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What is Sustainability Leadership?

The challenges

Our collective struggle as a society to tackle the world’s most pressing challenges points to a failure of individual leadership. We have lacked the quality and quantity of bold leadership in business, government and civil society that would enable us to shift towards a more just and sustainable 21st-century lifestyle. The task of creating a more sustainable world is both a serious challenge and an enormous opportunity. 

Without bold and effective leadership – at a political, institutional and individual level – we will fail to resolve our most serious social and environmental crises.

What makes a leader for sustainability?

CISL’s research suggests the following seven key characteristic traits and styles are among the most important in distinguishing the leadership approach taken by individuals tackling sustainability issues:

  •  Systemic, interdisciplinary understanding;
  •  Emotional intelligence and a caring attitude;
  •  Values orientation that shapes culture;
  •  A strong vision for making a significant difference;
  •  An inclusive style that engenders trust;
  •  A willingness to innovate and be radical; and
  •  A long-term perspective on impacts. 

"A leader is someone who crafts a vision and inspires people to act collectively to make it happen, responding to whatever changes and challenges arise along the way. A sustainability leader is someone who inspires and supports action towards a better world."

Polly Courtice, Director, CISL

Read more

Our publications highlight some of the best examples of sustainability leadership that have emerged over the past few years and explore new ideas and approaches that have the potential to deliver transformational change.