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Cambridge – Earth on Board Programme

The end of business as usual: Boards must take the lead

Boards need dedicated time, tools and the right expertise and structure in order to effectively carry out their fiduciary responsibility in relation to sustainability trends, and to challenge and advise their executive teams.

The Cambridge – Earth on Board Programme offers a credible, independent and effective approach to address these needs, providing customised briefing, challenge and guidance on Board engagement with sustainability.


The need to realign purpose, strategy and governance

2015 – a tipping point

At COP21 in Paris, 196 countries acknowledged the need to limit the global temperature increase to well below 2°C and aim for a net zero carbon emission world in the second half of the century. With the Sustainable Development Goals, the United Nations countries have committed to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice and fix climate change – within 15 years. Alongside these two landmark events, political leaders and society at large have been calling for companies to play a major role for a better world.

Business is the key to change

Businesses have to adapt to an ever more complex set of interconnected challenges–from the scarcity and price of raw
materials to the growth of new markets such as renewable power, as well as the evolution of business models and
technologies that tap into emerging customer preferences. Business has a unique capacity for innovation and impact
at scale, making it the natural leader in the profound transformation ahead.

Boards must take the lead

These trends increase the risk of stranded assets and the costs of operations in many sectors. They also heighten supply
chain risks and threaten corporate reputation with a variety of stakeholders and challenge the company’s licence to operate.

This has significant implications for the fiduciary responsibility of Boards, as key stakeholders set new expectations for business performance and transparency in relation to social and environmental risk and impact, for example through the Financial Stability Board and stock exchange recommendations on climate risk disclosure.

With their unique position and responsibilities, Boards will have to show the way towards a sustainable and prosperous
future for the company.

Read our latest thought leadership on sustainability.


What we offer

The Cambridge–Earth on Board Programme is flexible and customisable to respond to your challenges and priorities. It equips corporate Boards with the knowledge and tools to respond effectively.

Depending on your need, the programme offers the following elements:

A 1–2 hour Board briefing

To highlight critical issues and to explore the implications for the fiduciary responsibility of Boards.

A half- or full-day customised workshop

For a company's Board Members (or for its representatives on external Boards) informed by: 

  • analysis of systemic challenges in the social and environmental context, relevant to the business’s operations and
    stakeholders, highlighting material issues for the business and sector
  • examples of best-in-class approaches to Board leadership on sustainability
  • interviews with the Chair and Board Directors to identify the Board's current approach to sustainability and untapped opportunities.

Targeted ongoing support

For the Board to challenge and guide the company’s executive team, as well as review progress on the Board’s own priority actions.

Duration and location of programmes is flexible.


Benefits for Boards

Increase awareness and insight

Examine the scale and urgency of the sustainability challenge and the links to the Board’s responsibilities, focusing on trends of greatest relevance to the company’s strategic contexts.

Understand implications for the business model and for the fiduciary
responsibility of Board Directors

Understand critical risks, reporting and disclosure requirements, and potential business opportunities, and identify priority implications for your agendas.

Align governance and focus

Informed by examples of leadership from companies worldwide, review your Board’s current approach and capacity for action, including the time you spend on this agenda. We help you to identify and assess progress on priority actions for the Board.

Structure engagement with the management

Become better equipped to challenge and guide your executive team, helping it to integrate sustainability into business strategy.

"A powerful and vigorous call to action! Practical, inspiring and challenging. A wonderful opportunity to develop new thinking and approaches to evaluate leadership and contribution to issues. Of the utmost importance to all of us."

Board Director, international institutional investment manager

"Outstanding and impactful! I am now equipped to drive real change."

Board Director, utility company

"The programme raised awareness of the unknown, confirmed what we are getting right and gave an opportunity to consider alternatives."

Board Director, energy generation company


Our experience

We work with more than 250 major organisations each year to build leadership capacity to respond to respond to global sustainability challenges. Examples of our previous Board-Level engagements include:

  • a 24-hour programme for 18 Non-Executive Directors from energy, finance and property sectors across Australia and New Zealand, exploring system pressures and trends, evolving regulatory requirements and stakeholder expectations, as well as tools and methodologies for individual Non-Execs to put sustainability on the Board agenda
  • a two-day programme for Board-level representatives from across a major Indian conglomerate, to build organisational resilience to climate change and a growth strategy for a low carbon economy
  • a series of consultations and workshops to equip a major financial services group in South Africa to build Board alignment around a new sustainability strategy.

Read about the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) and our global sustainability network.


Programme delivery

Our engagement with your Board is led by an expert Faculty, hand-selected from our international network of influential leaders. Our corporate Faculty are expert in driving value creation through a sustainability perspective; our contributors from the finance and regulation sphere use innovative approaches to impact measurement and critical levers of change; leading scientists will discuss cutting-edge data and the implications for business; and our civil society champions have a deep understanding of social context in regions.

Examples of CISL’s Fellows and Associates with experience of Board-level engagement

Philippe-Joubert4.jpgPhilippe Joubert

Philippe is Founder and CEO of Earth on Board, is on CISL's Advisory Board and is Chair of Corporate Leaders Group. He is Special Envoy Climate and Energy for the WBCSD, advises several CEOs, sits on various Boards of global companies and is a trustee of Client Earth.


José Lopez

José is a Fellow of CISL and is the Former Executive Vice President of Operations, Nestle S.A. Over more than 30 years at Nestle, he was responsible for procurement, manufacturing, supply, engineering, quality management, agriculture, safety & health, environment and operations performance.

Polly CourticeDame Polly Courtice, DBE, LVO

Polly is Director of CISL, a Director of Jupiter Green Investment Trust, Non-Executive Director of Anglian Water Services Ltd, and is on the environmental / sustainability advisory Boards for AstraZeneca, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, Lloyds Banking Group and Nespresso.

Paul FisherPaul Fisher

Paul is a Senior Associate of CISL. He was a senior figure at the Bank of England for 26 years and served as a member of the Monetary Policy Committee. He was also responsible for co-ordinating the Bank’s work on climate change.

Russell PicotRussell Picot

Russell is a Senior Associate of CISL and Chair of the Trustee board of the HSBC Bank (UK) Pension Fund. He was a co-chair of the FSB’s Enhanced Disclosure Task Force and is a Special Advisor to the Financial Stability Board’s Climate-related Financial Disclosures Task Force.

WillSteffenProfessor Will Steffen

Will is a Senior Associate of CISL. He is an Adjunct Professor at the Australian National University, Canberra, and a Senior Fellow at the Resilience Centre, Sweden. His is one of the leading Earth system scientists and is known for his work on the Anthropocene and Planetary Boundaries.

TonyJuniperTony Juniper

Tony is a Fellow of CISL and a leading environmental author and campaigner. He is a former head of Friends of the Earth and serves as a Special Advisor to HRH The Prince of Wales and to a number of leading businesses. He is President of the Society for the Environment.

Sarah BarkerSarah Barker

Sarah is Special Counsel at Minter Ellison Lawyers and Non-Executive Director at Emergency Services & State Super. Sarah’s work on fiduciary duties and climate change has won numerous awards.

Emily ShuckburghEmily Shuckburgh

Emily is a CISL Fellow and climate scientist, leading the Open Oceans research group at the British Antarctic Survey. She is a member of the Natural Environment Research Council’s Strategic Programme Advisory Group and has advised the UK Government.

Paul GildingPaul Gilding

Paul is a CISL Fellow, and is recognised as an authority on sustainability and business. He has worked with the CEOs and executives of leading companies globally including Dupont, Diageo, BHP Billiton and Ford. He was CEO of Greenpeace International, Ecos Corporation and Easy Being Green.

Are you, as a Board:

  • Spending sufficient time on social and environmental issues to identify material risks and opportunities?
  • Engaging regularly with your stakeholders, understanding their expectations?
  • Prepared for new carbon disclosure requirements?
  • Challenging management and asking tough questions on the right issues?

Some of our client companies

Members logos

Critical issues for your Board

  • Does your business have a clear, transparent purpose?
  • Do you have a zero net carbon emissions strategy?
  • Are your operations and supply chains resilient to extreme weather events and resource scarcity?
  • Are you aware of the implications of these challenges for your customers – and are you equipped to meet future market needs?

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About us

CISL logo

For nearly three decades, the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) has brought together business, government and academia to find solutions to critical sustainability challenges.

Our 8,000-strong network includes business leaders who champion sustainability at Board level, as well as global sustainability experts.

EOB logo transparent

Earth on Board is dedicated to Earth Competent Boards: Boards with members proficient in sustainability, with the right governance, asking the right questions of management.

Earth on Board is an ecosystem of leading organisations and individuals working at the highest levels of corporate governance to place sustainability at the centre of the strategy. We support Boards to move beyond short-term financial primacy to refocus on the fundamental purpose of business and on long-term value creation.