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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)


Within a commercial context businesses can explicitly set out to improve people’s lives whilst operating within the natural boundaries set by the planet.

We know that for many businesses, the current operating model isn’t going to be sustainable in the long term.

Businesses need to make a dramatic shift. Successful businesses of the future will need to find ways to create value while making a fair social contribution, with neutral or positive impacts on the natural world.

They can do this by aligning the organisation’s core purpose with sustainable development such that the business exists to have a positive impact on the world, without trading the needs of one stakeholder for those of others. New regenerative business models, which adopt circular material flows and a blend of product and service approaches, alongside sustainable production and consumption models, can improve rather than deplete natural resources. For many businesses this will mean working differently with a range of stakeholders to understand the full lifecycle of their products and services, to innovate and adapt.

For many of today’s industries, this level of disruption will be challenging and lead to rebalancing of corporate portfolios, creating winners and losers. Businesses anticipating and proactively engaging with change are likely to stand the best chance of being leaders in the new economy.

Is the strategy consistent with a pathway to maintain global temperature rise under 2°C or even 1.5°C? Is there a fair distribution between tax and profit, between workers, shareholders and communities?

Businesses can use a positive vision for society and the environment to set their strategic direction.

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