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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)


Our experience developing leaders over 30 years shows that with the right learning culture and interventions we can enable employees and organisations to lead with purpose and high impact, delivering commercial performance through contributing positively to society and the environment.  

We believe that organisations need individuals at all levels across the organisation who are collectively:

Aware of themselves and the world around them and able to leverage this insight to optimise their performance:

  • Aware of their fundamental psychology and personal values, how these shape the way they see the world and how these affect the way they engage with others. Able to use these insights to address their blindspots and biases, leverage strengths and become more effective.
  • Thoughtful of their leadership practice, able to seek feedback and adjust their decision-making, behaviours and communications. Able to use this insight to develop what is needed and let go of what isn’t to deliver the required results.
  • Open and curious to review and update their worldview to reflect changes in the broad social, environmental and economic system. Able to use this insight to make decisions and be willing to ‘unlearn’ previous legacy assumptions and practices.

Purposeful, values led and courageous:

  • Clear about the purpose of their leadership. Able to connect this with their organisation’s purpose to deliver positive impact for society.
  • Able to lead in ways that are congruent with their own values and those of their organisation.
  • Sensitive and courageous in addressing ethical dilemmas.
  • Willing to be bold in leading progress where there is no previous experience or road map and to sustain personal resilience in challenging contexts.


  • Able to nurture ‘big picture’ thinking about the whole system to navigate complexity and identify intervention points, enablers and collaborators to catalyse change across and beyond the organisation.
  • Able to inspire and engage others to shape change and achieve ambitious progress through powerful communication skills, dialogue and embracing diversity of perspectives.


  • Able to innovate and co-create solutions with clients, peers and partners to create commercial value aligned to the delivery of positive impact for society and the environment.  


  • Has the drive, commitment and tenacity to get things done, alongside the wisdom to understand critical windows of opportunity. Holds themselves and others accountable for driving change at the pace and scale required.

Getting this right is not easy, but a growing body of work indicates that organisations which cultivate learning and innovation to develop these leadership capabilities are better able to anticipate and mitigate risk and enhance productivity. They are better able to shape their own futures and to seize the commercial opportunities inherent in aligning their business with society’s needs and priorities.