What Makes a Sustainability Leader Successful?

"Sustainability," little more than a buzzword in the corridors of corporate America a decade ago, is today a business concept that has been embraced by many companies in principle and, increasingly, in practice. Yet, while more and more companies are integrating corporate sustainability strategies and programs into their daily business operations, "sustainability," is prone to multiple interpretations. For this reason, and in an effort to understand the skills, drivers and collaboration strategies necessary for executive success, VOX Global, Weinreb Group Sustainability Recruiting and Net Impact, Berkeley conducted a national survey of sustainability leaders.

Conclusions

Sustainability means different things to different people and different companies. And, because there is no universally accepted definition, it makes it more challenging to embed social and environmental issues into a company’s business strategies.

To be successful, sustainability leaders must provide context for their work in the same terms as other business units and define their impact in the “lingua franca” of the business. Rather than using sustainability jargon, they must use words and phrases that are consistent with a company’s culture and business strategy. Only after trust is earned and collaboration is underway can they expect to be successful implementing programs that will deliver a return on investment – both reputational and financial – to their companies.

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