Next-Generation Leaders at the Vanguard

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


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The transition to sustainable business models is unlikely to be achieved during a single CEO tenure. As such, it is important for organizations to invest in developing a cadre of up-and-coming leaders who have the skills to advance the sustainability agenda over the next decade—and beyond.

In Canada, organizations are making healthy investments in their future executives. Over the past two years, 39% of Canadian next-generation leaders have taken on three or more responsibilities to improve environmental and social outcomes—in line with global trends (40%). 

Yet there also indications that more can be done. In our survey, 22% of Canadian next-generation leaders have not taken on any sustainability responsibilities at all, ahead of the global average (16%).

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


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When asked about the specific sustainability activities they have taken on, Canada’s next-generation leaders cite changing internal processes (37%), identifying ways to make their workplace more sustainable (33%) and changing supplier selection (33%). 

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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They are, however, less likely than their global peers to have gained hands-on experiences on redesigning products or services. For example, just 14% of Canadian next-generation leaders have had experiencing in developing product or service offerings that are more environmentally friendly, compared to a global average of 27%.

Next-generation leaders cite various challenges to embedding sustainability across business strategy. Slow-changing company cultures are the top barrier to success, with 49% of next-generation leaders in Canada citing this as a concern, compared to 35% globally. Other obstacles faced by Canada’s future executives include a lack of organizational investment (29%) and outdated perceptions (29%). 

Ultimately, it is important that next-generation leaders are enabled, empowered and rewarded for improving sustainability outcomes. Canadian organizations face a significant opportunity to strengthen their bench of sustainable leaders by exposing their up-and-coming executives to a greater breadth of crucible sustainability experiences.



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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We look forward to connecting with you on sustainable leadership.