As the pressure grows on corporations to become more environmentally and socially responsible, so too do the responsibilities of today’s chief sustainability officer.

No longer focused narrowly on compliance and risk associated with a company’s environmental impact, chief sustainability officers now reach out to all constituencies—management, shareholders, customers, and employees—and convey the benefits of environmental sustainability to all.

“I cut across a lot of different functional areas,” says Rick Ramirez, vice president of sustainability and environmental affairs at carpet manufacturer Shaw Industries. “What you see today [in sustainability] is a broad-based initiative. It touches on corporate governance; it touches on our ...