Want a sustainable business? Hire in talent
Sustainable LeadershipLeadershipSustainability
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January 08, 2020
Sustainable LeadershipLeadershipSustainability
While organizations increasingly talk about the topic of sustainability – as shown by the company descriptions we saw – few appear to have embraced it.

World Economic Forum

The World Economic Forum article, "Want a sustainable business? Hire in talent," was written by Russell Reynolds Associates CEO Clarke Murphy on how companies should be hiring for sustainability. The article is excerpted below. 

Sustainability has become a hot topic for governments, investors, employees and consumers. It is not surprising then that many people are wondering how the issue of sustainability influences the process of selecting senior executives and the appointment of corporate (supervisory) board members. 

As a global leadership advisory and executive search firm, we are passionate about how sustainability influences organizations’ leadership talent frameworks and decision-making. To understand this, we analyzed 1,500 appointments that we have supported. What we found was surprising: 

1) 15% of all role specifications referenced sustainability, but the vast majority described the company, not the role. 
2) Only 3% of role specifications incorporated sustainability in the role definition. 
3) Only 2% of documents included sustainability as a specific candidate requirement. 

While organizations increasingly talk about the topic of sustainability – as shown by the company descriptions we saw – few appear to have embraced it as a critical leadership criterion. Outperforming sustainable companies will need to prioritize sustainable track records in executives to achieve the goals they are setting. 

Creating a sustainable company is undoubtedly a matter of strategy, policy and process, but it is also one of leadership and people. Organizations are a collection of individuals working towards a common purpose, and corporate culture is a manifestation of their shared beliefs and behaviours. 

Identifying employees and leaders across the organization who are motivated to drive sustainability and have the skills and experience to do so – and selecting leaders who feel this way too – is the surest path to long-term success. 

Industrial companies lead the way on this front, albeit with very low numbers – sustainability appears in 7% of their job specifications, either as it relates to the role description or candidate requirements. And despite the success consumer companies have had focusing on ethical and sustainable products, they lag other industries on this measure, with only 3% of role or candidate descriptions mentioning sustainability. 

Organizations that want to successfully embed sustainability into their business would benefit from studying the lessons learned from the drive to increase digital capabilities and mindset in the workforce. These issues have much in common: both manifest across industries, regions and organizational size, and both are topics that multiple stakeholders – investors, employees, consumers and regulators – care about greatly. 

Non-digitally native organizations began to respond to the market pressures of digitalization by hiring in talent with new skills and backgrounds. Some even added new executive roles like chief digital officer or chief data officer. As the issue moved from a potential disruptor to a core driver of competitive success, organizations began to embed digital acumen and experience into their leadership talent framework. 

To read the full article, click here.