The Seven Pillars of Sustainability Leadership

Last week, The Conference Board released a major piece of sustainability research: “The Seven Pillars of Sustainability Leadership.” This report is worth a careful read – not so much for its headline list of “top seven,” but more for the rich detail that supports the research.

In one sense, the report summarizes what many people know: true leadership in the sustainability space happens only with strong commitment from the board and CEO. Such leadership helps shape bold goals and full integration of sustainability into core business processes.

However, do not dismiss the report because it states the obvious. The report details both successful and failed leadership. It is chock-full of hard data, facts, and case studies. It provides concrete examples of breakthrough approaches to board, CEO, and C-suite leadership. The report also confronts deep challenges head-on. For example, the report describes former NRG CEO David Crane’s bold leadership on sustainability that turned into a boardroom overthrow. We can all learn from these lessons.

Over the past year, I had the opportunity to provide considerable input to this research: through the three Conference Board Councils I run and by drawing on my years of boardroom experience. Not only did the author, Thomas Singer, summarize the best information out there, he also tapped into the current pulse of about 100 members of the Conference Board’s three executive sustainability councils.