David Grayson, Emeritus Professor of Corporate Responsibility at Cranfield School of Management, and a long-term champion of corporate sustainability, shares a preview from his latest book and reflects on the implications for management education.
THE GRLI has recognised from its origins that globally responsible organisations need globally responsible leaders. In our new book
All In — The Future of Business Leadership, Chris Coulter, CEO of GlobeScan; Mark Lee, Executive Director of SustainAbility; and I draw on the insights from 20 years of the annual GlobeScan/SustainAbility Leaders Survey to refine our understanding of what responsible, sustainable organisations do.
We believe that All In businesses have five key, interlinking attributes:
- They have a Purpose: an inspiring, authentic explanation of how the business creates value for itself and for society.
- They have a comprehensive Plan: covering all aspects of the business and increasingly for their value-chain, which minimises negative Social, Environmental & Economic (SEE) impacts; and aims to maximise positive SEE impacts.
- They have a sustainable Culture: one that is innovative, engaging, and empowering, open and transparent, and ethical/responsible.
- They emphasise Collaboration. They have the skill and the will to partner with a range of other organisations: other businesses, NGOs, social enterprises, public sector agencies, academia, etc. to drive sustainability at speed and scale.
- And finally, Advocacy. All In businesses speak up and speak out for social justice and sustainable development.
Crucially today, leadership requires all five attributes. So, for example, Advocacy is only credible and effective if it builds on the other four attributes and so on.
Chris, Mark, and I wrote All In because we desperately want many, many more businesses to follow the leadership examples of businesses like IKEA, Interface, Natura, Nike, Patagonia, and Unilever. We need to move from the ‘usual suspects’/early adopters to engage thousands more businesses on sustainability. This requires individual leaders with the drive, conviction, determination, and insight to push this change.
In our book, we focus on organisational leadership attributes but they have to be mirrored with individual leadership attributes.
I’d suggest these five attributes are amongst the critical building blocks for individual leaders:
- The surfacing of a personal purpose, together with authentic values. The independent commentator, Mallen Baker, has a short, helpful guide to personal purpose on his website: http://mallenbaker.net/article/meaningful-life/the-value-of-defining-your-purpose-in-life.
- The ability to contextualise; to understand sustainable development trends, and how and where your own organisation fits into the wider system — strategic systems thinking — and then to create comprehensive sustainability strategies. Here is a practical how-to guide from the consultancy and think-tank SustainAbility called Sustainability Incorporated: http://sustainability.com/our-work/reports/sustainability-incorporated/.
- A capacity to inspire, engage and empower in a corporate sustainability context: for example, encouraging the intrapreneurs within the organisation. An excellent new how-to guide for doing this from Business Fights Poverty and the League of Intrapreneurs is called the The Intrapreneurship Ecosystem: http://reportregister143.pages.ontraport.net/.
- The ability to conceive, create, continuously improve and — where appropriate — exit collaborations with other businesses and interested parties. The Partnering Initiative has a range of tools for individuals as well as organisations wanting to learn how to partner better. In particular, they have defined a “M.U.S.T-Have” set of competencies: https://thepartneringinitiative.org.
- And increasingly, leaders need to show the moral clarity and conviction to speak out for social justice and sustainable development. Many GRLI supporters will already be using the excellent Giving Voice to Values curriculum and resources developed by Mary Gentile: https://www.givingvoicetovaluesthebook.com/resources-for-educators/.
Preparing leaders with these attributes is is both an opportunity and a challenge to Schools of Business and Management. The opportunity is to prepare leaders with both a sustainable mind-set and skills-set; both are necessary. The challenge arises as many other providers of experiential, leadership development recognise this new reality and respond to it.
The management guru and social philosopher, Charles Handy, reminds us that businesses are communities of people. Ultimately, it is these communities that drive sustainability.
The bottom line is that businesses need to ensure that they have the desired leadership competencies for going All In. Businesses need to be proactive in specifying these competencies to business schools and other providers of management and leadership education.
I hope that leading companies in some of the Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Coalitions will be more proactive in pushing the world’s business schools to integrate sustainability fully into the core curriculum for key subjects such as finance, innovation, marketing, strategy and HR. By doing so, they will help reinforce the visionary leadership that GRLI has given on these topics over the last decade plus.
David Grayson is Emeritus Professor of Corporate Responsibility at Cranfield School of Management and a long-term champion of corporate sustainability: DavidGrayson.net.
His latest book All In: The Future of Business Leadership with Chris Coulter and Mark Lee, on which this blog is based, is published by Routledge: www.AllInBook.net.
Follow David on Twitter: @DavidGrayson