organization’s product and service innovation, placing innovation in the context of potential climate change impacts
  • Work effectively with the organization’s communications department to incorporate the organization’s position on climate change into reputation management and meaningful messaging that is credible with key stakeholders
  • Articulate succinctly the distinctions and overlaps between the topics of sustainability, greenhouse gas reduction, climate change mitigation, and climate change adaptation, assisting the organization in helping to increase these concepts currency in the broader culture
  • Establish relationships with a broad diversity of stakeholders across sectors, organizations, and hierarchy, including those with different perspectives on climate change, to define creative strategies and innovative partnerships with which to address climate change and the attendant opportunities and risks
  • Collaborate with climate change officers in other organizations to discuss diverse types of climate change programs

Reaching Beyond the Organization

  • Help to drive legislation and modifications of regulatory environments so that they optimally support organizational strategies that have sufficient magnitude to meaningfully address and adapt to climate change
  • Form the necessary external partnerships and collaborations with supply chain partners, competitors, and others to accelerate strategies to mitigate risk and adapt to the impacts of climate change
The Role of the Association of Climate Change Officers (ACCO)
ACCO serves climate change professionals working in all contexts within an organization, including:
  • professionals whose roles and responsibilities are focused exclusively upon addressing climate change impacts upon an organization’s operations;
  • professionals charged with addressing sustainability and/or environmental issues related to an organization’s operations; and
  • professionals whose primary functions are in areas that are not necessarily considered environmental roles (e.g. supply chain and procurement, facilities management, risk management, investor relations, etc.).

ACCO supports the professional development of individuals in positions having any level of climate focus, providing resources, outlining professional development tracks, and connecting them to their peers in order to share successful strategies and lessons learned.

Aspiration for the Climate Change Officer Profession
ACCO envisions the transformation of business practices by a broad range of organizations large and small; innovative partnerships that revolutionize the resiliency of supply chains; and authentic governmental engagement with the problem of climate change to achieve the scale of mitigation and adaptation that can undergird a world economy and society based in resiliency and health. Climate change officers play a key role in bringing about this much-needed transformation.
Integrating Climate Related Competencies into Other Occupations
In addition to the emergence of the occupation of climate change leadership, ACCO envisions the integration of climate related competencies into the core job descriptions and requirements for numerous other occupations.  Professionals such as energy managers, civil engineers and supply chain professionals play critical roles in implementing climate preparedness and action initiatives.