The sustainability consultant and the CEO

Here's the story: She's a recent MBA graduate working as a corporate sustainability consultant. He's a roaming eco-warrior dodging bullets from rhino poachers in Africa and pursuing illegal loggers in the Amazon. Whose job is more treacherous?

To find out, sneak a peek at her front-line communiqués, which have mysteriously fallen into the hands of Context America President Peter T. Knight, who has decided to share them with us. Can our earnest heroine survive in the corporate jungle with her career -- and ideals -- intact? Follow her adventures below — and read her previous missives here.]

Hey Jeff!

I got a call from the Boss. He was talking very quietly.

“I’m calling from the boardroom,” he whispered.

I had just walked past the boardroom and I knew there was no one in there, other than the Boss. We’re in Germany, visiting a client who makes very complicated 3D printing machines that are going to revolutionize manufacturing.

“If I’m not around later,” he said breathlessly, “go to lunch without me because Henk wants to have a word.”

Henk is the CEO. Very bright, good looking, well connected and does TED and Davos a lot. The Boss had been angling for a meeting with Henk for ages.

You’ve heard of horse whisperers and dog whisperers, Jeff? Well, the Boss is one of those sustainability consultants who fancy themselves as a CEO Whisperer. They so badly want to be part of the inner circle. But no matter how they spin it, they are more Neptune than Mercury - way out in the outer circle.

I’ve realized this when we visit client head offices. Good indicators of where you are in the corporate pecking order are:

  • The depth of the carpet pile. Senior folk like their carpets to resemble a jungle - you have to slash your way through organic Australian wool to find their desk.
  • The height and shape of the office. Yeah, corner office is still good and then you've got to be high up too so that you look down on others.
  • Wasted space. If you find yourself in a lot of empty space, maybe filled with a lonely couch with incomprehensible art hanging above, you know you’re where the power is.

Next page:  Does the CEO care about sustainability?