What should tomorrow’s leaders know about sustainability?

Theo Hacking is Programme Director for the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership (CPSL), which currently deliver two part-time Master’s level sustainability programmes. They are exploring new accredited programmes that will address gaps in the sustainability-related qualifications currently available at Cambridge or elsewhere.

They are especially interested in targeting the needs of business and would welcome your suggestions regarding themes to cover, which you believe would address current learning needs.

I share my thoughts here on what might be useful in terms of course content.  My response is also on Linkedin.

Some broad brush policy stuff mixed with some practical business and ‘techy’ stuff would be a good mix from my perspective (and thinking about what my non-sustainability colleagues find useful in my company’s own internal senior leadership training courses).

  • Systems thinking and interrelationships of risks and opportunities.. This was extremely well-done and very relevant when I attended the Prince of Wales Sustainability Leadership course in Schloss Leopoldskron, Salzburg  (right below) in September 2006.

    Library at Schloss Leopoldskron

  •  Vision 2050 from the WBCSD is good source material and will appeal to business people as it represents their views on how to get “9 billion people living well and within the limits of the planet…
  • You could include impact of socio-political instability on progress to a more sustainable world, ie what is the balance sheet of benefits and impacts of democratization / Arab Spring. Case studies would be interesting to see, although I admit this would need a lot of work (or consolidation of other people’s work) if it is to be of use. However, business is very interested in how resilient they are from a basket of risks, including how instability or hostilities in a country, part of a country or in a larger region can affect business. Deloitte and Forbes did some good and interesting work on this, which was published in August.
  • The apparent contradiction of the ‘greening of the armed forces’, particularly UK and USA – lots of web resources on this. Some weeding and triaging of sources is needed, but when they cite turning over 16 million acres of Defense Department-owned land for renewable power generation, this looks significant. And in the field, deployed and fighting, fuel efficiency for example, makes good military sense in terms of going further on less and a shorter supply chain. The BBC had an interesting programme on this too.
  • Energy efficiency (INTEREST DECLARED as this is what my company is pushing, because 50% or so of our products have an ‘energy efficiency’ criteria). BUT, the McKinsey CO2 abatement curve shows a significant proportion of CO2 reduction will come from energy efficiency. Possibly not the most inspiring topic, but critical for the future.

You can respond to Theo on Linkedin or I will pass comments on from this site.

Sustainability leadership

Big problems probably need a range of people with a range of skills and perspectives to solve them.

Take climate change… or have we given up and are we really talking about ‘the effects of climate change’?

So who are the cast of thousands? And how could they be more effective.

There are the climate experts and the engineers who, respectively, will keep our focus on the issue and who will come up with many solutions for adaptation.  The politicians will debate and either agree on global regulations (incentives and penalties) or agree to disagree.  Businesses will see if there is a buck in contributing to the solution and civil society will see the focus on climate compete for space with the ‘urgent’ issues like fixing economies and stemming unemployment. 

And together we will meander towards the mid-21st century with 9 billion people trying to live productive, peaceful lives ‘within the limits of the planet’.

Some of our future leaders (indeed, some of our current leaders) might like see how education like this can help.

System thinking that brings together and synthesizes experts from fields as diverse as medicine, business and finance, economics, NGOs, trade and employee representive organizations, utilities, armed forces, the media and individuals could start to promote real solutions. 

What is happening in the blogosphere (and Twittersphere) to convene to work through issues – could the cloud be a forum or a workspace to share and work through challenges?  Are they all being used already – and I’m just so far behind the curve?

It seems to me that there are many possible solutions, but few gain traction. 

Any bright ideas?