Sustainability Leadership in Action

Sustainability Leadership in Action

Birgit Valmüür

18 years: Sustainability leadership

You should now know that businesses should lead on the sustainability transition. But who specifically in the business? Join Birgit Valmüür as she explores this in depth.

You should now know that businesses should lead on the sustainability transition. But who specifically in the business? Join Birgit Valmüür as she explores this in depth.

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Sustainability Leadership in Action

10 mins 1 sec

Overview

While it's preferable for the Board and CEO to lead the sustainability efforts it is not needed. It is entirely possible for the sustainability efforts of a business to be started by a single individual, who may not even have sustainability as their primary or formal role. It is not the role that leads sustainability, but the person. Allocating different sustainable development goals between all board members (ideally depending on personal preferences) would be more impactful to a business.

Key learning objectives:

  • Identify who in businesses can lead on sustainability

  • Outline examples of sustainability leadership

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Summary

Is it only top executives that can lead on sustainability? 

While it's preferable for the Board and CEO to lead the sustainability efforts it is not needed. It is entirely possible for the sustainability efforts of a business to be started by a single individual, who may not even have sustainability as their primary or formal role. It is not the role that leads sustainability, but the person as a formal sustainability role can be filled by someone who has no drive for sustainability or by someone with a deep passion. 

How can the role of sustainability be distributed in a business? 

Allocating different sustainable development goals between all board members (ideally depending on personal preferences) would be more impactful to a business. Allowing sustainability issues to be distributed can ensure they are tied to strategies and everyday decisions - rather than being lumped together and allocated to one individual, which effectively forms a silo. 

What are some examples of sustainability leadership? 

  • Rolls-Royce has chosen to focus on 4 out of the 17 UN SDGs: climate action; responsible consumption and production; decent work and economic growth; peace, justice and strong institutions.

  • In 2022, Bentley Motors set an unprecedented standard in the industry by achieving ‘Net Zero Plastic to Nature’.

  • The Communications Director of Tallink started to work voluntarily with sustainability issues, then had her own sustainability role formalised. She then lobbied internally for one of the Board members to take on responsibility for sustainability issues, and that led to a member of the Management Board being formally responsible for sustainability. 

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Birgit Valmüür

Birgit Valmüür

Birgit Vallmüür is the founder of TitanSwan, a sustainability leadership boutique consulting firm in London. She has advised listed and multinational companies and governments globally and has taught management and change management undergraduate, postgraduate, and executive education courses. This has given her first-hand and academic insight into both businesses and governments and convinced her that businesses can have a substantial impact.

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