The first-of-its-kind report defines the unique characteristics possessed by sustainable business leaders and urges a radical re-think on how C-suite and board leaders are selected.
USA: The United Nations Global Compact has launched the “Leadership for the Decade of Action” report in collaboration with Russell Reynolds Associates, a leading leadership advisory and search firm.
The report sets out to discover what can be learned from business leaders who are integrating sustainability across strategy, operations, and stakeholder engagement and what this means for how the board and C-suite leaders are selected. It reveals an urgent need for transformational business leaders who look beyond near-term profits to make the long-term sustainability and resilience of our world a top business priority – both within and beyond their firms and broader ecosystems.
The report was presented by Lise Kingo, CEO and Executive Director, United Nations Global Compact, and Clarke Murphy, CEO, Russell Reynolds Associates, at the UN Global Compact 20th Anniversary Leaders Summit on 15 June. Their presentation was followed by a panel discussion with Jim Hagemann Snabe, Chairman, Maersk and Siemens, and Ilian Mihov, Dean, INSEAD.
The world is not on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 and the COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed the fundamental weaknesses in our global systems. There is now a significant opportunity for boards and C-suite leaders to place sustainability at the center of corporate purpose and strategy. However, analysis by Russell Reynolds Associates reveals that sustainability experience or mindset is a requirement in only 4 percent of non-executive and senior executive appointments today.
Lise Kingo, CEO and Executive Director of the UN Global Compact, said: “Transforming our world is all about leadership. As we set out to recover better from COVID-19, the fragile nature of our progress to meet the 2030 deadline to transform our world means that incorporating sustainability across business strategy and operations is not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. Enlightened CEOs and board members know that to succeed you need to be sustainable. We need leaders everywhere to step up their ambition and become agents for sustainable change. This is the moment for top management and boards to ensure that these critical competencies are represented and developed across the organization.”
Clarke Murphy, Chief Executive Officer of Russell Reynolds Associates, said: “Sustainable leadership is not a ‘nice to have’. It is a critical business imperative, increasingly recognized by all stakeholders around the world, including shareholders, consumers, employees, governments, and communities. As the COVID-19 crisis has laid bare, the business world has a critical role to play in tackling the persisting challenges in our societies and economies. We are calling for a new type of business leader – one who can drive long-term growth by integrating sustainability into business strategy. Russell Reynolds Associates will work with organizations to make sustainability part of the DNA of their leadership teams.”
To identify how organizations can make sustainability central to their organization’s culture and leadership, Russell Reynolds Associates and the UN Global Compact carried out in-depth interviews and background analysis on a group of close to 60 sustainability pioneers – CEOs and board members from across continents and industries with a notable track record of focusing on and making progress towards sustainability goals in tandem with commercial results.
The analysis defines the characteristics, actions and differentiating leadership attributes that fuel sustainable leaders’ success. They combine a sustainable mindset with a set of differentiated leadership attributes:
- Multi-Level Systems Thinking: They incorporate the interplay of business, societal, and environmental systems and drive decisions that turn sustainability into a competitive advantage.
- Stakeholder Influence: They do not seek to manage stakeholders, rather they actively include them in defining and actioning decisions.
- Disruptive Innovation: They possess the courage to challenge traditional approaches and cut through bureaucracy to drive the disruptive innovation needed to do away with the profitability- sustainability trade-off.
- Long-Term Activation: They do not simply have an orientation towards the long term, they set bold sustainability goals and rigorously drive concerted action in their pursuit.
You can read the report from this link.
As a special initiative of the UN Secretary-General, the United Nations Global Compact is a call to companies everywhere to align their operations and strategies with ten universal principles in the areas of human rights, labor, environment, and anti-corruption. Launched in 2000, the mandate of the UN Global Compact is to guide and support the global business community in advancing UN goals and values through responsible corporate practices. With more than 10,000 companies and 3,000 non- business signatories based in over 160 countries, and 68 Local Networks, it is the largest corporate sustainability initiative in the world.
Russell Reynolds Associates is a global leadership advisory and search firm. Our 470+ consultants in 46 offices work with public, private, and nonprofit organizations across all industries and regions. We help our clients build teams of transformational leaders who can meet today’s challenges and anticipate the digital, economic, and political trends that are reshaping the global business environment. From helping boards with their structure, culture, and effectiveness to identifying, assessing, and defining the best leadership for organizations, our teams bring their decades of expertise to help clients address their most complex leadership issues. We exist to improve the way the world is led.
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