Sustainability and Leadership

How are they connected?

Industrial revolution 4.0 with its fast-changing dynamics and immense technological development is giving us a unique situation, a unique experience and new business characteristics. But this is not something new. Every industrial revolution had its own ways of running and changing the world and its people. What distinguishes 4.0 from the other three is, among other concepts, sustainability.

It goes without saying that the world needs to build a more sustainable future. It is a complex mission, but the good news is that the process has already started with some of the biggest companies. 62% of executives consider sustainable business models and strategies necessary to stay competitive (Knut Haanaes, IMD).


In its most simplistic description, sustainability is a business approach to creating long-term value by taking in consideration how an organization operates in the ecological, social and economic environment, the three pillars of the concept. (IMD).

Having good intentions and a professional communication is not enough anymore. Key metrics of a company’s success will change, profit-driven concept alone will no longer be prioritized, and all businesses will be looking for long-term solutions.

Where and how do I (the consumer) experience it?
  • The no.1 company on Forbes’ list of most sustainable companies of 2020 is Denmark-based renewable energy provider Ørsted. It is the first electricity provider ever to have won the award. In last 10 years they have changed their business model. By divesting in fossil fuels and investing in offshore wind power, they have reduced carbon emissions by 83% (Forbes). The company’s offshore wind farms bring green power to more than 13 million people, and the aim is to reach 50 million by 2030.
  • Nike has focused on reducing waste and minimizing its footprint. With their innovative technology, they design various shoe models that are made of at least 50% recycled materials.
  • Method is a home care and cleaning products brand from San Francisco that creates products that don’t include anything “dirty”. Employees at Method are given a health insurance benefits package, a competitive vacation bundle & three paid volunteer days per year, generous retirement matching, and an invitation to a global ping pong tournament and prom.


Leader’s role

If we want a sustainable future, we need leaders who are willing to embrace the concept and then lead towards such a future. New business models and strategies, accompanied with on-going changes, demand a new leadership style. It has to be a style that creates a learning and innovation-oriented culture. It has to be responsive and adaptive with adaptability quotient being “a new star among quotients”. 4.0 Opens the door to new ways of communication, new way of using the power with new orientation and focus. It is a team-oriented and cross-hierarchical, with new personal skills driven process of influencing other people.

It is the whole new world for leaders too!