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Leaders with a 'sustainable mindset' can help solve societal problems

Leaders with a 'sustainable mindset' can help solve societal problems

Leaders with a 'sustainable mindset' can help solve societal problems

In today's world, it is more and more necessary for business leaders to act in the interest of the entire society and to have a "sustainable mentality".

Last year, Russell Reynolds Associates partnered with the United Nations Global Compact on a major research effort to identify and understand sustainable leaders in the business world. Our work involved in-depth analysis of executives at organizations around the world and long conversations with more than 50 CEOs and board directors who have long track records of achievements in both sustainability and corporate performance – demonstrating that success in one area doesn’t have to come at the expense of the other.

Our work highlighted the importance of a sustainable mindset – a purpose-driven belief that business is not a commercial activity divorced from the wider societal and environmental context in which it operates. But a sustainable mindset on its own is not enough – it has to be paired with the right skill set, specifically four leadership attributes that can drive transformation inside and outside the organization:

  • Multi-level systems thinking: sustainable leaders go beyond a deep understanding of their own organizational system and incorporate the interplay with the larger business, societal and environmental systems around them. Critically, they cut through that complexity to drive targeted decisions and actions that turn sustainability into a competitive advantage.

  • Stakeholder inclusion: sustainable leaders do not manage stakeholders, they include them. They understand a wide range of viewpoints in order to drive decision-making with all those stakeholders in mind and, where possible, actively involve those stakeholders in actioning the decisions and sharing in the benefits.

  • Disruptive innovation: transformation may be easy to talk about, but it is tough to deliver. Sustainable leaders possess the courage to challenge traditional approaches and a willingness to disrupt their business and industry—they ask why it cannot be done differently. They cut through bureaucracy and make bold investments that eliminate the trade-off between profitability and sustainability.

  • Long-term activation: sustainable leaders do not simply have an orientation toward the long-term, they set audacious goals and drive concerted action to surpass them. To do this requires a great deal of courage to stay the course in the face of setbacks and to make decisions that may be unpopular with short-term-oriented stakeholders.


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8th - 10th April 2025
Ravenna - Italy
OMC Med Energy