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Definition of the Week: What is Sustainability Leadership?

With 40˚+ temperatures hitting the UK for the second time in a matter of weeks, the impacts of climate change are hard to ignore. Indeed, the latest climate science makes for a very sobering read. The IPCC’s July report warned that the world is set to reach 1.5˚C levels within the next two decades and only the most drastic cuts in carbon emissions could help prevent environmental, social and economic disaster. The SustainAbility Institute’s 2022 Sustainability Leaders Survey found that the smartest, most forward-facing organisations understand the urgency around climate change. Sustainability leadership is now being measured by evidence of action, impact and importantly, the integration of sustainability into core business strategy.

So what is Sustainability Leadership and what action could your business take?

At Futuretivity, we define sustainability leadership as:

Sustainability leadership is the role an organisation (often a business) adopts to promote a responsible, values-driven, and positive impact on our economy, environment, and society. Sustainability leadership understands the interconnectivity and impact of its outward-facing and internal voice to drive positive, integrated, and authentic sustainability action with and by employees, partners, suppliers, investors, and customers. Sustainability leadership establishes an organisation’s influence within its industry and the wider Sustainability ecosystem, supported by a holistic and integrated approach to delivering Sustainability across the business, operations, supply chain, culture, and communications creating a multiplier effect of impact from its actions.

5 Ways to Demonstrate Sustainability Leadership

1. Sustainability Strategy and Roadmap: Have a credible sustainability strategy and roadmap in place that is at the core of your business strategy. A sustainability strategy is a prioritised list of actions providing a framework for an organisation’s approach and commitments to its supply chain, operations, stakeholders and culture that minimises negative environmental and social impact and increases long-term benefit for the environment, society, and business value. A well-constructed sustainability strategy will support long-term leadership, value creation, and resilience through a clearly defined vision and deliverables with a cohesive approach to people, planet, and profits.

2. Certify as a B Corp: A B Corp is a certification of a for-profit business that designates it achieves high social and environmental performance, establishing it as a business for good, not just profit. B Corporations make legal commitments to corporate governance that is accountable to all stakeholders and transparently discloses its performance as leaders in a global movement for an inclusive, equitable, and regenerative economy. B Corp status is open to all businesses, requiring rigorous analysis of its impact and risk, then verification of and adherence to performance and reporting standards to achieve certification. Patagonia, for example, has been a champion of this business certification model and exceeds stringent standards for sustainability and worker’s rights, including Fair Trade certification for many products. Likewise, all retail stores, distribution centres, offices, and the brand’s headquarters are powered by 100% renewable energy.

3. Be Sustainable by Design: Green Products (and services) are designed sustainably from the outset. Products have minimal packaging, are free of toxic materials, can be recycled or are made from recycled or biodegradable materials, they are designed to be repaired or reused (not for obsolescence) and make a positive contribution to the planet with social impact embedded within their life cycle or supply chain.

4. Fair Pay and Ethical Labour: Sustainability also refers to people. True sustainability is what we at Futuretivity call 360˚ Sustainability, as recognised by the SDGs, the Sustainable Development Goals set by the UNGC to enable responsible business to achieve transformational change in environmental and social sustainability. SDGs enable prioritising those furthest behind through direct commitments to ending poverty, gender discrimination, health, and economic disadvantage. Companies wanting to establish themselves as leaders in sustainability need to adopt ethical labour practices, fair pay, working conditions, a sustainable supply chain, promote and enable diversity and inclusion, and a culture that promotes happiness and wellbeing for employees and beyond.

5. Take Climate Action: Climate action is the urgent action needed to combat climate change and its impacts. Climate action demonstrates authenticity and shows that a company is taking legitimate steps, putting sustainability into action. Climate action focuses on the mitigation of climate change through reduced greenhouse gas emissions, adaptation and resilience to the effects of climate change (extreme weather), and the contribution to the understanding of climate change and its effects. Climate action is Goal 13 of the 17 SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). Goal 13 states that climate change is a real and undeniable threat to our civilization, with effects already visible, and that will be catastrophic unless urgent action is taken, hence the goal’s mission to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. Companies can support environmental activism at a grassroots level, partner with impact organisations and local communities, design and manufacture products and services for 360˚ Sustainability, for example using new materials to eliminate fossil fuels completely.

Futuretivity delivers climate positivity with vibrant, socially impactful commercial power. We recognise that the how-to of sustainability can be overwhelming, so we empower businesses with actionable roadmaps, skills for the future, and meaningful connections to succeed. Being a conscious business needn’t cost the earth nor cost your business.

For more inspiration and insights on sustainability for business go to If you are a company that needs help with sustainability in your business book a call with Futuretivity now and get sustainability delivered.


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