Next-Generation Leaders at the Vanguard

Are Australia business leaders doing enough to expose up-and-coming executives to crucible sustainability experiences?


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The transition to sustainable business will not happen during a single CEO tenure. To achieve the scale of transformation needed, organizations need to develop a cadre of up-and-coming leaders who have the skills to keep advancing the sustainability agenda over the next decade—and beyond.

In Australia, next-generation leaders are powering organizations’ sustainability efforts: 42% have taken on three or more job responsibilities in the past two years to improve environmental or social outcomes. By contrast, just 27% of C-suite leaders say the same. This is broadly in line with global trends.

When asked about the specific roles they were involved in, 40% of Australian next-generation leaders said identifying new approaches to make products or their workplace more sustainable. A further 35% have been involved in changing internal processes to improve social and environmental outcomes.

Next-Generation Leaders who have taken on 3+ job responsibilities to improve environmental and social outcomes


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However, there is a sizeable opportunity for Australia’s future executives to gain sustainability experience in other critical areas. In our study, just 12% have been involved in establishing partnerships with nonprofits, academics or governments for mutual benefit, some way behind the regional average (29%) and the global average (23%). Similarly, just 17% had direct experience in ending the selling, buying or use of unsustainable materials or products, behind the regional average (26%) and global average (22%). 

In the past two years have your job responsibilities included any of the following ways to improve environmental and social outcomes?

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Ultimately, next-generation leaders are a critical cohort in improving the environmental and social outcomes of organizations. CEOs and board members in Australia must now work to identify future executives within their ranks who are passionate about sustainability and expose them to the experiences they need to develop their sustainability credentials. Unless action is taken, tomorrow’s organizations could face a shortage of leaders who have the necessary skills and competencies to compete on a global scale.



Action Items

  • Make sustainability-related responsibilities a core element of next-generation leaders’ roles and put in place measures to enable, empower and reward them for driving sustainability outcomes.

  • Hold C-suite executives and next-generation leaders accountable for sustainability outcomes across day-to-day management practices and hiring and promotion approaches, with 360-degree evaluations that measure both performance and behaviors.



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