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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. 

Find out more about our courses


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

Leadership for sustainability: Where is the hope?

15 September 2015

September 2015 – As another academic year commences, Dr Louise Drake, Deputy Course Director for the Master’s in Sustainability Leadership, reflects on the challenges and rewards of learning to be a sustainability leader.

Rewiring the Economy: Ten tasks, ten years

23 June 2015

July 2015, Updated November 2017 – Rewiring the Economy is CISL’s ten-year plan to lay the foundations for a sustainable economy. It is built on ten interconnected tasks, delivered by leaders across business, government and finance. Rewiring shows how these tasks can be tackled co-operatively to build an economy that encourages sustainable business practices, delivering the social and environmental progress demanded by the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Should investment in Africa consider sustainability?

11 May 2015

August 2015 – A comparison between South African and Chinese business experiences. This exploratory working paper considers how foreign investment by Chinese companies could be used to promote strategic leadership around sustainability in South Africa.

UK political leaders show climate leadership

17 February 2015

UK political leaders show climate leadership Eliot Whittington 18 February 2015 This Valentine’s Day the main political leaders in the UK took a break from electioneering to ' show the love ' and sign a joint statement reaffirming their commitment to work across political dividing lines to fight...

Sustainability: The Leadership Challenge

12 January 2015

November 2014 – How do you solve a problem like climate change? There is no easy answer, and while business leaders are increasingly recognising the gravity of the problem, they often find themselves powerless to make a real impact beyond their own organisations. Here Mike Peirce explores the need for wider cross-sectoral collaboration, and the role that education can play.

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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