Divides and Dividends 2023 - Leadership actions for a more sustainable future | Russell Reynolds Associates
of senior leaders have created concrete sustainability plans.
are confident they'll meet their sustainability targets.
expect to make continued progress on sustainability.
Is this progress...
or over confidence?
Discover the divides that could threaten progress—and how to solve them.

Our research of thousands of global business leaders shows organizations are up for the sustainability challenge.


They recognize that sustainability issues will impact the long-term viability of their businesses—and are developing concrete plans in response. They’re investing in sustainability, even in the face of economic volatility, and are optimistic that sustainability progress has been made and will continue to be made.


Read the Foreword



The four divides that may stop you from reaching your sustainability goals


It’s not enough to just commit to sustainability. To make a positive impact, you need to deeply integrate sustainability across your entire organization—from strategy and operations to daily decisions. Our research shows four gaps that, unless addressed, will prevent this from happening.



Leaders are making the right noises around sustainability. Yet beneath the surface, they still see sustainability as a brand-building exercise, rather than a true lever for business performance.


CEOs often lack the vision and courage that’s needed to take risks, navigate complex trade-offs—and ultimately pivot their organizations toward a more sustainable future.


In the rush to make visible commitments to sustainability organizations are forgetting to ensure their executive team is incentivized to make change happen—and stick.


Senior leaders are missing multiple opportunities to harness the collective potential of employees to accelerate sustainability transformation, at scale.


Connect with our sustainability experts behind this research



How we support sustainable leadership

To future-proof your business, we work with you to recruit and develop leaders who understand why sustainability issues are vital to long-term success—and how to capture the opportunity.


Enhance your board’s sustainability credentials

Sustainable leadership starts at the very top. We find ways to strengthen ESG oversight by advising on how your board embeds a sustainability lens into its culture and structure, as well as directors’ sustainable leadership credentials.


Develop sustainable executives

Executive leadership teams need to work together towards your sustainability vision. So, we work with your top team to assess and develop executives’ sustainability capabilities.


Find leaders with a sustainable mindset

Our unique approach to assessment ensures we find CEOs, board members, and CxOs who have the mindset and skills to drive sustainability in your organization. In fact, 46% of the job specifications we create talk about sustainability.


Find world-class sustainability function leads

With access to an unrivaled pool of sustainability talent, we work with you to find best-in-class Chief Sustainability Officers, Heads of ESG, sustainable finance leaders, and leaders for sustainability business units.


Train sustainable leaders with MIT

We’ve partnered with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Sloan School of Management to create and run a sustainable leadership course exclusively for senior executives.






Divides and Dividends explores the extent to which organizations are integrating sustainability into their business strategy and operations and what actions are linked to perceptions of progress.


It is based on an online survey of 3,813 senior leaders and 8,753 employees across 104 countries, which was carried out between May 2, 2023 and May 18, 2023.


Samples are weighted by country gross domestic product in USD based on 2022 International Monetary Fund statistics.


Not all percentages in charts add up to 100% as a result of rounding percentages and the decision in certain cases to exclude the display of certain groups and “neither/nor,” “other,” “none of the above,” and “don’t know” responses.


Audience definitions

Senior leaders
Includes CEOs, C-suite level executives, and next-generation leaders (those reporting directly to the C-suite).
Includes currently employed managers and individual contributors.







Divides and Dividends | 2023 Report

Deliver stand-out sustainability success.








Divides and Dividends | 2021 Report

Our inaugural research examines how a cross-section of the global workforce views, experiences, and prioritizes the most important challenges affecting society, businesses, and workers.