The Sustainability Accelerators That Will Fast-Track Progress

Sustainable LeadershipLeadershipSustainability Officers
min Article
Constantine Alexandrakis
October 17, 2023
3 min
Sustainable LeadershipLeadershipSustainability Officers
Executive Summary
As organizations now embrace ambitious sustainability commitments, we set out how leaders can turn these pledges into true action on the ground.


In recent years we’ve seen organizations the world over set ambitious targets at epic scale—something that was unimaginable just five or 10 years ago.

The million-dollar question, however, is just how much of this talk is translating into tangible and lasting change?

Our recent research shows that for all the talk about sustainability, there remains a big (and stubborn) disparity between what leaders are saying and what they are doing.

It shows that:

  • 80% of senior leaders have created concrete sustainability plans.
  • 70% are confident they’ll meet their sustainability targets.
  • 59% expect to make continued progress on sustainability.


So far, so good.

But when we looked a little closer, we found that leaders were yet to integrate sustainability across their organizations.

They aren’t embedding it across their strategy, operations, or leadership.

They aren’t holding their executive teams accountable for action.

And they aren’t harnessing the power of their employees to accelerate progress.

In other words, leaders and their organizations are still in the early stages of their journeys toward more sustainable business practices.

And it’s no wonder: sustainability transformation is hard.

Yet we do know through our research that there are certain actions leaders can take to fast-track progress.

In fact, they need to close four key divides in thinking and skill sets.

This isn’t just theory. Our research (and experience) shows that when leaders zero in on these areas, they go much further, much faster.

  • The Motivation Divide. Most leaders view sustainability as a brand-building exercise: 69% see this as a top-five benefit of sustainability action, while just 19% cite faster top-line growth. Yet a switch in mindset can yield big results: when leaders see sustainability as an opportunity to create value for their business and communities, they are 1.4 times more likely to say sustainability progress has been made and will continue to be made.

  • The Leadership Divide. Senior leaders say their CEOs are committed to sustainability action, but just 45% think they drive the innovation needed to make the organization more sustainable. We know from experience that the CEOs who have made the most progress on sustainability have the vision (and courage) to challenge the status quo. And our research backs that up. When senior leaders believe their CEO possesses this bold, disruptive mindset they are 3.2x more likely to report progress has been made and will continue to be made.

  • The Accountability Divide. In the rush to make visible commitments to sustainability and set ambitious goals, organizations are overlooking a critical step: ensuring their executive teams are incentivized to make change happen—and stick. Just 35% of senior leaders say they have clear sustainability objectives. Yet those who do are 1.5x more likely to say progress has been made and will continue to be made.

  • The Mobilization Divide. Employees are eager to play a leading role in sustainability. Yet our research shows senior leaders are missing multiple opportunities to harness their collective potential. Just 10% of employees frequently discuss sustainability objectives with their managers. Yet when employees have the resources to advance their companies’ sustainability goals, they are 1.9x more likely to say sustainability progress has been made and will continue to be made.

Clearly, leaders will increasingly find themselves under the spotlight, not just in the wake of Climate Week, but in the decade ahead.

And while there are no short-cuts, we are getting a clearer view of exactly what it takes for leaders to pivot their organizations toward a more sustainable future. We are heeding these lessons on our own sustainability journey. And we are excited to share these lessons as you embark on yours.





Divides and Dividends 2023

Leadership actions for a more sustainable future