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Executive Mindset Drives Sustainability Success

A new study examines the progress of ten global corporations against a comparative five-stage sustainability framework and suggests a direct correlation between leader mindsets and sustainability success. Many companies are missing a critical step in their sustainability journey, according to Leadership and the Corporate Sustainability Challenge: Mindsets in Action, issued by international consultancy Avastone Consulting. The ACSS reveals that it is not a lack of tangible systems and activities that comprise the missing component, but rather a scarcity of higher-capacity leaders.

The report details variations in leader mindset capacity development, which explains the diverse views of sustainability and why some leaders possess ability to support advanced sustainability efforts, while others do not. The report suggests that, without engagement of higher-capacity leader mindsets, organizations will find it difficult to attain the upper stages of corporate sustainability.

The comparative framework used in the study to assess company progress on their sustainability journey includes five stages or “gears.”

1.0 Comply Gear – companies commonly focus their sustainability efforts on compliance and philanthropy.

2.0 Volunteer Gear – they put in place impact reduction and eco-efficiency programs.

3.0 Partner Gear – companies begin to manage risk more proactively while building their brand and reputations.

4.0 Integrate Gear – sustainability becomes strategic, and companies embed sustainability within the business and across the value chain.

5.0 Redesign Gear – at this most elusive stage, companies contribute to large-scale systems changes that recast markets, redesign financial systems, and root out drivers of non-sustainability.

All of the companies interviewed are in the process of moving to higher stages of sustainability, yet none have reached the fourth stage (Integrate). In addition, 60 percent do not view as business-relevant the highest fifth stage (Redesign), where expanded mindsets are critical on the path to sustainability, according to the report.

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