8 sustainable frontiers that are changing business

In this special contribution, thought leader Wayne Visser presents the 8 frontiers that are changing business and leadership to be more sustainable. An increasing number of companies are pushing these frontiers forwards, past out-dated patterns of thinking, towards a thriving future of purpose-driven, innovative, and collaborative business.

So much of making a successful transition to a more sustainable future — which is by no means certain — depends on letting go. In Sustainable Frontiers, I explore ways to let go of an industrial system that has served business well, but is no longer fit for purpose. We need to let go of out-dated styles and models of leadership and business, along with high-impact lifestyles and selfish values. We must learn to go of cherished ideologies that are causing destruction and beliefs about ways to tackle problems that are failing to resolve crises. It is no wonder that so many are scared to let go. Many of us are comfortable clinging to our old consumptive habits and selfish behaviours. Besides, the future is uncertain, and our greatest fear as humans is a fear of the unknown. We would rather trust (and fight to protect) the present we know than gamble on the future we don’t know. And yet, as history has proven time and again, companies that fail to change are companies that ultimately fail. Sustainability is fundamentally changing the way business functions in society across the following eight frontiers.

The Transformational Leadership Frontier
We are starting to understand that all change begins with leaders who are willing to place an inspiring purpose at the heart of their company’s mission. In research I conducted with Cambridge University, we identified the key characteristics of leaders for sustainability:
• Systemic understanding
• Emotional intelligence
• Values orientation
• Compelling vision
• Inclusive style
• Innovative approach
• Long-term perspective
At the same time, an October 2014 study by Cranfield University shows there is still a massive generation gap between current and future leaders’ belief that they are adequately delivering a social purpose through business. (See Schema).

The Enterprise Reform Frontier
A wave of alternative business structures that are challenging the notion that companies must exist exclusively to serve shareholders and make profi ts. Whether it is the hundreds of thousands of cooperatives that employ 250 million people worldwide, or the 1,200+ new brands of B Corps (for benefit corporations), we are learning that…Read more

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8 sustainable frontiers that are changing business

FocusVISSER
Special contribution from Wayne VISSER, adapted from an article first published by Greenbiz as “Cowboys, spaceships and CSR 2.0” (May 2015), and his book Sustainable Frontiers: Unlocking Change through Business, Leadership and Innovation (Greenleaf, June 2015).