Divides and Dividends 2023: Foreword

By Stephanie Bertels, Founder and Executive Director of the Embedding Project, and Jason Jay, Director of the Sustainability Initiative at MIT Sloan.


These days, almost every CEO we work with wants to know one thing: How can we deliver on our sustainability promises and meet the growing expectations of our employees, consumers, investors, and the communities where we operate?

There’s no denying that business leaders are feeling the pressure to act on sustainability. In recent years, we’ve seen more and more pledges made to tackle climate change, protect nature, and support social equity and human rights—something that seemed impossible just five or ten years ago.

But commitments aren’t enough—we need credible action. CEOs the world over must turn their plans into results. Having publicly pronounced a new future, they must deliver on it. And, with the world (and governments) watching, they cannot afford to fall short.

So, what’s the secret to sustainability action? Is there a way CEOs can accelerate progress, become agents of true change, deliver lasting sustainability results, and create real economic and societal value?

From our work with leading organizations around the world, we know the answer to these questions is ‘yes.’

The businesses that are leading on sustainability are working hard to embed it across their organizations and their value chains. They make sustainability part of their DNA, influencing everything from how strategy is set, to how business decisions are made, to how they show up as leaders and work to shift their culture, including how they support the wellbeing of employees, communities, and the planet.

This new research from Russell Reynolds Associates shows that global businesses still have work to do to realize this opportunity. While many say that they are up for the sustainability challenge, they have yet to upskill their leaders and hold them accountable, or mobilize and resource their workforces to deliver change, at scale.

Businesses are not immune to the daunting challenges facing global society. Together, we can create a world where humans and nature thrive for generations to come. Businesses can, and must, play a positive role in this transition. Those that do, stand to create tremendous value in the process.

But to unleash its full potential to power long-term success, business leaders need to bridge these gaps in mindset and skill set and embed sustainability across their strategies, operations, and decision-making.


Back to the 2023 findings



Stephanie Bertels  

Stephanie Bertels

Founder and Executive Director of the Embedding Project | Professor, SFU Beedie School of Business


Jason Jay  

Jason Jay

Senior Lecturer and Director of the Sustainability Initative at MIT Sloan






Divides and Dividends | 2023 Report

Deliver stand-out sustainability success.