CEO decision-making for sustainability

Learn why some CEOs make the shift toward incorporating sustainability into strategy—and what holds others back.

This sustainability report from the Network from Business Sustainability builds on recently released research and provides insights into decision-making in the C-Suite.

Key findings:

  • Three key themes that shape a CEO’s thinking on sustainability surfaced in this research:
    • Personal readiness. Personal and professional experiences and connections, and personal biases/worldviews shaped their readiness to engage in conversations about sustainability.
    • Internal and external contexts. CEOs pointed to both the internal and external contexts of the business as key factors in their decision-making.
    • A final “gut check.” CEOs mentioned three other factors that guided their decision-making: needing to demonstrate performance; wanting to be seen as a good steward of the company; and leaving a personal legacy.
  • The three main barriers preventing CEOs from prioritizing sustainability are:
    • they didn’t know enough about environmental and social issues
    • they weren’t able to make a clear link to why it mattered for their business
    • they could understand the link, but they had competing priorities
  • Some characteristics of effective sustainability change agents cited by CEOs:
    • demonstrate that you understand the business
    • establish a track record of making good decisions
    • connect your ideas to the business strategy
    • know when to bring ideas forward and when to wait
    • consistently show a commitment to the business


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