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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

Transformational leadership

21st Century leadership - how can leaders develop a sustainable business in 2024?

We need leadership with the ability to navigate complexity and ambiguity. To establish the right conditions for individuals, teams, and organisations to take accountability and innovate to create value through sustainable solutions. To deliver for the long-term whilst producing the returns required in the short term.   

Leadership needs to understand what actions are most critical to deliver a sustainable future (CISL’s Rewiring the Economy and Business Transformation Framework cover key areas). Leadership also needs to embrace the inner capabilities and capacity required to influence and progress these actions individually and collectively across systems. Our work shows that some leading organisations are successfully rethinking their leadership development strategy to meet this changing context, but many organisations are yet to recognise the scale of change required for long-term business success

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


CISL Insights for Leaders


Leadership for a sustainable future Framework

CISL have developed a framework that embraces the ultimate purpose of leadership - to deliver a sustainable future, with business/organisational success being an essential means to deliver this goal.

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CISL’s Business Transformation Framework

This practical diagnostic tool sets out 12 key enablers presented onto four organisational typologies, distinguished by different levels of alignment to sustainability and purpose, against which businesses can self-assess.

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Future of Boards Research Phase 1

The Future of Boards research has identified key trends influencing board practice, provides practical, evidence-based, internationally relevant insights and recommendations. They are designed to support boards and the business they lead to strategically navigate the multiplying risks and opportunities and respond appropriately.

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How we work with you

Developing the right leadership skills and capabilities 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. 

Our leadership programmes work with organisations and individuals to allow them to thrive in the changing business context and to support them to develop the leadership 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 capabilities for the 21st Century

The leadership lab taking place in October 2024 is a chance for
you to explore leadership within and beyond your organisation to develop the mindsets and practices for a sustainable future.  

 Register your interest


Open application programmes for leaders 

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

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Executive coaching to support you to deliver impact

Our team of executive coaches are experienced to support you as you lead change to transition and transform your board, your leadership, your team or your organisation. 

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We invite you to engage with us to stress test the leadership framework in your organisation as part of our research.   

Find out how to engage


Transforming organisations 

We challenge and support organisations to raise ambition and address the challenges and opportunities of sustainability.

Customise leadership and strategy programmes

Accelerating solutions

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

Innovation for small businesses



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



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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Resources and research

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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