Thought Leadership

Sustainability Leadership

The future is green energy, sustainability, renewable energy– Arnold Schwarzenegger, Former Governor of California

With the recent shift to green economies, we have seen notable sustainable leaders arise from every industry to take this charge forward. Unilever took the lead and won the title of sustainability leadership in 2020, ranked by global experts. We continue seeing a rise in the people standing up for the cause from companies to individuals to help save the planet.

So what is sustainability leadership?

Sustainability leadership represents an expansive range of what leadership is. It includes everyday leaders in companies, from all walks of life, from Bill Gates to Greta Thunberg that take action with others to impact organizations and communities alike.

So how does this connect to the idea of leadership? Do you believe that progress can be driven from a position without recognized political or social influence? Of course! But would leaders driving the change in companies have a more significant impact? Definitely!

We have listed some sustainability leaders that have made a significant impact on their organizations and the world:

1. Kate Brandt – Google Sustainability Officer

Kate Brandt is at the forefront of the battle against climate change. An important figure in Google’s climate-friendly action plan, Kate has previously worked with the American government and market-leading corporate organizations to revolutionize their business operations. Kate is a successful TEDtalk speaker, with her presentation gaining tens of thousands of views. Titled A World Without Waste, she explains how every Google search costs the planet, and how innovation, AI, and recycling can reduce the environmental pressure of technology. She oversaw the sustainable upgrade of 360,000 buildings and 650,000 vehicles while working for the Federal Government. As a testament to her success and influence as a woman in business, Kate was named one of the 40 most influential women in the world and in the top 46 sustainability leaders by Forbes.

2. Jesper Brodin- CEO, IKEA Group

Jesper Brodin is advancing IKEA’s vision to furnish people with “thin wallets and big dreams in their lives at home” without taking more resources than the planet provides. Everything from bookshelves and couches to lingonberry jam and vegan hot dogs, IKEA’s customers demand leadership on climate and circularity, he says.

IKEA has been popularizing sustainability from its head office in Leiden, Netherlands, down into the masses’ living spaces. The company has pledged its targets to reduce emissions and has vowed to become carbon positive by 2030. IKEA currently produces more renewable energy than its operations consume, having invested 2.5 billion euros. The company has committed to using only electric vehicles for all last-mile deliveries by 2025, starting in Shanghai, Paris, Amsterdam, New York, and Los Angeles. IKEA’s phase-out of single-use plastic in the year ahead is another part of its “people and planet positive” (PDF) ambitions.

3. Tim Cook- CEO, Apple

Tim Cook has always valued moral responsibility. He is known for his genius in operations and withering silences since he joined Apple. But Cook also has a sustainability leadership side that the world has just discovered.

Since the hiring of former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief Lisa Jackson in 2013, Apple’s environmental and social achievements have become one long list. Apple is one of the first corporations to run 100 percent on renewable energy, bringing suppliers on board to do the same. The company has boosted device recycling rates and developed aluminium with zero carbon dioxide emissions. They are implementing a circular supply chain that eventually would require no new materials to be mined.

Final Thoughts

In these past years, the world has not only witnessed companies and governments adopting definitive ways to save the planet but also a collective awareness from individuals who are choosing veganism and other eco-friendly lifestyle choices to contribute towards a more sustainable way of living. With these movements, there is a minuscule ray of hope that we may be able to save the only planet that we have.