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Core Competencies for Climate Change Officers and Professionals

New: Download the Slides from CCO CertificationTM Town Hall Hosted by ACCO on April 11, 2014

Climate change officers are professionals who apply knowledge of climate-related risks and opportunities to their organizations' near-term and long-term strategies. These professionals help their organizations to adapt and thrive in a world of climate uncertainty, and guide their organizations toward strategic decisions that are simultaneously strategic for the organization and beneficial to the climate. They apply a broad range of related subject matter knowledge to managing their organizations' operations, supply chain, products, critical resources, services, and relationships with key stakeholders.

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 role and responsibilities are focused exclusively upon addressing climate change impacts upon an organizationís operations;
  • professionals charged with addressing sustainability and/or environmental issues related to an organizationís 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.

Core Competencies for Climate Change Officers: Three Categories of Knowledge, Experience, and Skills

Climate change officers have different responsibilities depending on the extent to which the organizationís 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, and being actively involved in policy efforts beyond the walls of the organization and maintaining other external partnerships.

As ACCO continues to develop these core competencies and work toward establishing a credentialing program, 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 organizationís 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 organizationís 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 organizationís natural resource usage given current understandings of climate change impacts, for example, potential risks to and consequences of the organizationís use of energy, water, and land
  • Establish and continually improve a rigorous system of accounting for the organizationís 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 organizationís operations and mission

Understanding of the Policy Landscape

  • Develop the organizationís 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 organizationís capacity to track and assess the impact on the organizationís operations and mission of existing and evolving financial, energy, and climate legislation and regulations
  • Assess and continually improve the ability of the organizationís 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 organizationís 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 organizationís leadership to resource initiatives that will lower the organizationís 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 organizationís own operations as well as global climate data
  • Conversely, articulate how the organizationís strategy, mission, and strategic plan can inform the organizationís 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


  • 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 organizationís 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 organizationís 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 organizationís assets
  • Utilize a systems approach and compile necessary data for integrating the relevant climate change considerations into the organizationís 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 organizationís leadership to apply the lens of climate change to continually identify risks and opportunities associated with the organizationís value chains (e.g., innovation, product/service development, operations, etc.) and supply chains
  • Work effectively with the organizationís 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 organizationís market drivers, such as customer requirements, investor requirements, and the regulatory landscape

Communications and Corporate Social Responsibility

  • Work effectively with the organizationís communications unit to incorporate the organizationís position on climate change into reputation management and meaningful messaging that is credible with key stakeholders
  • Build the organizationís capacity to position products and services responsibly with regard to climate change and related environmental impacts
  • Identify and develop the organizationís 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


  • 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 officerís ability to put his or her organizational knowledge and experience into action, bringing the key climate considerations to bear on the organizationís 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 organizationís 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 organizationís mission and operations and each employeeís 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 organizationís 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 organizationís efforts to address short- and long-term risks posed by climate change, converting them into supporters of the organizationís 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 organizationís product and service innovation, placing innovation in the context of potential climate change impacts
  • Work effectively with the organizationís communications department to incorporate the organizationís 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

ACCO Town Hall on the CCO Certification

To watch and listen to a streaming WebEx replay of the April 11 town hall on the CCO CertificationTM, please click here or you can download the slides.


ACCO Webinar on Core Competencies for Climate Change Officers and Professionals

To watch and listen to a streaming WebEx replay of the original webcast, please click here.


Announcing ACCO's Inaugural
Climate Strategies Forum

May 12-14, 2014
Washington Marriott Hotel
Washington, DC


The Association of Climate Change Officers proudly launches its inaugural Climate Strategies Forum, which will feature prominent leaders from across sectors in a plenary format, and a series of 16 half-day bootcamps aligned with the core competencies. Plenary sessions will focus on climate and energy, and bootcamps will focus on topics including adaptation planning, implementing change management schemes, implementing a GHG management structure, and building a public-private partnership project.

Training, Education and Networking for Climate Professionals Across Sectors

The Climate Strategies Forum features a number of in depth training bootcamps, as well as a variety of other educational activities including roundtable discussions, ACCO working group meetings, facilities tours and panel discussions. Registrants will be able to customize their experience using the scheduling tools in the registration process.

Whether you are a climate change officer, sustainability or environmental professional, or an working in areas affected by climate change issues such as supply chain strategies or facilities management, the Climate Strategies Forum provides the premier professional development and networking activities.

Bank CCO Certification Credits`

Forum participants will earn credits over the course of three days ó these credits will include foundational and organizational knowledge credits as referenced at http://competencies.ACCOonline.org that can be used toward the certification.

CCO Roundtables and Career Advice

Looking to make a move within your organization or to another opportunity? Want guidance on tackling a particular challenge? During "CCO Roundtables," climate professionals will share their experience and wisdom with you.

Meet with climate leaders (including ACCO board and advisory board members) and consulting experts on Monday, May 12 during the opening reception.


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