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Chief sustainability officers are burning out. Has the role become unsustainable?

Our latest selection of articles from New Zealand and around the world on environmental management and sustainability. Click here to subscribe.


This week SnippETS brings you to the front lines of the green transition, which might getting be too hot to handle.


Chief sustainability officers around the world are burning out in a high-demand, low-precedent field at rates that are simply unsustainable. Meanwhile, the Guardian surveyed climate scientists to ask how they feel about our progress in the fight against climate change. They responded with wisdom, support, criticism, calls to rally, and most important of all: hope. The fight isn’t easy; those who find themselves overwhelmed may be suffering from ecological grief. We all could benefit from developing ecological grief literacy – a set of skills to help us cope with the loss we feel when exposed to environmental destruction.


Climate change has been taking a toll on the trees as well. Cities have been racing to figure out how to future-proof their tree planting to withstand climate destabilisation. But how hot is too hot? Another one of our articles offers a deep dive on the complex and multifaceted science of estimating drought and temperature resilience.


In world news, big oil is up to no good (yet again). An investigation launched by US Democrats has unearthed documents proving that fossil-fuel firms intended to mislead consumers, obscure climate impacts of natural gas, and fail to meet emission targets. As for genuine attempts at adaptation, the task of setting up the UN’s loss and damage fund is proving tremendous. Cultural and economic disparities between nations are further complicated by the geographically varying impacts of extreme weather events. How might the 26-member board tackle this delicate balancing act? A recent study discovers a potential equaliser: a tax on fossil-fuel firms which “could raise $900bn in climate finance by 2030”.


There’s so much going on in the world. Feeling a little overwhelmed? Some of the values of Buddhism could help you navigate the climate crisis in your everyday life. Applied spirituality might help you tackle a consumerist mindset, but if you’re wondering how to action it you could check out non-trepreneurs Jannine Mancilla and Nicole Macias. The LA innovators organise clothes-swaps, allowing people to get rid of old clothes and pick up cool, “new” threads without the hassle, cost, or waste.


Looking for a software tool to measure and reduce your emissions? We've got tips to help you choose.



Here is the full list of articles...


The people hired to stop the corporate world from ruining the planet are in danger of harming themselves in the process. A troubling number of chief sustainability officers (CSOs) are finding that the job has become unsustainable. In our lead article, Robin Hicks from Eco-Business investigates burnout among sustainability leaders and asks if there is a remedy. Sustainability is a broad, complex, ever-changing field, and without sufficient support from senior management to do the real work of transforming a business, CSOs are struggling to keep their heads above water.   Read more…


Moving from CSO’s to scientists, 380 of the world’s top climate experts recently shared their thoughts about the future. Among the incredibly scary lowlights: 77% of respondents believe global temperatures will reach at least 2.5C above preindustrial levels, a devastating degree of heating. Almost half – 42% – think it will be more than 3C, and only 6% think the 1.5C limit will be achieved. From experts in atmosphere and oceans, energy and agriculture, economics and politics, the mood across the board was grim.  Read more…


Ecological grief, triggered by the loss of beloved ecosystems, is a growing mental health issue, particularly among environmental professionals. This grief impacts those witnessing environmental decline firsthand, such as scientists and rangers. To address this, the concept of "ecological grief literacy" is proposed, focusing on peer support, organisational changes, and practical workplace strategies. These include providing formal and informal support opportunities, training, and access to mental health professionals. Emphasising social connection and support is crucial for helping those at risk manage their grief and continue their vital work.  Read more…


Urban arborists say planting for the future is urgently needed and could prevent a decline in leafy cover just when the world needs it most. Trees play a crucial role in keeping cities cool. A study published in 2022 found that a roughly 30% increase in the metropolitan canopy could prevent nearly 40% of heat-related deaths in Europe. But what trees can potentially replace the ones that are dying off, that’s what scientists are racing to discover. This is a long game, that requires many checks and balances. Read more…


Faced with widespread tree die-offs, scientists are racing to determine the upper thermal limit of the world’s trees. Extreme heat events such as what became known as ‘heat dome’ in the Pacific Northwest, 2021, caused meany trees to die (even those with sufficient water). Just how bad hot drought conditions have gotten for the world’s forests was revealed in a study, published in 2022. The study combines nearly 50 years of data from 154 peer-reviewed papers on tree die-offs from 675 different locations in forests around the world. Read more…



Big oil firms have made showy climate pledges and voiced support for the Paris climate agreement, their internal communications call the validity of those statements into question. Democrats have subpoenaed communications which reveal fossil fuel companies - post the 2015 Paris agreement - have downplayed the dangers of fossil fuels to the climate and have deliberately conspired to run campaigns to confuse and mislead the public.  Read more…


World leaders have agreed to setup a $650m climate reparations fund to address the inequalities in the global response to climate change, although $580b will be required by 2030. But due to the mistrust of developing countries toward the World Bank - who are the interim managers of the fund - and the requirements of the bank to deal with a multitude of potential beneficiaries who may misuse the funds or default on loans, the World Bank's credit rating could also be damaged. Read more…


One way being proposed to finance the Loss and Damage fund is a tax on OECD based fossil fuel companies, which at $5 per tonne increasing at that rate each year, could raise $900b by 2030. The balance between what the fund is estimated to require and what is raised could then be paid to communities within those contributing nations to finance their own transition efforts, from the ever-increasing profits of fossil fuel companies. Read more…


When faced with bad news surrounding climate change, it can be helpful to hear new perspectives about how to view the world around us. From a Buddhist perspective, everyone can learn to live simply and be happy. We need to realise that the Earth is more than a resource for satisfying our desires through endless consumption to save the planet. We have the capability to create a future that we’re proud of, but we need to prioritise action in the present over hoping for a better future. Read more…



In a capitalistic world where overconsumption is killing our planet, what is the most radical action to take and consume less? Give resources away for free while helping the environment. Mancilla and Macias turned their frustrations with the environmentally destructive fast-fashion industry and our high-waste-generating throwaway culture into action, by setting up donation-based clothing swap organisation, “Radical Clothes Swap”. Their goal is to educate communities on the negative effects of fast fashion and overconsumption, and to provide the resources to change our relationship to clothing. Read more…




This week we have the following innovation articles we hope you find interesting:





Hydrology Report - 23 May 2024




Electricity Price Index - 23 May 2024







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Did you know: You can display your organisation’s sustainability data on your website or intranet using our carbon management software, e-Bench? Read more…


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