Are you a traditional leader or a sustainability leader?

I was asked the other day what I thought was the difference between a traditional leader and a sustainability leader?

It certainly got me thinking and I created a list in my mind until I realised that I don’t actually think there is a difference.

I have come to the conclusion that we rightly feel the need to differentiate between the two at current, because it helps to push the sustainability agenda to the forefront. However, I believe the need to discern between the two is a short-term phenomenon that will not be around in ten years’ time.

Then, I very much hope we will not need to distinguish between them because sustainability will be embedded within all successful businesses. Therefore, I would argue there is no true difference – that there are only excellent leaders all the way through to poor ones. Those who champion sustainability at this stage of the new emerging economy are exemplary leaders and visionaries – ones that understand the context of where their business fits within its sphere of influence and how to adapt to be resilient in order to future-proof. Those that don’t, will find they do not have a place in the emerging landscape of the circular economy in which we are headed.

The successful leaders of the future already understand the need to increase the shared value of their business for its stakeholders, society and the environment through innovation, in order to achieve sustainable growth and lead the market.

The old model of producing, using, and disposing of materials and products is widely recognised as incompatible with the emerging economy and the goal of achieving net-zero. Many forward-thinking companies are, accordingly, starting to adjust their way of doing business to be more sustainable.

During this transition phase toward sustainability, some companies might not be taking action because they are uncertain about what to do and many consumers may still be unaware of the impact their lifestyles have on the planet. The question that must be addressed is how can companies challenge the status quo when it comes to their current operations and how can they reduce consumption and production practices? The future of business and the planet depends upon finding the answer.