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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

The Sustainability Leadership Labs are two-day immersive workshops hosted in Cambridge, providing the latest thinking and skills development in key sustainability topics. You can sign up for updates to upcoming Labs here.  

Read more about previous Labs we have run below: 

Systems thinking

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


  • Nora Bateson, President, International Bateson Institute
  • Dr Tanja Collavo, Senior Teaching Associate, Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership
  • 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, Programme Manager, Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership
  • 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, Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership

Collaboration and Partnering for Sustainability

This Lab helped individuals understand what it takes to establish impactful collaborations and partnerships to address the most pressing challenges and opportunities facing business and society. The Lab explored a variety of aspects relating to collaborations and partnerships including, different forms and functions, pitfalls and myths, tools and methods available to support, as well as how success and impact can be measured.


  • Ken Caplan, Director, Partnerships in Practice
  • Yiannis Chrysostomidis, Principal, Reos Partners
  • Dr Kayla Friedman, Programme Director, University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership
  • Karen Goldberg, Senior Consultant, Reos Partners
  • Dr Theo Hacking, Director, Postgraduate Programmes, University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership
  • Ambika Jindal, Lead, Valuing Water Initiative, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs 
  • Mahmood Sonday, Director, Reos Partners
  • Leda Stott, Specialist: Partnership and Sustainable Development
  • Laurens van Zelst, Senior Business Development Manager, Eneco
  • Camila Zelezoglo, International Negotiations Coordinator, Brazilian Textile and Apparel Industry Association – ABIT

Accelerating Sustainable FiAccelerating Sustainable Finance

This two-day workshop was designed for individuals working in or with the finance industry and seeking to enhance their impact on wider society. Participants left the course with a broader understanding of the risks and opportunities faced by finance in the transition to a sustainable economy, and with an action plan on how they could use that understanding to shape their role and organisation.


  • Lucy Auden, Senior Programme Manager, University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership
  • Ian Ellison, Senior Associate, University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership
  • Dr Paul Fisher, Fellow, University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (Keynote speaker)
  • Dr Kayla Friedman, Programme Director, University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership
  • Dr Theo Hacking, Director, Graduate Education, University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership
  • Rishi Madlani, Head of Sustainable Finance & Just Transition, Natwest
  • Dr Judith Plummer Braeckman, Senior Research Associate, University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership
  • Kaisie Rayner, Climate Change Lead, Royal London Group
  • Dr Nina Seega, Research Director for Sustainable Finance, University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership
  • James Vaccaro, Executive Director, RePattern 
  • Thomas Vergunst, Programme Director, University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership
  • Nick Villiers, Director of Sustainable Finance, University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership 

Circular Economy previousBusiness Model Innovation for the Circular Economy

Participants in this two-day course learned how to use cutting-edge business model innovation tools to discover how to transform a business to deliver uncaptured and sustainable value throughout the lifecycle, and design value propositions for the stakeholders in their business networks.

Is your business getting the full benefit of the value you are creating for customers and other stakeholders?

Could your current business model be actively destroying value and ultimately affecting the organisation's ability to capture value in the long run?

How do you identify resource synergies that will enable circular business models?

Answers to these questions were explored during the workshop, through the business model innovation tools, industry case studies and insights from leading research on the circular economy.


  • Ian Bamford, Commercial Director, Centre for Industrial Sustainability, University of Cambridge
  • Professor Fiona Charnley, Professor, University of Exeter
  • Dr Mélanie Despeisse, Assistant Professor at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden
  • Professor Steve Evans, Director of Research in Industrial Sustainability, Institute for Manufacturing and Director of the Centre for Industrial Sustainability at the Institute for Manufacturing, University of Cambridge
  • Warrick Matthews, Chief Procurement Officer, Rolls-Royce plc
  • Dr Alicia Valero Delgado, Head of the industrial ecology group at Instituto CIRCE, Universidad de Zaragoza
  • Dr Doroteya Vladimirova, Senior Research Associate, Institute for Manufacturing, University of Cambridge
  • Ken Webster, Director, IS4CE
  • Dr Miying Yang, Reader in Sustainability, Cranfield University

PlasticThe Plastics challenge: a business opportunity

The Plastics Challenge Lab provided business leaders and decision-makers with an opportunity to hear from leading academic and industry experts about the latest directions in research and policy and emerging trends in industry. Participants worked with peers in facilitated discussions to consider the implications of global plastic-related challenges for various business sectors and to identify potential commercial opportunities in supply chains and end-user markets.

During the two-day course, delegates participated in the following:

  • Learning about social and environmental concerns and the emerging policies, targets and drivers for change
  • Gaining insight into how leading businesses are responding to the plastics challenge
  • Evaluating the challenges and commercial opportunities facing their own organisations in realising a more sustainable use of plastics
  • Exploring transition pathways for their organisations, supply chain and end-user markets.


  • Beverly Cornaby, Programme Manager in Policy, CISL, University of Cambridge
  • Dr Claire Barlow, Senior Lecturer, Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge
  • Nick Brown, Head of Sustainability (Europe), Coca-Cola
  • Paula Chin, Sustainable Materials Specialist - WWF-UK
  • Professor Jennifer Howard-Grenville, Diageo Reader in Management Studies, Cambridge Judge Business School
  • Susan Jay, Sector Specialist Circular Economy WRAP Cymru
  • Jon Khoo, Innovation Partner, Interface Inc.
  • Marianne Matthews, Senior Inspirational Business Manager, Sky UK Ltd

LeadershipRewiring leadership for high impact

This Lab invited participants to develop a shared vision for ambitious leadership that drives the change needed to reconcile commercial success with wider societal outcomes. In identifying the key leadership dilemmas faced in such transformation, the Lab explored the values, thinking and practice needed to achieve meaningful impact, grappling with key questions such as:

  • How should we define leadership ‘impact’ so that it reflects the most urgent challenges facing the economy, society and the environment?
  • What role does ‘purpose’ play at an individual and organisational level in achieving that impact?
  • What knowledge and skills are needed to maximise leadership impact?
  • How can we build collective capacity for change beyond a single ‘hero’ leader
  • How can leaders remain adaptive, innovative and resilient as they navigate complex dilemmas and challenges?


  • Dame Jo da Silva, Director, Arup International Development
  • Zoë Arden, Fellow, Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership
  • Matt Bell, Corporate Affairs Leader
  • Elspeth Donovan, Deputy Director, South Africa Office, Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership
  • Dr Louise Drake, Academic Tutor and Course Director, Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership
  • Patricia Dwyer, Founder & Director, The Purpose Business
  • Dr Matthew Grimes, Reader In Organisational Theory And Information Systems, Cambridge Judge Business School
  • Dr Victoria Hurth, Senior Associate, Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership
  • Lysa John, Secretary General, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  • Andreas Lambropoulos, Head of Strategic Initiatives, BNP Paribas
  • Will O’Connor, Commercial Director, Vision Express
  • Ragil Ratnam, Leader Advisor & Executive Coach, Pure Growth Asia
  • Dr Alexandra Stubbings, Managing Director, Talik & Company Ltd


Download our report Rewiring leadership: The future we want, the leadership we need.

Circular economyCircular Economy: Introductory concepts and making the business case

The two-day course explored the fundamental concepts relating to the circular economy and addressed the key elements of the business case, with a focus on the financial analysis. It also offered the opportunity to practise making the business case in an organisational context. Case studies were also presented by corporates leading in work on the circular economy.


  • Gary Punter, former Head of Technology, AB Sugar
  • Ian Ellison, former Chief Engineer – Sustainability, Jaguar Land Rover
  • Professor Khaled Soufani, Director Executive MBA, Director Circular Economy Centre (CEC), Director Middle East Research Centre (MERC)
  • Dr Dai Morgan, Deputy Course Director, MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development, Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge
  • Gavin Warner, Director, Sustainable Business, Unilever

Innovate 250Innovation for Resilience and Market Access

Constraints are sometimes viewed as an impediment to innovation; however, they can also serve as catalysts for creative solutions by incentivising action in anticipation of future resource supply constraints or disruptions or changing customer needs and expectations.

The Innovation Lab explored how today’s fast changing and global context is introducing both challenges and opportunities for businesses, and the crucial role that innovation plays in building resilience, accessing new markets and contributing to social development.


  • Dr Melissa Barrett, Strategy Consultant, Accenture
  • Mike Barry, former Director Plan A, Marks & Spencer
  • Munish Datta, former Head of Plan A & Facilities Management, Marks & Spencer
  • Dr Bernhard Dusch, Professor, Stuttgart Media University for Applied Sciences
  • Dr Greg Lavery, Founder, Rype Office
  • Dax Lovegrove, Global Vice President Corporate Sustainability & Social Responsibility, SwarovskiElisa Moscolin, Group CSR and Sustainability Manager, Santander
  • Professor Jaideep Prabhu, Professor of Indian Business & Enterprise, Cambridge Judge Business School
  • Aleyn Smith-Gillespie, Associate Director, The Carbon Trust


Major projectsSustainability in Projects

The infrastructure that supports our modern lifestyles has been established, and continues to expand, via the construction of major projects. Such projects provide the roads, railways, factories, mines, power stations and buildings that deliver the transport, food, water, energy, raw materials, products, and constructions that we need. This short course offered participants a forum in which to explore ways of improving the tools and mechanisms needed to integrate sustainability into their projects.


  • Dr Alan Bond, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Management, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia
  • Professor Peter Guthrie OBE, Professor of Engineering for Sustainable Development, Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge
  • Dr Don Lloyd, Global Managing Partner - Oil & Gas, ERM
  • Professor Angus Morrison-Saunders, Associate Professor, Environmental and Conservation Sciences, Murdoch University
  • Dr Jenny Pope, Director, Integral Sustainability
  • Elizabeth Wild, former Social Responsibility Director, BP International 

WheatEmbedding Natural Capital 

It is common practice for businesses to perform sustainability reporting for corporate and regulatory purposes; however, businesses that want to be more progressive, create competitive advantage and demonstrate their positive impacts on the environment are going beyond corporate reporting and using natural capital approaches to leverage business opportunities and inform decisions.

The focus of this Lab is the systematic use of data and decision tools that provide businesses with insight into their impacts and dependencies on natural capital. The workshop will explore how businesses can review the impact of their operations and supply chains on natural capital to achieve a better-informed strategy, commercial savings through increased efficiency, and a language with which to communicate benefits to external audiences.


  • Ian Ellison, former Chief Engineer – Sustainability, Jaguar Land Rover
  • Dr Stephanie Hime, Director, Little Blue Research
  • Tony Juniper, CBE, Fellow, CISL
  • Paul Murphy, CEO, Jordans and Ryvita Company
  • Laura Plant, Sustainability and Climate Change Consultant, PWC
  • Chris Plester, Senior Sustainability Adviser, National Grid
  • Lizzie Rendell, Environmental Advisor, Skanska
  • James Spurgeon, Director, Sustain Value 

In search of impactIn Search of Impact: Measuring and Communicating Your Contribution to the SDGs 

Governments across the world agreed to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), creating significant opportunities for companies to tap into new markets and contribute to society.  In order to take advantage of this, businesses must better understand, quantify and communicate its social and environmental impact. This Sustainability Leadership Lab will explore how companies and investors can identify the key impacts of their operations and investment products, quantify and communicate on their contribution to the SDGs to key stakeholders in a compelling way.


  • Paul Crewe, Head of Sustainability, Energy, Engineering & Environment, Sainsbury's
  • Gail Klintworth, Director (Business Transformation), Business and Sustainable Development Commission
  • Elisa Moscolin, Group CSR and Sustainability Manager, Santander
  • Will Oulton, Head of Responsible Investment, First State Investments
  • Professor Jaideep Prabhu, Professor of Marketing, Cambridge Judge Business School
  • Miguel Veiga-Pestana, Senior Vice-President, Corporate Communications & External Affairs, Reckitt Benckiser
  • Dominic Vergine, Director of Sustainable Development, ARM

Suggested Future Lab Topics

All topics for the Sustainability Leadership Laboratories cover at least two of the following topics:

  • Sustainability Challenges
  • The Business Case for Action
  • Leadership for Sustainability
  • Employment & Operational Practices
  • Cooperation, Collaboration & Partnerships
  • Sustainable Production & Consumption
  • Sustainable Design & Technology
  • Government Policy & Regulations
  • Sustainable Finance & Investment
  • Business Models, Strategy & Corporate Governance
  • International Governance
  • Communication, Advocacy & Education
  • Corporate Philanthropy

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