How do you identify leaders who can drive the sustainability agenda?

03 Dec 2019

How do you identify leaders who can drive the sustainability agenda?

As the climate crisis bites and sustainability becomes a critical business consideration, there is a way to find the leaders likely to make the most headway.

It doesn’t require a Greta Thunberg to convince business to take sustainability seriously.

CEOs already see it as important for the future success of their businesses. And a majority of those senior leaders, in the same UN/Accenture Study, are clear that sustainability is a route to competitive advantage in their industry.

But how do you identify the leaders who are truly capable of leading on this emerging business priority?

At Odgers Berndtson, we take a two-pronged approach in our search for this talent.

On one hand, we can identify leaders who have had an impact already. Then, looking forward, we can identify whether an individual is likely to make an impact on driving sustainability.

What was their impact?

Evaluating the impact of leaders is all about evidence and answering the question “what have you done to support the sustainability agenda”?

By incorporating the UN Sustainability Goals into our interview process, we are able to ensure that their answers are evaluated against robust, well-recognised benchmarks.

This means we know precisely how the candidate has addressed the three ESG areas of environmental, social and governance, and whether their impact and influence has been at the individual, organisational or ecosystem level.

What is their potential?

Looking forward, we can also evaluate the potential of a leader to take the lead on sustainability as we know the personality traits that are prevalent in corporate leaders who take sustainability seriously.

Given recent research, we can identify sustainable leaders, because their characteristics indicate they are more likely to be:

  1. Results-driven
  2. Inclusive operators
  3. Change agents
  4. Ethically orientated
  5. Visionary thinkers

We draw our conclusions directly from our proprietary Odgers Berndtson LeaderFit Profile which generates a benchmarked picture of each leader against a robust global data set.

This profile, combined with any past evidence, ensures our clients make the best decisions when appointing leaders to these critical senior roles.

Great leaders all have different competencies, motivations and potential. Assessing strengths, performance risks, and core values in this way helps determine an executive’s ability to deliver results against a strategy, build a high performing team and manage key relationships.

How our search process works

To begin with, our clients define how critical sustainability is to the leadership position and the specific outcomes targeted.

Once we know that, we incorporate the relevant ESG requirements from our ESG impact framework into the search criteria.

We ask three key questions on ESG impact, and given the evidence, we rate their impact - individual, organisational or ecosystem - in the initial candidate report.

Should they progress, the candidate would complete an online questionnaire. We highlight in the resultant Candidate Insight Report their strengths or limitations in the 19 key characteristics prevalent in leaders owning the sustainability agenda.

If you would like advice on your next sustainability leader appointment, please get in touch.