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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

Gillian Secrett and CISL Fellow, Zoë Arden

21 June 2024 - On the 21st May, Foresight's Director of Leadership and Culture, Gillian Secrett, and CISL Fellow, Zoë Arden delivered the keynote at the 3rd Business and Society symposium organised by UCB (Veronique Toully, Charline Desmecht) and the Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management (Bruno van Pottelsberghe and Estelle Cantillon).

Gillian and Zoë talked about the leadership capabilities we need for the 21st century and presented the Leadership framework published by Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, co-authored by Gillian Secrett, Zoë Arden and Dr. Louise Drake.

They presented the framework and its practical application of leadership as a dynamic, collective and creative process of influence that shapes behaviour and organisational culture. Leadership capabilities that enable accountability, organisational performance success, and the delivery of value, in service of a sustainable future. It brings together the significance of purpose, and the relational nature of leadership expressed as four principles, connected, collaborative, creative and courageous; influenced by specific place and context.

The multi-stakeholder group at the symposium engaged in a thought-provoking dialogue around the mindsets and practice required of leadership in the 21st century and had the opportunity to stress test the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), Leadership framework.

Small group discussions  explored the Leadership framework’s application in four inspiring case studies of successful transformation pathways implemented by Enabel, led by Jean Van Wetter; Veolia, led by Fanny Demulier; European Investment Bank (EIB), led by Juan Manuel Sterlin Balenciaga; LIFE BE FREE partnership, led by Wim De Geest, Climate project manager at VVSG, Anne-Laure Lejeune, SME and Sustainability advisor at Embuild, Daniel Kryszkiewiez, Senior Counsel Retail Credit at Febelfin.

Paul Van Oyen, Chairman of What’s Cooking Group, inspired the symposium attendees with his own reflections and perspectives on leadership which reinforced the purpose and key capabilities drawn out in the CISL Leadership framework.

The wisdom shared in the powerful case studies presented together with the insights and examples from the lived experience of those present, will help to inform and contribute to an evidence base of examples that demonstrate the application of our leadership framework in practice. The workshops helped to highlight key elements, barriers and enablers as well as areas that might need further focus as we work to further refine the framework and how it can be used to develop leadership capabilities and influence culture in practice.

Reflecting on their initial thoughts and take-aways from the congress Gillian said “Our first impression was around the power and impact of effective collaboration in practice, the important role of leadership, and the influence of place and context.  The overriding significance of courage and resilience was highlighted as key to move things forward, and in an open and transparent way to build trust and collective agency to act”. 

Zoe Arden added, “Another essential requirement highlighted was the overriding need to ensure collaborations are truly diverse, inclusive and multi-stakeholder in their composition. To increase this moving forward we explored other types of stakeholders we might consider, such as younger people, elders, civil society, refugees and more in terms of diversity of thought, lived experience and of course geography.”

We invite you to engage with us as we further explore pioneering leadership with individuals and progressive organisations, to see how the purpose and principles within this framework are manifested in different organisations and places, building a database of case studies and further evidence to refining our thinking .

Click here if you are interested in joining a two-day residential Leadership Lab in October 2024 to discuss this work and its application in your organisation.

We are seeking funding for follow up research activities.  Please get in touch directly if you are interested in engaging with us over this work:

Access the Leadership Framework.


Zoe Kalus, Head of Media  

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