Leading the Sustainability-Driven Company, Part 1 – What does it take to lead your organization on its sustainability journey?

Keith Cox Change, Leadership, Sustainability

Over the years I have been extremely fortunate to learn from some of the true exemplar business leaders at the forefront of the sustainability revolution (the pursuit economic prosperity, environmental stewardship, and social responsibility) – real pioneers that were blazing trails and showing what was possible long before the mainstream corporate world gave two hoots about “going green.” These individuals, such as Ray Anderson of Interface, Inc., Jeffrey Hollender of Seventh Generation, Anita Roddick of The Body Shop, and Bob Stiller of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, tell a new story of leadership.
These new leadership ideas depart from the more traditional leadership models born in the industrial paradigm which put the focus narrowly on the individual leader, corporate goals, and shareholder value. While those factors cannot be ignored, they simply do not adequately take account of the relationship aspects of leadership, other purposes of the corporation, and the multiplicity and complexity of interests affected by corporate actions.In the multi-part series we will examine this emerging practice of sustainability-driven leadership in the hope it may give you some insight on how to make your own sustainability journey progress that much smoother. In Part 1 of this series we simply try to paint a picture of what sustainability-driven leadership “looks” like. In subsequent posts we will dive deeper into examining what it looks like in practice.So as an overview to set the stage we can say that sustainability-driven leadership unfolds through the lives of corporate leaders venturing into uncharted business terrain without a map. In looking at the gestalt of what makes the sustainability-driven leader distinct from mainstream corporate chiefs, one discerns a mosaic of commitments and ways of being based in their sense of purpose and passion for bringing it to life.Sustainability-driven leaders create strength- and values-based organizational cultures in which service-focused, authentic, and courageous individuals see social problems and needs as opportunities and respond to them by taking creative, positive action through the business. By focusing on the well being of the “whole system,” building a coalition of additional leaders, acting in an authentic, soulful manner, and looking beyond the bottom line, such leaders are able to raise collective consciousness, stimulate social and environmental innovation, and create commitment to a triple bottom-line focused on people, profit and plant.

Next time we will begin to more deeply examine the characteristics of the sustainability-driven leader and the actions she takes to create and environment where sustainability flourishes. Until then, feel free to leave us your thoughts.

For more details on the Center for Values-Driven Leadership, visit our web site, www.cvdl.org.