Top 10: Women in Sustainability in the US

The top 10 women leading sustainability and ESG initiatives in the US include Chief Sustainability Officers from Walmart, Google, Microsoft

In 2011 72% of Chief Sustainability Officer roles were held by men, with just 10 of the then 29 CSO roles held by women. However, as we see a rise in both the number of CSOs leading expanding sustainability teams around the world and see an increase of women in executive roles, we are naturally also seeing an increase in women holding Chief Sustainability Officer roles and equivalents. For the first time, in 2020, women held more CSO roles than men, with 54% of CSO positions held by women. 

Sustainability Magazine celebrates women in sustainability annually through our Top 100 Women in Sustainability – we have picked the top 10 from that list who are based in the US.

Mary De Wysocki

10. Mary de Wysocki, CSO, Cisco

A specialist in CSR strategy development, collaboration, technology and education transformation, De Wysocki has been a leading executive at software development company Cisco for 23 years. 

As Senior Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer of the company, De Wysocki leads Cisco’s sustainability strategy, where she oversees the progress towards its public environmental goals. She also helps drive long-term value for the business, its value chain and the planet.

Paulette Frank

9. Paulette Frank, CSO, Johnson & Johnson

Inspired by the understanding that healthy people need a healthy planet, Paulette Frank is the Chief Sustainability Officer at Johnson & Johnson (J&J)

Dedicating 27 years to the sustainability efforts at J&J, Frank specialises in environment, health, and safety (EHS), diverse talent management, women in STEM, and sustainability. In her current role, she leads the environmental sustainability for J&J, defining the strategic direction to accelerate and amplify positive environmental impacts.

Pilar Cruz

8. Pilar Cruz, Corporate SVP / CSO, Cargill

For the past 20 years, Pilar Cruz has been a leader at the food and beverage manufacturing company - Cargill. Currently the company’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Cruz harnesses her two decades of business and operations experience in the business to bring a global and diverse perspective to the executive team.

As CSO she leads the company’s efforts to drive transformational change by delivering sustainable supply chains for its global customers, as well as striving to make agriculture part of how Cargill delivers the UN SDGs.

Robyn Luhning

7. Robyn Luhning, CSO, Wells Fargo

Having spent the last 12 years at Wells Fargo, Robyn Luhning has been integral to the financial service company’s growth and success. 

Taking on the role of Chief Sustainability Officer in 2022, Luhning utilises her expertise in CSR, environmental awareness, sustainable development, and strategic planning to lead the progress against the company’s climate and sustainability initiatives and drive the enterprise's environmental, social and governance (ESG) programs.

Charlene Lake

6. Charlene Lake, Corporate SVP of Social Responsibility / CSO, AT&T

Charlene Lake has a diverse career working in journalism, marketing, communications, and now telecommunications. 

As Senior Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility and Chief Sustainability Officer at AT&T, Lake leads a talented team of individuals to create connections and positive outcomes for communities, the environment, and customers. 

Inspired by the ways AT&T addresses the world’s greatest challenges — education, environmental sustainability and economic opportunity - Lake harnesses her expertise in CSR, social innovation, ESG, strategic leadership and corporate governance alongside AT&T’s technology and resources to further the company mission through 5G and Fibre.

Kara Hurst

5. Kara Hurst, VP of Worldwide Sustainability, Amazon

Dedicating 30 years to the sustainability and ESG movement, Kara Hurst is Vice President of Worldwide Sustainability at Amazon

Throughout her career, Hurst has worked across local and federal government; global NGOs; and has run a public/private venture in Silicon Valley. More recently her focus has been on driving connections at the intersection of science, consumer products, technology, and sustainability. 

Utilising Amazon’s scale, speed and innovation, alongside her industry expertise, Hurst’s specialities within the company include sustainable science and innovation, social responsibility, responsible supply chain management, circular economy, as well as sustainable products, technology and transportation.

Amy Brachio

4. Amy Brachio, Global Vice Chair of Sustainability, EY

Working in sustainability for more than 25 years, Amy Brachio is a champion of diversity, inclusion and belonging, and is well-versed in advising global companies on matters of interest to the Board and C-suite. As Global Vice Chair of Sustainability at EY, she leads the consultant's sustainability and climate change agenda.

Working across EY, her expertise lies in the support of design and delivery of services to help EY clients achieve their sustainability agenda, as well as provide EY professionals with the opportunity to upskill and engage with sustainability and oversee the company’s environmental strategy.

Melanie Nakagawa

3. Melanie Nakagawa, CSO, Microsoft

Dedicating the last 20 years to energy, sustainability, and ESG, Melanie Nakagawa has a diverse background working in both the public sector and politics. 

As Corporate Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer of Microsoft, Nakagawa was appointed to lead the company-wide environmental sustainability work, accelerating the momentum for Microsoft’s carbon-negative initiative by 2030 and removing historical carbon emissions by 2050. 

Nakagawa is a Doctor of Law and holds a BA in International Relations (Global Environment), and an MA in International Affairs, Peace and Conflict Resolution. Her expertise lies in climate strategy, energy security, sustainable development, energy policy, and low carbon economy.

Kate Brandt

2. Kate Brandt, CSO, Google

With a career deeply rooted in sustainability, Kate Brandt has been the Chief Sustainability Officer of Google for the last eight years.

Brandt has an impressive career in the field of sustainability, in 2014 she was appointed to the role of Federal Chief Sustainability Officer by President Obama — the first CSO for the US. During her time in the role, she steered the administration to lead by example to reduce its carbon footprint. 

Brandt first joined Google in 2015 as Sustainability Lead and took on the role of CSO in 2018. For the last six years, Brandt has been at the helm of Google’s sustainability efforts, removing toxic materials from the supply chain, creating a healthy office environment, improving energy consumption, and driving a circular economy. 

Holding a degree in international relations, Brandt’s expertise lies in sustainability, strategic planning, politics, strategy, and leadership.

Kathleen McLaughlin

1. Kathleen McLaughlin, President of Walmart Foundation/ CSO, Walmart

Dedicating over a decade of her career to the retail giant Walmart, Kathleen McLaughlin has been the Chief Sustainability Officer and President of the Walmart Foundation since 2013. 

As CSO, she works with her team to create economic opportunities, foster inclusive economic development, enhance the sustainability of food, apparel and general merchandise supply chains, and strengthen the resilience of local communities. 

Investing in people and businesses in the supply chain, under her stewardship Walmart surpassed US$1.4bn in giving worldwide, including US$1bn in food donations in 2023—an initiative McLaughlin takes great pride in.

With a diploma and degrees in Theology; Politics, Philosophy, and Economics; and Electrical engineering, McLaughlin’s specialties lie in business strategy and transformation, sustainability, renewable energy, climate change,  finance, acquisitions, and competitive analysis.

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