#RRAChat Recap: Leadership Actions for a More Sustainable Future

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Highlights from our Twitter-based #RRAChat on leadership actions for a more sustainable future.


We recently launched a global research study, “Divides and Dividends: Leadership Actions for a More Sustainable Future,” revealing what a cross-section of the global workforce thinks about their organization’s sustainability efforts and business leaders’ ability to advance the agenda.

To continue the conversation, we hosted an #RRAChat exclusively on Twitter, where we facilitated a discussion for industry thought leaders, as well as our own experts. Here are some of the highlights:

The importance of purpose-driven leadership

Leaders who understand that stakeholders—employees, customers, shareholders, regulators and communities at large—increasingly expect them to help solve the world’s challenges will be better positioned for growth and more competitive. Employees want to work for companies with a clear purpose—they look for leaders who not only take a stand, but match what they say they will do with meaningful, measurable and consistent actions.

Danielle Guzman

Purpose is the new profit. It’s imperative that organizations have a purpose beyond the balance sheet, one that contributes a positive impact in the world. Purpose-driven companies make more money, have more engaged employees & more loyal customers.

Nick Chia

Purpose is a big reason people join, stay or leave an organization. Purpose comes from something that is bigger than your individual self. A consistent purpose is needed across professional and personal life.

S Chris Edmonds 

A clear purpose - even better, a clear servant purpose that formalizes how your company serves others - sets a common, meaningful path. It helps ensure activities support that purpose daily.

Challenges to embedding sustainability into business strategy

Advancing sustainability in business is more than a matter of policy or process. It is a matter of leadership. There is now an urgent need for sustainable leaders—those who have the vision and skill to pivot their organizations to deliver lasting value for all stakeholders, not just stockholders.

In our study, the greatest barriers to embedding sustainability across business strategy are slow-changing company culture and organizational complexity, followed by a lack of drive from senior leadership and a lack of organizational investment.

Mark Babbitt

Sustainability – like diversity, equality, gender equity, inclusion, social responsibility, equal access to technology, and many other critical issues – MUST be driven from the top down. Or those issues will never get the attention they require – and deserve.

Helene Li

Culture is shaped by habitual behaviors - habits die hard - culture is often the bottleneck dragging down change & innovation.

Kurt Harrison

Companies lacking a stated and credible commitment to sustainability will lose market share, talent, and brand identity to their competitors. Revenues will fall, expenses will rise, productivity will drop, regulatory pressure increase, and shareholders will revolt.

How to advance the sustainability agenda

Leaders should not treat sustainability as a matter of brand and reputation management or as an addendum to their core business—for instance, by simply launching a small line of sustainable products or services. Sustainability must be a critical strand of business strategy, motivating the transformation of operations and business models, and ensuring all opportunities are evaluated through a sustainability lens.

Achieving this kind of transformation—a shift towards value creation—is not for the faint-hearted. It requires leadership grit. Leaders and those around them need to be able to see and understand the complex web of cause and effect across market, social, environmental and regulatory variables. They also must be prepared to spearhead true long-termism: the willingness to make disruptive investments and the courage and resilience to stay the course in the face of setbacks and pressure from short-term oriented stakeholders.

Hope Frank

54% of C-suite leaders who say value creation is the driving force of sustainability strategy expect to make excellent progress in the next 5 years, compared to 36% of those who say brand management (PR) is the driving force behind sustainability efforts.

Patricia Schouker

Technology can help. Harnessing a vibrant ecosystem of partners outside the company’s traditional boundaries, building data-rich technology platforms that support growth and innovation & accelerating learning to fuel the talent engine they’ll need to succeed.

Stela Lupushore

Macro level - need political alignment to drive policies, influence sustainable practices of business world. At "me" level - every one of us needs to see it as a priority and make corresponding decisions in how we consume, which companies we invest in, where we work.

Amish Gandhi

Culture is key to making change. Create a culture of transparency and openness to new ideas. Companies can say we are open but need to demonstrate quickly through action.

Next-generation leaders in driving sustainability

Next-generation leaders have emerged as the engine room of sustainability action. These future executives are well positioned to carry the sustainability mantle, overcome barriers, change culture and devise better products and services for their customers and consumers. Whether motivated by personal passions and core values, or delegated responsibilities from their C-suite line managers, these up-and-comers are driving sustainability initiatives into the fabric of the organization. Moreover, in many organizations next-generation leaders are the “connective tissue” between C-suite and employees; they can play an essential role in bridging the divides that may exist by closing communication and perception gaps.

Diana David Wu

Next-gen leaders can drive outcomes because they no longer buy in to the idea that we shouldn’t make our top leaders uncomfortable. And they put their money and loyalty behind that commitment, be it environment, social or governance.

Amy Scissons

The next-generation leaders are the ones putting the sustainability initiatives into practice. Our research shows that 40% of next-generation leaders have led two or more sustainability projects at their firm.

Tamara McCleary

New leaders have new perspectives, and new energy to drive change. They aren't instilled with a "how we have always done things" mentality and are often willing and eager to push change, especially related to diversity, inclusion and ESG.

Dr. Marcia F. Robinson

The pandemic has demonstrated the difference leadership makes in setting a path. The contrails from leadership don’t evaporate quickly. It is critical that the next generation of leaders think sustainability and inclusion.

Learn more about our Divides and Dividends global report and key findings here.