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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership

As 2021 draws to a close, here we reflect on the impact we have delivered with our clients, partners and network during this whirlwind of a year. It has been a significant year for CISL, full of energy, change and momentum. Here are just a few of the highlights:

We welcomed our new Director and CEO

We welcomed our new CEO, Clare Shine and said farewell to our Founder Director Dame Polly Courtice, celebrating her many years of leadership. “I am honoured to step into the role,” said Clare. “CISL has a distinguished record of shaping the sustainability agenda with and through business. It has played a fundamental role on climate transition and decarbonisation and inspired thousands through its outstanding educational programmes.

Countdown to Entopia

We began the public countdown to the opening of  CISL’s new headquarters, the Entopia Building, a world-leading example of an ultra-sustainable retrofit. The building will become CISL's new home in Cambridge as well as a virtual hub for its international offices and its global Network.  It will also host The Canopy; an Accelerator and Sustainability Hub which will support innovative startups and small businesses. 

New education programmes and more flexibility for learners

We saw the expansion of CISL’s education programmes which have enabled more changemakers than ever to lead systemic change within and outside their organisations, including more than 8000 students who joined our online programmes. We expanded the Prince of Wales Business and Sustainability Programme to include a new Singapore seminar which will help leaders in Asia address the global challenges and also introduced new progression routes for our cross sectoral postgraduate programme in sustainable business. We also launched a unique multi-faceted three-year partnership with Chanel, which combines tailored sustainability education programmes, innovative operational projects, and scholarships focused on driving greater inclusion.

New initiatives from CISL’s Accelerator to support startups

CISL delivered three new accelerator programmes which have helped more than 60 startups to develop their businesses proposition and strengthen their impact potential. The Accelerator team also delivered a CISL first, through our Hackathon for the British Antarctic Survey, which unearthed innovative new approaches to achieve net zero when working in one of the most extreme environments on Earth.  At COP26 CISL joined BSR and the We Mean Business Coalition for the launch of Climate Fit, a new free online course to help small and medium businesses take climate action. CISL were also proud to be one of the official nominators for the inaugural Earthshot Prize, which aims to incentivise change and help repair our planet over the next ten years.


Campaigns to drive transformative action for people, nature and climate

AchievingZero and COP26

Our campaign #AchievingZero  is helping leaders and organisations prepare for a net zero future. It was our flagship campaign at COP26, where CISL was proud to host a number of events asking what actions are needed from business, finance and policy sectors to keep 1.5 degrees of warming in our sights. You can catch up on our activities from COP26 here, which includes summaries of the major pledges and agreements that happened in week 1 and week 2 and the reactions of our Policy Director, Eliot Whittington and Research Director for Sustainable Finance, Dr Nina Seega to the Glasgow Climate Pact


We marked the first part of the Kunming Nature COP with a #NaturePositive campaign, which included the launch of a new Nature Hub setting out our work with partners to achieve a nature-positive future and new nature blogs reflecting on Kunming negotiations, internal business barriers to nature based solutions (NbS) and the role of financial institutions in preventing nature loss. 


With a reputation as one of the most environmentally burdensome industries which also has a fundamental opportunity to support healthy and resilient societies, CISL’s campaign #BuildingChange aims to support the built environment sector find a way to lead the transition to a sustainable economy.  


New thinking & tools to activate change in companies, sectors and supply chains

This year our  businesspolicy and finance sector engagement has continued to unlock ambitious action at scale. CISL has published nearly 40 publications, exploring new ideas and approaches that have the potential to deliver transformational change.

This year we launched the Aviation Impact Accelerator (AIA). Led by CISL’s Centre for Policy and Industrial Transformation and the Whittle Laboratory it aims to build an interactive evidence-based simulator to enable the exploration of scenarios for achieving net zero flight. 

Alongside developing insights from the business community that can help support stronger climate action, CISL’s Corporate Leaders Groups have been calling on the UK and EU for ambitious climate action at key moments throughout the year. This includes a letter from CLG UK to the UK Prime Minster (pre-COP) to deliver coherent climate strategy in countdown to COP26 and (post-COP) to implement the Glasgow Climate Pact. CLG Europe has also carried out regular reactions and analysis on the EU’s Fit for 55 Package, setting out proposals against the 10 principles in a business letter to EU leaders

CISL’s Centre for Business Transformation launched the Business Transformation Group , a new collaborative leadership group of forward-looking international businesses to help companies set a truly sustainable business path across key areas such as nature, climate, circular economy and inequality. The Centre also launched a new report series, Unleashing the sustainable business which explores why a purpose-driven approach to business is the optimum route to create a durable, equitable and sustainable future.

CISL’s Centre for Sustainable Finance has been helping financial institutions to play a leading role in building a more sustainable economy. At COP it published a new paper urging policymakers, financial regulators and industry to expand risk sharing systems  at scale to tackle the Climate Emergency. CISL’s Investment Leaders Group published new reports to help investors better  understand the climate performance of investment funds and CISL’s Banking Environment Initiative published a new guide to bank-client engagement, which aims to address the need for a market-wide transformation in how banks and their corporate clients interact. The Centre also provided commentary and analysis at key moments including the launch of the EU's sustainable finance strategy and The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review.

Working with inspirational leaders, forward looking organisations, our partners and staff we have achieved so many great things this year. While 2022 will be another year impacted by the climate and environmental crisis, and the ongoing challenge of the pandemic, we have a great opportunity to further our collective impact to call out tomorrow, accelerate global change, and rewire our economic systems in pursuit of better outcomes for everyone. 

Read more news from CISL here



lmer, Senior Media Advisor

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Director of Communications  

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