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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership

Achieving Zero

The transition to zero is underway. The private sector has a critical role in delivering this transition and there is a growing body of evidence to demonstrate that it makes business sense to act.

Forward looking companies understand this. They are harnessing climate action as driver of innovation, risk management and competitiveness – recognising that setting a course to net zero can provide a powerful guiding light in turbulent times as well as delivering commercial benefits. Yet, there is no blueprint for change and change is not happening fast enough.

The necessary speed and scale of the transition will require unprecedented co-operation and effort from all companies and sectors. It will require transformation towards a new economy that puts people, nature and the climate at the heart of global value creation.


What we do

The University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) is committed to working with our partners in business, government and the finance system, plus our global leadership network of 16,000 individuals, to accelerate this transition. Developing leadership capacity, both at the individual and organisational level, is where our unique contribution and strength lies. We do this in a variety of ways: by working with hundreds of major organisations to develop transformative strategies and action plans; by accelerating enterprises and collaborative initiatives with potential to offer breakthrough solutions; by building evidence and insight to inform decision-making; and, above all, by shaping the operating context for business in favour of organisations that deliver value to society and the environment. 



Leadership development

Our leadership development programmes help senior leaders to lead their companies to sustainable growth.

Master's-level graduate courses in sustainable business help individuals learn to lead change.

Our flexible online sustainability courses and leadership training empower individuals and organisations to tackle global challenges.  

Transforming organisations

Our advisory services help clients to respond to a future of accelerating change and increasing expectations.

Our tailored strategy programmes for business help companies respond to global trends and achieve commercial impact.


Accelerating solutions

Our Accelerator and Sustainability Hub supports small businesses and entrepreneurs to push boundaries.

Our virtual Accelerator to Net Zero supports SMEs with high impact potential for enabling the net zero transition.

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

Transforming policy & markets

Our Corporate Leaders Groups bring together business leaders committed to supporting the transition to net zero. 

Our Green Growth Partnership provides a forum for exchange between progressive EU governments and businesses.

Our Centre for Sustainable Finance helps financial institutions to play a leading role in building a net zero economy.


The Prince of Wales Global Sustainability Fellowship Programme fosters new thinking on net zero, leading to practical insights and tools for decision-makers.

Our publications and practitioner research highlight some of the best examples of climate leadership and explore new ideas to deliver transformational change.

Impact stories

CISL Conversations: we draw fascinating insights and best practice examples from leaders on approaches they have taken to align with net zero.

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


Tools for alignment and implementation

We offer practical and strategic guidance, grounded in practitioner insights from exceptional people from business, policy and academia, to help leaders and organisations prepare for a net zero future.



Cambridge Zero harnesses the full range of the University’s research and policy expertise, developing solutions that work for our lives, our society and our economy.

Chapter Zero is building a community of non-executive directors and equipping them to lead crucial UK boardroom discussions on the impacts of climate change.

We Mean Business coalition is a global nonprofit coalition working with the world’s most influential businesses to take action on climate change.



Resources and research

Bank 2030: Accelerating the transition to a low carbon economy

30 January 2020

30 January 2020 – This report authored by the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership’s (CISL) Banking Environment Initative (BEI) highlights the need for banks to develop an ‘active mindset’ in order to accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy.

The University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership launches Europe-based leadership group

12 September 2019

12 September 2019 – The University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) launches new leadership group to accelerate climate action in Europe.

Industrial Transformation 2050: Pathways to net-zero emissions from EU Heavy Industry

24 April 2019

April 2019 – The report, supported and co-funded by the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), sets out multiple possible pathways the EU could pursue to achieve the full decarbonisation of its heavy industries by 2050.

Achieving a net-zero EU heavy industry by 2050 is possible, claims new report

15 April 2019

25 April 2019 – A new report supported by the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) outlines multiple pathways for European energy-intensive industries to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, whilst remaining competitive at a global level.

Academic journal publishes CISL research on social impacts of transition to low carbon economies

11 April 2019

15 April 2019 – New research from CISL researchers Dr Sanna Markkanen and Dr Annela Anger-Kraavi, which draws on existing literature on the social co-impacts of climate change and implications for inequality, has been published in the academic journal Climate Policy.

Aiming for Zero: Long-term certainty for economic prosperity

6 November 2018

12 September 2018 – The Paris Agreement is a historic landmark for both international diplomacy and action on climate change. The Agreement sets out an ambition, and a framework, to limit climate change and global temperature rise to well below 2°C, with efforts to limit this to 1.5 °C. To be Paris compliant, and to have any hope of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 °C, it is clear from the latest science that global emissions must now fall to net-zero as early as possible in the second half of this century. For developed economies such as the EU’s, whose leadership is essential in this, the achievement of net zero emissions must therefore be by 2050 at the latest.

Aiming for Zero: Business leadership for a net zero economy

29 October 2018

Prompted by the Paris Agreement and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at a faster pace, governments across the world are reviewing their initial ambitions, and looking at what is required to deliver on the goal of ‘net zero’ emissions. Achieving this goal requires further discussion, with...

How companies are preparing for a net zero future

29 October 2018

Hear from members of the Corporate Leaders Group about why they are aiming for a net zero future by 2050, how they plan to achieve this, and why they need the government to commit to this ambitious goal.

A growing wave of support from EU business and policy leaders for a zero emissions future at the Green Growth Summit

12 October 2018

16 October 2018 – The 2018 GGP Summit, ‘From Here to 2050: taking the long-term view for innovation and transformation’ brought together over 80 Ministers, policy makers, key thinkers, and business leaders, alongside EU Commission officials and Members of the European Parliament, to take stock and discuss the opportunities, challenges and next steps to building an economy fit for the 21st century.

How are companies preparing for a net zero future?

Publications and videos

Business and Climate Change online course

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Accelerator to net zero

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Corporate Leaders Groups

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The Prince of Wales Global Sustainability Fellowship Programme

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Our Centres

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