Sustainable changemakers 

5 February 2024

Mindbeat looks at a new breed of sustainable leaders and examines what it takes to explore innovative ways to integrate environmental and societal considerations into long-term business strategies. 

In a turbulent, uncertain world, businesses are looking for new types of leaders – those who can collaborate to shape company culture, think creatively and develop long-term solutions for environmental, societal and economic challenges. 

These are the sustainable changemakers. They embrace the evolving complexity of the world around them, which makes them more adaptable. Plus, they’re long-term thinkers who see people and the environment as integral to business success. 

As environmental catastrophes, warring factions and political instability continue to upset and disrupt the world’s supply networks, businesses need sustainable changemakers, committed to fostering change. 

In one recent study, published in partnership with the United Nations, the attributes that make leaders effective at driving sustainability outcomes were examined. It determined the following four leadership styles:

1. Multi-level systems thinking

Multi-level systems thinking is the ability to observe and focus on the bigger environmental issue while recognising how sustainability fits within what your organisation already does well. 

You’re able to change the perspective between conflicting groups by developing strategies that inspire all stakeholders and genuinely promote sustainable solutions for the long term.

2. Stakeholder inclusion

Sustainable leadership requires advanced skills in active listening, storytelling, creating a shared vision, conflict management, and the capacity to motivate and convince other people.

By demonstrating high levels of empathy and authenticity, you can help shape and influence different perspectives for more informed decision-making. 

3. Long-term activation

Leaders who can achieve buy-in from across the organisation can set audacious goals, operationalised through interim targets. You’ll have a strong sense of purpose, paired with a long-term orientation and an inherent ambition to achieve the sustainability bottom line. 

You’ll be comfortable working with long-term complexities that involve factors such as stakeholder needs, politics, competing interests, and natural systems.

Communication and transparency are key to building trust and credible long-term activation plans. Let employees, customers and other stakeholders know what the strategy is and why it’s essential.

4. Disruptive innovation

By daring to take action and challenge traditional approaches to technology and business strategy, you’ll forge better partnerships and create solutions fit for a greener future. 

While difficult to measure, some of the core qualities that distinguish sustainable changemakers are their ability to set bold, science-based targets and come up with plans to radically transform products or services that aren’t contributing to a positive climate or societal benefit.

Coaching can help sustainable changemakers to:

Set goals. Ensure your business keeps track of and keeps improving its sustainable development goals. These goals should be clear, specific, measurable, and achievable. Coaches can help you to implement and monitor the effectiveness of sustainable practices as part of an overall organisational strategy. 

Inspire teams. Develop as an inspirational thought leader by acting responsibly and sustainably. Show clear ways of measuring impact and set examples for others to follow. When those in leadership roles discuss climate change seriously, employees can feel inspired to take action too.

Create an inclusive workplace. By fostering an organisational culture that prioritises the well-being of its employees, sustainable changemakers create space for open dialogue, where employees feel empowered to discuss and suggest the effectiveness of sustainable practices. 

Teamwork is vital to developing a more sustainable future. Coaching will provide the tools and techniques required to bring everyone along on your sustainability journey. 

How is your organisation empowering people to become sustainable changemakers? To discuss how Mindbeat coaches can help to develop your leaders for whatever the future holds, contact us today.