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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

Business transformation for a sustainable future

Businesses are central to the global sustainability transition. At the same time, the role, the contributions and impact of businesses in society are coming under growing scrutiny.

Despite attempts to extend the life of unsustainable business-as-usual products and services, current approaches often lack the necessary mindsets, tools and mechanisms to enable businesses to respond to intensifying systemic shocks and pressures. As a result, even ambitious organisations that seek to lead are unclear on how best to deliver effective, sustainable solutions across markets and supply chains.

There is an urgent need to address this challenge. Over the next decade, companies will need to align their purpose, governance, culture, leadership and strategy with long-term value creation for society to motivate their people and thrive commercially as sustainable businesses. To achieve this, they will have to adopt transformational practices and organisational innovations and implement ambitious strategies and programmes for change. As well as transforming internal practices and mindsets, businesses will also need to engage externally to create the enabling conditions that scale sustainable value propositions.

Activating leadership and action in influential organisations

In an era of disruptions, polarisation, complexity and increasingly intricate sustainability debates, the core business case for sustainability remains clear and enduring: business cannot thrive on a planet in peril.

Find out how CISL works with organisations, enabling them to transform themselves to achieve long term value creation and resilience.


What we do

Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) has played a key role in shaping the principles and practices businesses need to make this transformation. We will provide you with the knowledge, skills and tools to enable you to deliver transformational change and impact.


Business Transformation in Principle

Read our ‘Unleashing the sustainable business’ paper series to understand the foundational principles of a purpose-led
sustainable business that delivers long-term wellbeing of all
people and planet. These reports informed CISL’s contribution to
the first ever standard for a sustainable purpose-led organisation.

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Business Transformation in Practice

Try our practical Business Transformation Framework to assess your organisation’s progress towards a sustainable purpose led organisation and inform your goals and transformation journey. This is informed by leading practice from across our business network and Leading with a sustainable purpose report.

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Business Transformation in Action for Climate

Check out our Net Zero Strategic Framework if you are just
starting out to decarbonise your business operations and, for
those already on the journey, our Net Zero Business Transformation Framework to accelerate change in an era of turbulence and complexity.

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Business Transformation in Action for Nature 

Use our nature strategy diagnostic tool to understand nature-based solutions and inform your decision-making to operate in a nature positive world. Our other resources and case studies highlight examples of actions and approaches to regenerate and restore nature.  

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Business Transformation in Action for People

Read our ‘Business, justice and the new global economy’ report to help your business incorporate considerations of justice into
decision-making. Many of our Fellows research topics that explore how businesses can benefit people.

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Upskilling leaders to deliver business transformation

With a deep understanding of the changing global context and access to a wealth of world-leading research into sustainable business, our programmes draw upon leading academics, practitioners and innovators to help inform business strategy and inspire action.

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Short online courses for business

Governance for a Sustainable

For professionals seeking to unleash transformative change by leading with sustainability-aligned decision-making.

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Business and Social Justice

For business owners, individuals, and professionals wanting to deepen their understanding of the structural roots
of social injustice and how business can
lead the way to transformational change..

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Business and Climate Change

For professionals looking to combat climate change and build business models that are resilient to, and profitable in, the low
carbon, resource-efficient economy of the twenty-first century.

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Business Sustainability

For professionals wanting to act as an
agent for positive change and lead sustainability across an organisation.

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How we work with businesses

Our work with businesses over the last 30 years indicates that in many instances, even when leadership teams are enthusiastic and energised about their role in delivering a sustainable future, it is unclear what they need to do, how they should prioritise tasks, and which stakeholders they need to engage in order to be most effective.

We help individual organisations to find specific answers, develop scalable solutions to common business challenges that push the boundaries of leading practice, and help companies measure and optimise their impact and value to society.

  • Diagnose where they are on their transition, where they need to get to and how they can accelerate change. 
  • Support companies integrate sustainability in their strategies in order to align with a net zero carbon transition, address inequalities and social justice, and protect and restore nature. 
  • Design and implement sustainable business transformation programmes to leverage strategy, people and technology towards becoming a sustainable business. 
  • Develop and pilot innovative commercial approaches and solutions across value chains to address specific risks and opportunities.

Find out more about how we work with businesses


Resources and reports

The knowledge diversity blind spot impacting the 'S' of ESG

23 April 2024

Updated 23 April 2024 - Business intelligence that seeks to promote the social dimension of ESG needs to engage with the diversity and wealth of knowledge that emerges from the human behind the data.

CISL’s Business Transformation Framework Preliminary Diagnostic

12 October 2023

October 2023 – This report introduces a diagnostic tool that sets out 12 enablers presented onto four organisational typologies, distinguished by different levels of alignment to sustainability and purpose, against which businesses can self-assess.

How is business responsible for (re-)defining consumer values in a rapidly changing world?

12 September 2023

15 September 2023 – Beth Knight explores the influence of business in shaping consumers’ worldviews and their responsibility to drive change.

How do supermarkets support community wellbeing? A study update and overview of the latest trends

7 September 2023

11 September 2023 - Caroline Lee and Dr Catherine Hammant, part of CISL’s Foresight team, discuss the changing initiatives offered by supermarkets to support community wellbeing as a response to the tougher economic conditions felt by their customers, staff, suppliers and local areas.

Whose business is social justice?

21 August 2023

1 September 2023 - In the context of global warming, social justice calls for a rethink on how 'business as usual' breaches the boundaries of Earth's systems that preserve life and wellbeing and what that means for the most marginalised.

The Power and Potential of Marketing's Brainprint

25 July 2023

27 July 2023 - CISL Director, Commercial Reach & Influence - Charlie Thompson - introduces marketing’s brainprint.

Decision Making in a Nature-Positive World: Nature-based Solutions for sectors

4 July 2022

7 July 2022 – CISL has published four sector-specific business briefings that outline the challenges and actions needed to implement nature-based solutions projects. The sectors include: Water, Finance, Food and Beverage, and Built Environment and Linear Infrastructure.

Modelling nature-positive agriculture and land management: Case studies

13 June 2022

13 June 2022 – Two new regenerative nature project models from CISL, the East of England Landscape Enterprise Network , and Poole Harbour Nutrient Management Scheme offer blueprints for land management that supports improved biodiversity and water quality through more sustainable agriculture.

Payments for Net Zero: How the payments industry can contribute to the transition to a net zero economy

28 October 2021

28 October 2021 - This business briefing explores the potential role and opportunities for payments networks in the transition to a net zero economy.

Community Health Enquiry

20 September 2021

September 2021 – This working paper summarises insights from pioneering interventions that promote community mental health.

Advisory Services

Find out how we help organisations build long-term resilience, gain competitive advantage and identify new opportunities
for value creation aligned with a transition to a sustainable economy.

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A community of impact-led startups, entrepreneurs and small businesses accelerating solutions to global sustainability challenges.

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CISL Conversations

Hear from global professionals tackling real-world sustainability challenges across business, policy and finance.

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