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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership

Leadership hub

Business in 2022 is operating in a complex, uncertain and constantly changing context. From digital transformation, the impact of the global pandemic, and the urgency to deliver a more inclusive and resilient society, to the vital need to preserve limited resources and protect nature and our environment, leaders bear the brunt of this accountability. 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.


Women Leading Change: Shaping our future

University of Cambridge Women Leading Change: Shaping Our Future Online Short Course


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.  We work in collaboration with you to understand your markets, business, culture and most importantly your leadership development needs. Together we agree learning and impact objectives that will enable your leaders to develop the capacity to deliver stakeholder value that delivers for society in the long term and protects nature and climate. We design and deliver a unique learning experience for your leaders that builds their cognitive and emotional capacity to deliver positive change. Find out more about how we support orgainsations.

Our experience working with leaders over 30 years shows that with the right leadership, learning culture and interventions we can enable employees and organisations to lead with purpose and high impact. Our global leadership programmes are designed to help companies and individuals deliver commercial performance through contributing positively to society and the environment. 

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.

CISL's online programmes support
individuals keen to build their insight, capability and peer network. Delivered over
8 weeks, entirely online, courses are design to align ambition and skill sets around core areas of sustainable business. These part-time courses offer expert insight, high
levels of interactivity and a supported learning experience to achieve measurable outcomes. 

Our Master's-level graduate courses in sustainablility leadership help emerging leaders to develop their skills and their
ability to influence change

Transforming organisations 

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

Our Customised Leadership
Development Courses
are bespoke to
your community of leaders/high potential leaders. We apply the most appropriate methodology/ approach to maxmimize
impact including expert practitioner and academic input, peer group learning, experiential and immersion experiences,
live project work and one to one executive coaching. 

The Centre for Business Transformation develops new thinking and solutions to enable business to play a transformative role towards a sustainable economy.



Accelerating solutions

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

Our Accelerator programmes and events support SMEs and entrepreneurs with high impact potential to to deliver impact and scale with their innovative interventions for a sustainable economy.

Our Canopy Incubator is a collaborative ecosystem providing the space, support and networks for sustainability innovators to thrive and grow. 

We assist our clients in achieving step change innovation across products, process and business models



Executive coaching


We coach leaders to understand and deliver sustainable impact at an individual, team, organisational and systemic level.
We deliver one to one coaching either as an integrated part of our leadership
development programmes or for individuals wishing to accelerate their impact. 

Our coaches encourage the executives they work with to safely express the challenges and confusions they perceive in leading
their organisations and wider organisational systems in positively impacting on the sustainability of the planet, particularly on climate change, the restoration of nature,
and the communities in which they operate, and to work through those challenges and confusions effectively.

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. Find
out more.

The 'Leading with a sustainable purpose' report distils shared insights into how four leading multinational companies developed, aligned and integrated a
purpose and strategy to transition to a sustainable economy.

The 'Unleashing the sustainable
business' papers
look at how purpose-driven approach to business, embedded throughout leadership and organisation culture, is the optimum route to create a durable, equitable and sustainable future.



Transforming policy & markets

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

The Centre for Policy and Industrial Transformation develops high impact, systemic solutions to drive policy and industrial change towards a sustainable economy.

The Centre for Sustainable Finance helps financial institutions to play a leading role in building a more sustainable economy.



Resources and research

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...

Fatima might just get us out of this mess (she just doesn’t know it yet)

30 October 2020

30 October 2020 – In her latest blog, Dr Louise Drake reflects on the contributions of the arts and humanities to leadership, making the case that society must continue to value the academic disciplines that nurture diversity in how we see, process and engage with the world around us.

Exploring the multiple contributions of the arts and humanities to leadership

28 October 2020

October 2020 – This working paper summarises three emerging narratives about the distinctive contribution of the arts and humanities to leadership.

Human activity on the planet has deafened us to messages from nature. The pandemic has caused a pause in the noise. But will we listen?

23 June 2020

June 2020 – As Covid-19 recovery plans are developed, Dame Polly Courtice, Director of the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), reflects upon the need for a new contract to be negotiated between business, government and society. One that is built not just upon the resilience of our businesses and financial systems, but of the societies and nature upon whom we unequivocally depend.

Women Leading Change: Shaping
Our Future

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

Find out more

Leading Sustainability: High Impact Leadership

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

Find out more

Communicating for Influence and Impact

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

Find out more

Leadership Lab: Rewiring Leadership for High Impact

In this 2-day seminar delivered both in person and online, participants will develop a shared vision for ambitious leadership to drive the change needed to reconcile commercial success with wider societal outcomes.

Find out more

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.

Find out more

Finding and developing leaders will be a key driver for success across business, government and finance. Here are insights from some of the companies and individuals we work with that are taking action on this agenda.

CISL Conversationswe draw fascinating insights and best practice examples from organisations across all industries striving for a sustainable economy

Impact stories: we gather insights from the companies we work with that are taking leadership on this agenda.

Alumni stories: hear from delegates who have been empowered to develop their own leadership skills through our flagship online programme, Business Sustainability Management.