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Green path to the top

COMPANY executives with responsibility for environmental issues are fast becoming all-round managers with the potential to reach the top, according to research published last week by Ashridge Management College, writes Roger Trapp.

The report suggests that this is because their work has moved far beyond the initial purpose of "simple compliance with legislation". It is now about setting standards, encouraging pollution prevention and ensuring that environmental messages and performance make a positive contribution to the com-pany's standing.

This kind of role places new demands on individuals. Key skills for the job are powers of leadership and motivation - the very abilities frequently cited by research as important requirements for the top jobs.

"All environmental executives will need to become more outward-looking, politically adept, capable of managing tension, business-oriented and visionary than at present, while retaining their specialist skills," say Peter James and Stephanie Stewart, the report's authors.

Since the idea of having an influential role in the organisation without any accompanying direct authority is developing in other areas, such as human resources and marketing, environmental executives could be providing a model for how functional managers will operate in the future, the report argues.