skip to content

Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)


Since 2011, the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) has worked closely with the South African bank, Nedbank, to transform the company’s strategy to be fit for purpose in the next economy. In February 2014, Chief Executive Mike Brown announced the launch of Fair Share 2030, a business strategy that responds to the premise that to be a thriving bank in the long term Nedbank needs to operate in a thriving society. The strategy comprises a carefully calculated flow of money, starting in 2015 and allocated each year, to invest in future-proofing the environment, society and our business.

"Fair Share 2030 forms part of our strategic portfolio tilt, a mechanism through which to shift away from areas that contribute to societal risks, and towards areas that build resilience and well-being. It forms another vital component of Nedbank’s vision to be Africa’s most admired bank."

Mike Brown, Chief Executive, Nedbank Group

Nedbank (with assets of about $70bn) prides itself on being a leading South African company when it comes to environmental matters, having pioneered a Green Affinity programme with WWF in 1990. It was the first African bank to become carbon neutral, the first African bank to sign up to the Equator Principles, and the only South African bank to participate in the Water Disclosure Project. 

Despite winning accolades for being the most sustainable bank in Africa, the company – in common with the rest of business and society – is still wrestling with the challenge of how to grow while transitioning to a truly sustainable economy. Early in 2011, Nedbank invited CISL to structure a process to reveal innovative ways of extending its existing ‘green and caring’ aspiration into the bank’s range of products and services. 

In the initial diagnostic phase, CISL surveyed the Nedbank ‘institutional brain’ with regards to the implications of sustainability for business and society. The bank’s leadership team identified five areas holding back progress. Pivotal to these were the absence of a long-term view against which to test assumptions and strategic decisions. 

CISL and Nedbank created a small cross-functional team to address this gap by developing a set of Long-term Goals for South Africa, which together describe a desirable future that Nedbank would like to operate in and contribute to shaping through its core business activities. The eight stretch goals, to be achieved by 2030, encompass economic, social, and environmental dimensions of most relevance to the South African financial sector. 

The Nedbank–CISL project team then developed a strategic response, dubbed “Fair Share 2030”. It answers the question: what is Nedbank’s ‘fair share‘ of funding deployed into the economy – that would not happen on a business-as-usual trajectory – that is required to meet the Long-term Goals by 2030? 

Fair Share 2030 explicitly acknowledges that Nedbank is one component of a complex system of actors that will need to operate differently in order to create a vibrant, flourishing South Africa by 2030. To contribute its fair share, Nedbank will have to innovate new products, services, and business models that directly address the Long-term Goals while driving new and sustainable value creation. 

In mid-2013, CISL designed and ran a three-day customised seminar, aimed at senior management personnel from all areas of the bank, to deepen understanding and start developing business solutions. The seminar proved successful in generating internal momentum and embedding Fair Share 2030 as a highly visible priority initiative within Nedbank.

CISL’s tailored training helps organisations across multiple sectors frame a response to sustainability trends. to discuss how a customised course can help your organisation achieve commercial impact.