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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

Transformational leadership

How can leaders develop a sustainable business in 2023?

How can leaders embrace the complexity and magnitude of this responsibility, by producing the returns required in the short term and delivering sustainable solutions for the long term?

Today’s approaches to leadership development are simply not delivering the leadership capabilities required for long-term business success. Our work shows that some leading organisations are successfully rethinking their leadership development strategy to meet the changing context, but many organisations are yet to recognise the scale of change required.

Organisations need a new form of leadership development which helps them to reframe their purpose, strategy, culture – even their fundamental approach to value creation.


CISL Insights for Leaders

Hear from global professionals tackling real-world sustainability challenges across business, policy and finance. CISL Conversations brings you thought leadership from across industries, sectors, and continents. We explore best practices, systemic risks, strategic insights, and the latest research.


Thought Leadership and Reports

Our practitioner-based sustainability reports and briefings highlight some of the best examples of sustainability leadership that have emerged over the past few years.

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Leadership case studies and impact stories

Our case studies highlight examples of sustainability leadership that have emerged over the past few years and explore new ideas and approaches that have the potential to deliver transformational change.

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CISL Conversations

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

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Leadership Webinars 

The Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) hosted a series of ‘Advancing Leadership’ webinars between March and May 2020

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Alumni stories


"With the credentials of CISL, this could well be the most successfully designed programme in the world that delivers sustainability to business management in a nutshell."

Lu-Ann Ong, Singapore Co-founder and Managing Partner, Independent Consultants 1920 LLP

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"The course gave me a firm foundation on sustainability, equipped me with up-to-date trends on how it is practised across the globe, and gave me the chance to meet passionate practitioners of sustainability and be inspired by the work they do."

Harris Albert Guevarra, Philippines President and CEO, Drink

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Short online courses in leadership

Leading Sustainability: High Impact Leadership

For professionals seeking to build skills in values driven, high impact leadership.

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Communicating for Influence and Impact

For professionals seeking to build the communication skills to achieve meaningful change.

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Women Leading Change: Shaping
Our Future

For current and aspiring leaders who are ready to lead change in organisations and society through systemic transformation.

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Watch a recording of the Women Leading Change webinar


How we work with you

Developing the right leadership skills across an organisation is not easy, but a growing body of work indicates that organisations that cultivate learning and innovation to develop these capabilities are better able to anticipate and mitigate risk and enhance productivity. More importantly, they are better able to shape their own futures and seize the opportunities inherent in aligning their activities with society’s needs and priorities. 

 Find out more about how we support orgainsations.

Our leadership programmes work with organisations and individuals to allow them to thrive in the changing business context and to support them in becoming the leaders that we need to transform our economies and deliver benefits to people, and protect our nature and climate. You can find more about CISL's position on leadership here.


Leadership development

We build the leadership capacity of individuals across disciplines to catalyse and accelerate change to deliver value within and beyond their own context.

Executive education for leaders 

Online programmes

Master's-level graduate courses

Transforming organisations 

We challenge and support organisations to raise ambition and embed net zero across their organisations. 

Customised Leadership Development


Executive coaching

We coach leaders to understand and deliver sustainable impact
at an individual, team, organisational and systemic level.

Enquiries regarding our coaching offer
can be submitted here.

Leadership and Purpose

We help leaders to respond to the most material risks to 'business as usual', to identify new opportunities for sustainable value creation , and to align their fundamental purpose and strategy with the transition to a sustainable economy. 

Organisational purpose and strategy development

Report: Leading with a sustainable purpose

Report: Unleashing the sustainable


Transforming policy & markets

We help to enable leadership across broader economic and market transitions by influencing policy, regulation, standards and opinion through our Centres:

Centre for Sustainable Finance

Accelerating solutions

We foster new enterprises, business models, technologies, products and services that promote a sustainable future.

Accelerator programmes and events

Canopy Incubator 

Step change innovation



Resources and research

Connecting with the entrepreneurial ecosystem in China

29 June 2023 - CISL’s Canopy team ran a series of collaborative workshops and meetings in Beijing, Shanghai, Guanzhou and Hong Kong to map and engage local and international stakeholders supporting sustainability innovation in China. The events were part of CISL’s Centre for Sino UK Sustainability Innovation.

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Corporate activism when the stakes are high

26 April 2023 - How traditional organisations can navigate the space of corporate activism, by Aileen Noonan, Dina Khalifa and Jennifer Howard-Grenville.

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Board Leadership - Why the diversity of your board matters so much

16 March 2023 - Diversity is critical for board leadership. This is a central plank of our point of view. But what sort of diversity? In this fourth in a series of blogs examining questions of board leadership and governance, Prof Richard Calland tries to get under the bonnet of a difficult and delicate subject.

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Q&A with CISL Director and CEO, Clare Shine

29 July 2021

July 2021 - After three months as Director and CEO of the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), Clare Shine shares her thoughts on what's next for the sustainability agenda, and the need for a collective focus on people, nature and climate.

Why the transition to net zero is business's business

8 April 2021

9 April 2021 - CISL Course Convenor Dimitri Zenghelis unpacks the three major climate change-related risks affecting organisations and illustrates the significant opportunities that will be gained from transitioning to a net zero carbon business model.

At times of profound crisis, the words we choose matter more than ever

18 January 2021

19 January 2021 – CISL Fellow and Head Tutor Zoë Arden considers how we can continue to build our capability to communicate truth and lead with courage.

Accelerating the transition to a sustainable economy in a post-Covid world: what has changed, what have we learned, and what can business do now?

18 December 2020

December 2020 – The landscape of business has been radically transformed. Discussions about business action on sustainability are now taking place against a Covid-shaped backdrop of geopolitical and economic shifts, growing – and increasingly visible – inequality, heightened awareness of systemic flaws and human vulnerability, and societal fractures and polarisation. In addition, many businesses are operating in regions with high levels of government, corporate and private debt and growing levels of unemployment.

What have we learned from 2020?

16 December 2020

18 December 2020 – Lindsay Hooper, CISL’s Executive Director, Education, asks what learnings we can take from this tumultuous year in order to lay the foundations for the future we want.

As climate change continues to wreak havoc, the world needs leaders who can inspire us all

27 November 2020

27 November 2020 – These are uncertain times to be a leader, particularly if you are in an organisation that wishes to help shape a positive future. So what can be done to have an impact? CISL Fellow Zoë Arden explores the leadership qualities and actions needed to successfully navigate today's volatile environment.

The shifting expectations of business: aligning strategy, business model and culture with a sustainable purpose

25 November 2020

November 2020 – As businesses look to transition from ‘rescue’ to ‘recovery’ now is a good time to clarify their role in delivering a resilient, low carbon, and fundamentally sustainable economy, says CISL's Director of Business Strategy Ben Kellard. How can organisations ensure that they have aligned their purpose and strategy with the transition ahead?

Leading with a sustainable purpose: Leaders’ insights for the development, alignment and integration of a sustainable corporate purpose

25 November 2020

November 2020 – This report from the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) distils shared insights into how four leading multinational companies developed, aligned and integrated a purpose and strategy to transition to a sustainable economy.

New report sets out ten principles required for business to deliver a sustainable purpose

25 November 2020

26 November 2020 – A new report from the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) captures insights from leading companies to highlight practices to integrate a sustainable purpose into organisations.

Bakkafrost - Navigating choppy waters: working with nature to produce sustainable salmon

2 November 2020

This interview was conducted by CISL’s Director of Strategy Programmes, Paul Begley, with Bakkafrost’s Chief Executive Officer, Regin Jacobsen and the Group Sustainability Lead, Ana Holden-Peters. Each year, Bakkafrost produces c.57,000 tonnes of gutted salmon, making it one of the world’s largest...

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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The Future of Boards

Find out how we are working with boards to build transformational leadership.

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Global Leadership in the Asian Century

In a fast-changing world that is increasingly influenced by Asia, this programme will provide senior leaders and decision makers with insight, understanding, capability and networks to the changing global context, in ways that will shape and enable a sustainable future.

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