A Strategic Planning Alternative for Startups: The Business Model Canvass

Many startup pundits, including Steve Blank, the champion of the “customer development” and “lean startup” methods, have criticized reliance on the traditional practice of creating a business plan, and it’s true that many founders get hung up on trying to figure out what to do when they sit down to plan out their new venture. The “business model canvass” created by Alexander Osterwalder, provides entrepreneurs with a new way of looking at their strategic planning process.  In essence, the canvass is a series of questions that are designed to get founders thinking about nine categories of processes and internal activities which are the “building blocks” for their business:

  • Value proposition, which the startup offers (i.e., product/service, benefits)
  • Customer segments, such as users, payers, parents or teenagers
  • Distribution channels to reach customer segments and offer them the value proposition
  • Customer relationship to create demand
  • Revenue streams generated by the value proposition
  • Resources needed to make the business model possible
  • Activities necessary to implement the business model
  • Partners who participate in the business and their motivations for doing so
  • Cost structure associated with the business model

The beauty of the business model canvass is the way that it allows entrepreneurs and other strategic manager to create a visual representation of their current and projected business models that also provides a holistic view of the business as a whole and a technique for quickly seeing how a specific action or investment will impact each of the components of the business model.  Learn more by downloading a briefing on Strategic Planning: The Business Model Canvass from the Sustainable Entrepreneur’s Briefing Series

Some Principles for Sustainable Business

According to the authors of Sustainable Business: A Handbook for Starting a Business, published and distributed by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, there are two types of principles for sustainable business: operational and strategic. Operational principles were described as being practical and addressing the questions of what organizations do and how they do business on a day-to-day basis. In contrast, strategic principles are used as guidance in setting the overall direction of the business of the organization and should be used to help make decisions about operational principles.

The key operational principles were described as follows:

  • Good Employer: The organization is committed to employee satisfaction, development and well-being. The organization, from the most senior management level display and model fairness and equity in all aspects of employee relations and show no tolerance for discrimination, bullying or harassment. Workplaces are safe and healthy and employees are encouraged to provide input and participate.
  • Environmental Responsibility: The organization is respectful of environmental limits and operates in an environmentally efficient way in the design and delivery of its products/services. For example material/resource use is minimized, products are designed and manufactured considering the full life cycle of the materials and waste products. Environmental technology is invested in and/or used for example using solar panels to generate electricity.
  • Community Contribution and Fairness: The organization contributes to making the communities in which it operates better places to live and do business (e.g., sourcing materials locally) and employees are encouraged to become involved in achieving this goal. Often this will be at a local level, but there may also be opportunities to apply this at the national and/or global level.  All employees demonstrate honesty and fairness when dealing with stakeholders, including working closely with local community constituencies and empowering them in decisions that affect them.
  • Influencing Others: The organization actively encourages others such as suppliers, customers and its employees to improve their own sustainability performance. For example, making it easy for customers to recycle the product and requiring that foreign material manufacturers must implement internationally accepted labor standards to ensure that forced or child labor is not used in the manufacture of materials or parts.

The key strategic principles were described as follows:

  • Integration of Sustainability into the Organization: Sustainability is a business priority for the organization and is reflected in all aspects of the organization, including business processes (i.e., decision making, vision and performance management) to ensure that decisions are made with their sustainability effects in mind. In addition, there is clear evidence of management commitment to sustainability.
  • Minimizing Risks and Maximizing Opportunities: The organization addresses risks and uncertainty when making choices and takes a precautionary approach when making decisions that may cause serious or irreversible damage. Organizations that adopt this approach do not lean on the alleged lack of full scientific certainty about climate change as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation.
  • Transparency and Accountability: The organization is transparent and accountable about its performance in matters that are important to others.
  • Meeting the Needs of Tomorrow with Innovation: Considering the long-term (inter- generational) implications of all decisions and seeking solutions that are mutually reinforcing rather than accepting that a gain in one area, such as reduction of environmental degradation, will necessarily be achieved at the expense of another, such as profitability. For example, recycling was material is not only good for the environment it will also save money for the organization by reducing the costs of removing rubbish.

The principles of sustainability outlined above, like many recommendations from the sustainability community, call on organizations to integrate sustainability into all aspects of their business processes to ensure that decisions are made with their sustainability effects in mind and ensure that there is clear and visible evidence of management commitment to sustainability. The following questions can be helpful in assessing whether sustainability has been integrated into the business of an organization:

  • What norms or policies exist to ensure integration? For example, does the organization have a volunteering policy (i.e., providing employees with a certain amount of time off work to volunteer), environmental policy/goals and/or fair trade policy?
  • What certification systems are available for the organization’s business (e.g., an environmental management system or an industry specific standard)?
  • What membership organizations are available to join to increase the organization’s learning and profile in sustainability?
  • How do staff members know that sustainability is important to the business of the organization and how are they rewarded for integrating it into their roles?
  • What are the sustainability goals of the organization? Do the stakeholders know what the goals are? Is the actual performance being measured? How does the actual performance compare with the goals and how is the business communicating its performance to its stakeholders?
  • How does the organization encourage its supply chain (e.g., suppliers, customers) to make sustainable choices and/or improve their sustainability performance?

 

Flash Organizations Can Accelerate Idea Execution

Wouldn’t it be nice if an entrepreneur could quickly execute a new idea by summoning an entire organization with just a click?  The answer might be a “flash organization”, which two Stanford professors, Melissa Valentine and Michael Bernstein, described as ephemeral setups to execute a single, complex project in ways traditionally associated with corporations, nonprofit groups or governments.  The workers on these projects would be freelancers who typically have never met before, come together solely to complete the project and then disband and go their separate ways.

Advances in information technology are driving the interest in and use of flash organizations in several industries including software and pharmaceuticals.  Platforms make extensive use of data, algorithms and computing power to assemble the organizations.  Then, once the project is completed every member of each team assembled by the platform reviews every other member, generating 20 to 30 data points per person per project, and artificial intelligence is deployed to identify patterns that will improve the selection of members to future teams.  Early research also indicates that flash organizations will be most effective when team members have well-established roles and the teams include experienced product managers who can manage the process and skillfully combine and coordinate the work of the various technical freelancers.

Flash organizations allow specialists to ply their trade and continue to earn a living in the “gig economy”; however, they are still isolating and participants do not enjoy the emotional satisfactions of being attached to an organization.  However, Valentine did not that flash organizations often develop solidarity and collective behavior, even though participants rarely meet one another face-to-face.  The post-project review process provides the better performers with opportunities to advance in future projects and it can be expected that top technology specialists like web developers and product managers will be in high demand.  On the other hand, flash organizations, in their current form, carry significant insecurities for participants in that they generally do not provide health or retirement benefits. Bernstein argued that the platforms that put together the teams that become the flash organizations can alleviate the anxieties of participants, particularly lower-skilled workers, by adopting programs traditionally implanted by companies such as providing benefits, topping off earnings if workers’ freelance income is too low or too spotty and even allowing workers to organize.

Source: N. Scheiber, The Pop-Up Employer: Build a Team, Do the Job, Say Goodbye, New York Times (July 12, 2017).

This article was written by Dr. Alan S. Gutterman, who is the Founding Director of the Sustainable Entrepreneurship Project (seproject.org), which engages in and promotes research, education and training activities relating to entrepreneurial ventures launched with the aspiration to create sustainable enterprises that achieve significant growth in scale and value creation through the development of innovative products or services which form the basis for a successful international business.  This article appears in “Launching a New Business: A Guide for Sustainable Entrepreneurs”, which is prepared and distributed by the Project and available for download here.

 

The Other Side of Paradise

Arguably the most valuable resource for any business is the minds and commitment of its employees.  This is especially true in the technology sector.  Larger companies such as Google, Facebook and Amazon are battling for “talent” to maintain their edge and are continuing to invest in research in continuously expanding areas, most of which are uncharted and in which success will depend in large part on the creativity and innovativeness of engineers, developers and designers.  In many cases, these giants have purchased entire companies primarily to gain access to their technology and people who helped developed it, even though the acquired companies were far from achieving profitability independently.  An article in The Economist noted that smaller startups are also scrambling to attract talent, and that established manufacturers in other sectors seeking to compete on the basis of technology are setting up research outposts in Silicon Valley (e.g., leading automobile manufacturers from all over the world including GM, Ford, Nissan and Toyota) that need to be staffed, thus creating more intense competition for human resources.

The result, according to The Economist and others, has been a “pay-and-perks arms race” as companies invested lavish sums to make their firms into a “paradise for talent”.  At larger companies, workers enjoy generous compensation packages and a dizzying array of perks such as free food cooked by Cordon Bleu chefs, nap pods, workouts in on-site gyms, in-house yoga classes, dry cleaning services on the premises and buses to take them to and from work (a perk that has caused dismay among others in the communities where the buses operate for the additional congestion they create on the roadways).  While the founders and other senior executives of these companies site these strategies as signs of their commitment to the value of their staffers, critics and skeptics argue that they are nothing more that “golden handcuffs” used to keep people at their desks and that everyone is expected to work so hard that they wouldn’t have time to go outside the building and have a meal, exercise, run routine errands or just talk to somebody other than a work colleague.

Startups lack the resources to replicate what employees find at Google and Facebook, but they still work hard to provide a friendly work environment to keep employees engaged and in the building all day long.  In fact, it’s possible to put together what is almost a standard menu for “startup perks”: free snacks, coffee, beer (and even hard liquor in some cases); happy hours; company swag including a wide array of branded goodies such as shirts and hats that employees can wear to get the company name out when they’re allowed to leave the office; discounted gym membership or health and wellness stipend; employee discounts; casual dress code; fantasy football and March Madness tournaments; dog-friendly offices; and ping pong tables, pool tables, foosball tables or basketball hoops.

The Economist observed that the tech economy has long been, and continues to be, a “ruthless meritocracy” in which the best and brightest are extremely well compensated in relation to their peers and the others, those who are merely good but not great, are expendable and can expect to labor in obscurity while the stars get the credit.  It appears that tech workers can benefit from mobility in the sector, jumping from one company to another if they perceive a better opportunity; however, Silicon Valley companies aggressively track former employees to ensure that they don’t use the same knowledge they employed in their previous posts, even if the employee developed that knowledge on his or her own.  This sort of activity creates particular difficulties for startups that lack of the resources to get involved in a legal war with a new developer’s former employer threatening a trade secrets misappropriation lawsuit.   Moreover, what seems to be a great opportunity often turns out to be a dead end like Sidecar, a ride-sharing service forced out of business in the face of competition from still-expanding rivals such as Uber or Lyft.

And the mouthwatering stock grants offered by Silicon Valley firms to attract talent?   They make people dream of being millionaires before age 40 as long as they give over their lives to helping their companies go public or get sold at a huge valuation, but the reality is that companies often use multiple classes of shares that preserve the biggest gains for insiders, leaving the employees with common stock that can easily lose value. The traditional method of raising money and providing liquidity for employees, an initial public offering, has given way to additional rounds of private financings at historically high, but often mysterious, valuations.  But, instead of providing more value for employees, these rounds often come with guarantees to the investors from the founders and other senior executives that the investors will make their money back at a liquidity event, a promise that can only be kept by issuing more common shares to the investors that dilute the holdings of employees.

The Economist conceded that the tech industry offers fabulous rewards for a fortunate few, but cautioned that a career as a software developer or engineer came with no guarantee of job satisfaction.  In fact, The Economist cited the results of a 2015 survey of 5,000 workers at both tech and non-tech firms regarding employee satisfaction that found that many tech employees felt alienated, trapped, underappreciated and otherwise discombobulated”.  Specifically, only 19% of tech employees said they were happy in their jobs and only 17% said they felt valued in their work.  In addition, tech employees were significantly more discontented than their colleagues in marketing and finance in several important areas including a clear understanding of their career path, an understanding of their companies’ vision and good relations with their work colleagues.

While people will always be willing to sacrifice to pursue what they perceive to be paradise, it seems that many otherwise intelligent folks are being misled, sometimes unintentionally, by the founders and other senior managers of the companies they work for.  New hires cannot possibly know all they should know about the company’s organizational culture and expectations that will impact their work-life balance.  They also don’t have access to information about deals that have been made with investors that will impact their compensation and return on their investment of time and effort.  Will the arms race slow down?  That’s not likely.  But recognition of, and respect for, the growing dissatisfaction outlined above will hopefully prod founders to practice more transparency with their workers and find different ways for workers to contribute and derive satisfaction from their participation in the pursuit of the company’s business model.  The list of startup perks above is shockingly devoid of options for workers to make time for their personal lives, work remotely so that they can help their mates and relatives with family matters and pursue personal growth opportunities that will not only benefit their current companies but prepare them for the inevitable day when it is time to move on to the next startup or project.  Fixing this problem requires making placing commitment to the well being of employees on the same footing as business growth and profitability.

Sources: Schumpeter: The other side of paradise, The Economist (January 16, 2016), 74; and L. Drell, Are These the Best Startup Perks You’ve Ever Seen? (May 28, 2012).

This article was written by Dr. Alan S. Gutterman, who is the Founding Director of the Sustainable Entrepreneurship Project (seproject.org), which engages in and promotes research, education and training activities relating to entrepreneurial ventures launched with the aspiration to create sustainable enterprises that achieve significant growth in scale and value creation through the development of innovative products or services which form the basis for a successful international business.  This article appears in the chapter on “Human Resources” in “Launching a New Business: A Guide for Sustainable Entrepreneurs”, which is prepared and distributed by the Sustainable Entrepreneurship Project and available for download here.

Corporate Sustainability and Organizational Culture

“… findings suggest that the successful implementation of culture change for corporate sustainability might be largely dependent on the values and ideological underpinnings of an organization’s culture, and that these in turn affect how corporate sustainability is implemented and the types of outcomes that can be observed.”

Linnenluecke and Griffiths were interested in examining the relationship between corporate sustainability and organizational culture.  They observed that organizational culture had often been cited as the primary reason for the failure of implementing organizational change programs, and explained that regardless of the sophistication of the tools, techniques and change strategies used by an organization, change programs are most likely to succeed when they are aligned with the values and ideological underpinnings of an organization’s culture.  They believed that organizational culture impacts how corporate sustainability is implemented and predicts the types of outcomes that may be observed by introducing various change strategies into the organization.

In order to test these propositions, Linnenluecke and Griffith set out to explore and discuss the relationship between corporate sustainability and organizational culture using the “competing values” framework of organizational culture that has been used to identify and describe the following four types of organizational culture, each with its own set of valued outcomes and a coherent managerial ideology about how those outcomes could be achieved:

  • Human Relations Model: Organizations that are dominated by human relation values promote cohesion and morale through training and development, open communication and participative decision-making
  • Open Systems Model: Organizations that are dominated by open systems values promote growth and resource acquisition through adaptability and change, visionary communication and flexible decision-making
  • Internal Process Model: Organizations that are dominated by internal process values promote stability and control through information management, precise communication and data-based decision making
  • Rational Goal Model: Organizations that are dominated by rational goal values promote efficiency and productivity through goal-setting and planning, instructional communication and centralized decision-making

Linnenluecke and Griffith put forward the following theoretical propositions with respect to each of the four cultural types with respect to how the ideological underpinnings of the applicable organizational culture were likely to influence how sustainability will be implemented and the outcomes that can be achieved from the sustainability initiatives:

Human Relations Model: Organizations dominated by the Human Relations Model, with its emphasis on social interaction and interpersonal relations, rely more heavily on internal staff development, learning and capacity building in their pursuit of corporate sustainability.  Organizations with a strong focus on social or human relations values are likely to support or attract social entrepreneurship and leaders of these organizations will likely invest significant time and energy, often at the expense of neglecting business goals and objectives, in advocating corporate sustainability principles within the organization.  The challenge for pursuing sustainability within organizations with an embedded Human Relations Model will be resolving the tensions between creating a business venture and pursuing a social purpose.

Open Systems Model: Organizations dominated by the Open Systems Model place greater emphasis on innovation for achieving ecological and social sustainability as they pursued corporate sustainability.  In this instance, innovation is applied not merely to attain higher levels of eco-efficiency, but rather to develop products, systems and practices that “move beyond pollution control or prevention and allow the organization to operate within the carrying capacity of the natural environment by minimizing their resource use and ecological footprint”. As for social sustainability, the assumption is that the organization must recognize and embrace its responsibilities toward various stakeholder groups and the community in which they operate.

Internal Process Model:  Organizations dominated by the Internal Process Model have a preference for pursuing economic sustainability and thus place greater emphasis on economic performance, growth and long-term profitability in their sustainability initiatives.  The key aspects of this approach would be maximizing production and consumption of the organization’s products and services in order to increase profits and achieving economic efficiency through the simplification of products, services and processes in order to achieve costs reductions, maximize product and pursue economic outcomes; however, realization of economic sustainability (i.e., the maximization of profits, production and consumption) alone is not sufficient for the overall sustainability of corporations.

Rational Goal Model:  Organizations dominated by the Rational Goal Model emphasize resource efficiencies in their pursuit of corporate sustainability.  There is no doubt that there are operational and sustainability advantages to implementing policies and practices that reduce costs and operational efficiencies and many organizations have implemented human resources and environmental policies focused on reducing and eliminating waste; however, efficiency should not be pursued in isolation, since it is also necessary to consider the impact that the steps taken to achieve efficiency may have on the environment and society.  Moreover, efficiencies may be of limited competitive advantage to organizations if they can be easily copied and implemented by competitors.

The propositions for each of the cultural types championed by Linnenluecke and Griffith are important for sustainability leaders in the way they serve as reminders that there is no single best type of sustainability-oriented organizational culture and that organizational culture is best viewed as a fundamental influencer on how corporate sustainability is implemented and the types of outcomes that can be expected.  Can sustainability leaders make the changes in organizational culture necessary to facilitate a shift toward different sustainability-related ends?  Organizational rigidity and multiple subcultures make the task more difficult; however, Linnenluecke and Griffith suggested that certain changes can be made to the elements of an organization’s observable culture (i.e., at the surface level) to provide a conducive context for the changes in the values, beliefs and core assumptions of organizational members necessary to pursue sustainability: publication of corporate sustainability reports, the integration of sustainability measures in employee performance evaluation, and employee training.

Sources: A detailed discussion of the article appears in the chapter on “Organizational Culture and Sustainability” in “Organizational Culture: A Library of Resources for Sustainable Entrepreneurs” prepared and distributed by the Sustainable Entrepreneurship Project (www.seproject.org) and available for download here, and the article itself can be found at M. Linnenluecke and A. Griffiths, “Corporate sustainability and organizational culture”, Journal of World Business, 45 (2010), 357.  For further discussion and description of the competing values framework of organizational culture, see R. Quinn, Beyond rational management: Mastering the paradoxes and competing demands of high performance (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 1988); R. Quinn and J. Kimberly, “Paradox, planning, and perseverance: Guidelines for managerial practice” in J. Kimberly and R. Quinn (Eds.), Managing organizational translations (Homewood, IL: Dow Jones-Irwin, 1984), 295; and R. Quinn and J. Rohrbaugh, “A spatial model of effectiveness criteria: Towards a competing values approach to organizational analysis”, Management Science, 29(3) (1983), 363.  See also the chapters on “Dimensions of Organizational Culture” and “Typologies of Organizational Culture” in Organizational Culture: A Library of Resources for Sustainable Entrepreneurs, which is prepared and distributed by the Sustainable Entrepreneurship Project (www.seproject.org).

 

 

Networking and Leadership Development

Hoppe and Reinelt suggested a framework for classifying networks with a particular focus on networks that organizational leaders might join as part of their leadership development efforts in order to gain access to resources and other support.  They noted that while leadership networks may be intentionally created, they also often emerge from a strong need or desire of the members of the networks to become and remain connected.  The four types of networks in their framework were as follows:

  • Peer Leadership Network: A peer network is based on social ties among leaders who are connected with one another on the basis of the shared interests and commitments, shared work, or shared experiences. A peer network provides leaders with access to resources that they believe are trustworthy and can be used by leaders to share information, provide advice and support, learn from one another and collaborate together.  Gaining access to a peer network is often one of the fundamental goals of a leadership development program.
  • Organizational Leadership Network: The social ties established in an organizational leadership network are focused on increasing performance.  Ties in this type of network are often informal and exist outside of the formal organizational structure and provide leaders with the means to consult with colleagues outside of their departments or business units in order to solve problems more quickly.  In some cases, organizational networks are intentionally created, in the form of cross-functional teams or communities of practice, to bridge gaps in the formal organizational structure that may be impeding performance and progress toward organizational goals (e.g., completing a new product and/or delivering services to customers more efficiently).
  • Field-Policy Leadership Network: Leaders who share common interests and a commitment to influencing a field of practice or policy may come together to form a network that can be used to shape the environment surrounding the topic of mutual interest (e.g., frame the issue, clarify underlying assumptions and/or establish standards for what is expected of key stakeholders). This type of network can be a powerful tool for collective advocacy on issues and policies that are of common importance to multiple organizations and can facilitate mobilization of support and allocation of resources.
  • Collective Leadership Network: A collective leadership network, which is based on a common cause or share goals, emerges and enlarges over time.  The process begins with local groupings that eventually interact with groups in other areas to form larger networks and a much broader community that allows members to pursue specific goals while feeling a part of something that is larger than oneself.

Hoppe and Reinelt emphasized that the framework was largely for illustrative purposes and that many networks are actually hybrids of multiple categories or simply fail to fit neatly into one of their network types.  What is important from a leadership development perspective is the potential value of networks to current and prospective leaders in terms of access to information, advice, support and other learning benefits.  Networking also provides leaders with a foundation for identifying potential collaborators for new initiatives and impacting the external environment of the organizations they lead.

The relative position of leaders within their networks is an important consideration.  In some cases, leaders enjoy strong ties to others members of their network (“bonding connections”) and thus have a feeling of affiliation and connectivity to a trusted community where interactions are familiar and efficient.  However, leaders also need to have “bridging” or “brokerage” connections which, while weaker than bonding connections, nonetheless provide them with essential paths to accessing new resources and developing new opportunities for innovation and profit.  A “bridger” is a person in a network who has connections to different clusters and is typically someone who is deeply embedded in relaying information among other network members.  In this capacity, a leader can gain recognition and trust as a key broker of access and knowledge and as someone who is positioned to move projects that require collaboration from people in different parts of the organizational network.  As a leader’s reputation grows, he or she is more likely to become a “hub” in a network, which means someone who is a highly-sought resource for advice by other members of the network. The influence of a hub increases to the extent that the persons who seek his or her advice are themselves relatively more influential in the network.

To learn more, see B. Hoppe and C. Reinelt, “Social Network Analysis and the Evolution of Leadership Networks”, The Leadership Quarterly, 21 (2010), 600, 601.  This post is an excerpt from Chapter 2 (“Leadership Traits and Attributes”) of “Leadership: A Library of Resources for Sustainable Entrepreneurs”, which is prepared and distributed by the Sustainable Entrepreneurship and available here.

Becoming a Sustainable Leader

Sustainable leadership focuses on bringing about dramatic changes inside and outside organizations and calls for prospective sustainability leaders to be aware of the various traits, styles, skills and knowledge that he or she should have; the internal and external leadership actions that he or she should be taking; the leadership practices and principles that he or she should be following and disseminating and embedding throughout the organization; and the habits that have come to be associated with effective sustainability leadership.  There is no universal curriculum for becoming a sustainable leader and things like traits, actions and practices will vary depending on the personality and temperament of the leader and the context in which he or she is operating; however, the elements listed below are based on the work of several researchers who have analyzed the training, experiences and practices of sustainability leaders in organizations selected from many countries and sectors.  It is hoped that these elements can provide a foundation for the continuous study and work that is needed in order to become and remain and effective sustainable leader.

  1. Traits
  • Caring and morally-driven
  • Honesty and trustworthiness in actions and relationships (“keep your word”)
  • Systemic holistic thinker
  • Enquiring and open-minded
  • Self-aware and empathetic
  • Visionary, tenacious and courageous
  • Concern for disparities and injustices and commitment to human rights
  • Respect for diversity and different ways of working, cultures and mindsets
  • Passion for sustainability and commitment to a sustainable lifestyle
  1. Styles
  • Inclusive and engaging
  • Collaborative
  • Consensual decision making
  • Empowering and trusting
  • Visionary and creative
  • Altruistic (guiding and helping others with the ultimate goal of improving their wellbeing)
  • Servant (transcending self-interest to serve the needs of others)
  • Radical
  1. Skills
  • Manage complexity and unpredictability
  • Bridge disciplines and sectors
  • Communicate vision
  • Exercise judgement
  • Challenge and innovate
  • Staff and team management
  • Managing diversity in the workplace and socially
  • Think and plan long term
  1. Knowledge
  • Competence in domains relevant to organizational goals and purposes
  • Awareness of ecological, economic, political, cultural and community contexts
  • Global challenges and dilemmas
  • Interdisciplinary connectedness
  • Change dynamics and options
  • Organizational influences and impacts
  • Awareness of stakeholder roles and diverse stakeholder views 
  1. Internal Leadership Actions 
  • Organizational culture and reach
  • Informed decisions
  • Strategic direction
  • Governance structure
  • Role of leadership
  • Management incentives
  • Performance accountability
  • People empowerment
  • Learning and innovation
  1. External Leadership Actions 
  • Cross sector partnerships
  • Sustainable products and service
  • Sustainability awareness
  • Context transformation
  • Stakeholder transparency 
  1. Leadership Practices
  • Commitment to training and staff development programs
  • Proactively striving for amicable labor relations
  • Development of strategies for staff retention
  • Shifting compensation programs toward metrics that valued contributions to customer loyalty and to innovation
  • Promoting environmental and social responsibility
  • Initiating communications with multiple stakeholders and transparently taking into account and balancing their interests
  • Developing and embedding a shared vision for the goals of the business
  1. Habits
  • Taking a long-term perspective in making decisions
  • Fostering systemic innovation aimed at increasing customer value
  • Developing a skilled, loyal and highly engaged workforce
  • Offering quality products, services and solutions
  • Developing and maintaining the trust of organizational members and stakeholders
  • Committing to and engaging in ethical behavior and decision making and establishing ethical values and standards throughout the organization

For additional information, see W. Visser and P. Courtice, Sustainability Leadership: Linking Theory and Practice (Cambridge UK, University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, 2011), 1; G. Avery and H. Bergsteiner, “Sustainable leadership practices for enhancing business resilience and performance”, Strategy and Leadership, 39(3) (2011), 5, 6; and D. Timmer, J. Creech and C. Buckler, Becoming a Sustainability Leader (Winnipeg CN: International Institute for Sustainable Development, 2007), 56, 59.  To learn more about Sustainable Leadership, see the chapter on that subject available as part of “Leadership: A Library of Resources for Sustainable Entrepreneurs”, which is prepared and distributed by the Sustainable Entrepreneurship and available here.