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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

Support for students

This Lab invites participants to develop critical skills around systems thinking, regenerative mindsets, and framing transformative systems change. The Lab explores a variety of different sustainability systems problems, their features, and how to engage with them.


March 10-11 2025.

Duration, format and location

Two-day professional development residential seminar; Cambridge, UK



The course fee includes accommodation and meals. Discounts may be available for multiple delegates from the same organisation or participants from not-for-profits or developing countries. 

Find out more

To receive more information and updates on the programme, please:

Sustainability Leadership Labs

The University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) Labs bring together professionals to test and challenge cutting-edge responses to emerging global problems.  

The Sustainability Leadership Labs offer an opportunity to learn from and network with other senior practitioners from different industries and sectors in an immersive two-day programme. You will hear from thought leaders and expert practitioners, engage with peers through group activities and peer-to-peer coaching, and use journaling to reflect and process different perspectives on leadership as they relate to your context.  Participants leave the course having created a personal leadership plan that they can then put into practice.  

Read more about the Sustainability Leadership Labs, and details about fees and applications.


The challenge/opportunity

Many sustainability challenges prove complex, interconnected and cross-disciplinary. To avoid “pushing the problem around” - solving one problem whilst creating another – or addressing symptoms rather than root issues, professionals need a holistic view on their business activities and interventions. Systems thinking can help organisations and professionals embrace and celebrate the complex nature of sustainability challenges and enable a radically different perspective on the solution space, often leading to surprising areas for impact.  

This Lab will specifically focus on systems thinking through the lens of nature – using insights from ecosystems like a forest.

Systems thinking for sustainability

This Lab invites participants to develop critical skills around systems thinking, regenerative mindsets, and framing transformative systems change. The Lab explores a variety of different sustainability systems problems, their features, and how to engage with them. It addresses questions such as: 

  • What is a system, what are its features – how to define it and its boundaries 
  • How can we use systems thinking to map and understand different kinds of recurring, deep problems for sustainability? 
  • How can a regenerative mindset help to unpack sustainability challenges? 
  • How can we use nature to think differently about sustainability solutions? 
  • What is the role of business in driving systemic change for sustainability? 
  • Who has agency in shaping and creating systems? 


Previous speakers

  • Norah Bateson, President, International Bateson Institute 
  • Dr Tanja Collavo, Senior Teaching Associate, CISL 
  • Liz Corbin, Co-CEO and Founder, Materiom 
  • Justin DeKoszmovszky, Founder and Managing Partner, Archipel&Co 
  • Joshua Entsminger, Co-founder and Research Director, Net Positive Labs 
  • Emma Fromberg, Course Director, CISL 
  • Chris Grantham, Founder, Regenovate 
  • Adam Lusby, Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship, University of Exeter Business School 
  • Dr Kate Simpson, Director of the Systemcraft Institute (hosted by Wasafiri) & Principal Consultant 
  • Dr Niki Wallace, Course Leader, MA Global Collaborative Design Practice, University of the Arts London 
  • Ken Webster, Fellow, CISL 


Who should attend?

This Lab will convene a range of individuals who are committed to delivering systems change for sustainability. It will benefit individuals in business who are seeking to enhance their impact in wider society, including those working in management and strategy roles, those working in sustainability/ESG/CSR looking to refine their understanding of holistic and systemic change for sustainability. 


Benefits of attending 

The two-day short course is highly interactive with group discussions, practical exercises, reflection, and insights from thought leaders from business and academia. 

As a participant, you will: 

  • Unpack different types of systems and how you might encounter these in the sustainability space. 
  • Understand how metaphors can shape how you think about solutions to complex problems. 
  • Take the first steps in developing a regenerative mindset. 
  • Experiment with strategies that help redesign existing systems and designing new ones. 
  • Engage in scenario mapping for systems thinking. 
  • Participate in dialogues about industry case studies.
  • Learn about how to communicate complex challenges in sustainability in a compelling way. 
  • Reflect on your agency in driving systemic change at different scales and time horizons. 

Register your interest in attending this Lab. 

Related Links

Resource: A handbook for nature-related financial risks: key concepts and a framework for identification

Report: Rewiring leadership: The future we want, the leadership we need

Blog by Dame Polly Courtice: Reflections on stakeholder governance: catalysing sustainable value creation

Blog from Alasdair Marks, Corporate Adviser at Business in the Community about the Lab he attended on sustainable innovation

Blog from Simon Davis, Agriculture and Sustainability Development Manager, NSF International about his experience of a Lab

CISL Network


Sustainable Innovation Lab

"This Lab built well on the previous Lab that I completed, and has really given me much food for thought and ideas for action."

Head of Sustainability, Pret A Manger

Business Model Innovation Lab

"A great two-day course that surpassed my expectations, using practical tools to challenge the way we think about our own business and challenge how bold we are being in our approach and role in tackling the sustainability issues in our own supply chains."

Agriculture and Sustainability Development Manager, NSF International

Embedding Natural Capital Lab

"Very informative, stimulating and an excellent networking opportunity."

Principal Geoscientist & Operations Geologist, Energy Geoscience

Embedding Natural Capital Lab & Sustainable Innovation Lab

“The Sustainability Leadership Labs enabled me to gain a global perspective on material issues that are impacting businesses today. I left the Labs with practical tools and knowledge that could be used immediately when I returned to the office… Every lab is unique but also consistent in providing a learning experience with other practitioners that prepares you for the volatile and uncertain environment we all operate in.”

Manager, Responsible Business, Old Mutual Emerging Markets 

Sustainability Leadership, Sustainable Innovation, & Business Model Innovation Labs

"The Leadership Labs at Cambridge have been a key way for me to gain direct insights from a broad range of academic and business thought leaders, on how organisations need to adapt in order to respond to the challenges and opportunities that sustainability poses. They also provided a forum to gain wide input from a range of other organisations how my company could respond to the opportunities and challenges. These insights have been crucial to allow me to more confidently influence internally, build business case and drive meaningful  change… and these Labs have offered an effective and flexible way to build and maintain my knowledge."

Fabrics Sustainability, W.L.Gore & Associates



Dr Tom Norton, Programme Manager