As globalization and the demographics of our workforce change and evolve our economy, principles of sustainable leadership become increasingly necessary. Sustainable ideals and business practices are refocusing our gaze towards consciously improving institutionalized models of business.

Many famous leaders, from Mark Zuckerberg to Elon Musk, have stressed the importance of sustainable leadership in business. We can focus our efforts to create long-lasting benefits for more than just profit. Now that truly innovative businesses are combining sustainability, tech, and a social focus, it’s time to develop a new sense of what great leadership can achieve.

Three main components of sustainability that business leaders should focus on are economic and social developments, along with environmental protections. Amongst these areas, there are several principled actions that can define a sustainable–and successful–leader in today’s world:

Encourage Diversity

A strong leader respects and represents diversity in business, the workplace, and the world. In terms of profit, you can appeal to more markets. Audiences and community stakeholders respond well to products and ideas that expand their horizons, connect them to other people, or allow them to feel that your service can empower themselves and/or others.

You community and socially conscious business can help support initiatives that encourage diverse cultural and demographic perspectives amongst your employees. Often, multi-disciplinary perspectives can help paint a clearer picture of how your business services or products should look to achieve success. Yale Insights suggests that diverse thought leads to social justice and innovation. In addition, a performance-based argument for success includes diverse opinion, thought, and dialogue as crucial because the world is constantly changing. Leaders acknowledge changing global dynamics and, as a result, need to prepare how global changes will affect their brand with wide-ranging, introspective opinion. Dynamic economic and social intelligence also bring insights to engage people.

Harvard Business Review reports that a 2015 McKinsey study of 366 public companies determined that racially diverse management was 35% more likely for financial returns above their industry’s mean. Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15% more likely to have returns higher in their industry.

Follow the motto:

  • Diverse opinions anticipate/solve customer demands
  • Authentic thought patterns expand your business model’s reach

Foster Collaborative Environments

Collaboration allows for ideas to be shared and developed in safe and supportive spaces. Similarly to the diversity component, collective intelligence environments offer more room for variety and growth.

As a leader, distribute and share leadership, rather than delegate it. Allow your employees and team to work together and create an inclusive environment where everyone is heard, learns, and feels empowered and motivated. In the long-term, collaborative workspaces can be the key to a more productive and sustainable business mold. In fact, studies show that collaboration and inclusivity not only increase productivity, but highly engaged organizations also have double the rate of success of lower engaged companies. Engagement improves quality of health and work.

As a leader, you can utilize collaborative tools and technologies such as Skype, organize teamwork through meetings and brainstorms, and offer mentorship to help engage employees. Leaders can lower their employee turnover rate and keep their work environments inclusive by following these steps:

  • Openly share information/knowledge
  • Make yourself accessible to employees
  • Make sure everyone understands concepts/directions
  • Offer feedback
  • Reward hard work and efforts
  • Encourage career development
  • Give employees freedom to grow

Overall, inclusive leadership is essential for a more sustainable business model.

Follow the motto:

  • Listening is more important than talking
  • You can’t do everything by yourself
  • Clear and concise meets the price

Maximize Resources

Resourcefulness can turn you into an innovative and enterprising entrepreneur. Not only is it the key to environmental sustainability, but it also helps support a financially viable business. Managing and optimizing raw materials use in flexible ways is imperative to save money and time for both the business and client. Likewise, you can save money by reducing operating costs, reducing waste or conserving energy to generate value.

A PwC report states that business leadership must change to meet the future by joining the sustainability revolution which allows companies to take leadership roles in defining new strategies for supportable futures. Sustainable leaders must combine sustainability with resources and improved talent management since a main pillar of business responsibility is management and organization. Managerial resources will require business leaders to attract, acquire, develop, deploy, and reward talent.

Since sustainability is a key attractor for younger employee candidates, it’s also a major factor they consider when deciding where to work and whether to remain with a company or move on. Research conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers shows 90% of US respondents said they actively seek employers who reflects their social and environmental ideals.

Likewise, a Business Commission report assesses the UN’s Global Goals initiative, a sustainable alternative business strategy of 17 interconnected objectives and policies for leaders to attain in the next 15 years. The model promotes the idea that business leaders should develop circular business models and digital platforms that can shape new social and environmental value chains. It’s estimated that following these global goals will result in $12 trillion in economic opportunities.

Follow the motto:

  • Take advantage of low tech gadgets
  • Reuse, recycle, retain
  • Bring it full circle; Create circular business models

Advocate for Social Change

Social entrepreneurship is a relatively new business strategy. It can create innovative business models, organizational structures, and strategies for negotiating between limited resources to create social progress. Intersecting with other sustainable leadership principles, this model relies on leaders to encourage employees and mobilize resources, both financially and politically.

If you want to make a difference, integrate advocacy traits into your business plan. Leaders who front businesses with influence or are seeking influence can drive social change through advocacy and policy. Social entrepreneurship focuses on opportunities to improve systems, find solutions, and tackle problems that pair social value with economic value for sustainability and self-sufficiency.

Harvard Business Review advises that to create a sustainable social venture capital, leaders must change two features in their strategy: they must first focus on changing economic actors–adding customers (to shift the power balance) and government (to alter economics) into the model–as well as evolving technology through substitution, creation, or repurposing. This creates a financial model that can permanently and positively alter social and economic balance for their targeted audience.

Follow the motto:

  • Support/partner with social nonprofit related to your business
  • Care about the cause
  • Make technology more feasible
  • Create a model that equally depends on government and customer actors

Leave a Legacy

Long-term function and value are enviable concepts in any market. Sustainable leaders can promote durability and longevity of their business through a clear vision of the product, competent communication, and services which benefit all sectors of society. Following these steps can help you precur an innovative mindset to constantly evolve your business for the benefit and longevity of everyone.

Achieving sustainable leadership would create a more equal, healthy, and environmentally and economically secure world where purpose and inclusivity are more predictable. These principles can provide viable models for long-term growth, but leaders must take charge of sustainability for profit, people, and the planet.
There will be many challenges, but a better, more resilient path to leadership is underway. As leadership becomes more sustainable, social, political, and economic sectors will become more supportive of one another than ever before. Together we can look forward to a brighter future and a world of abundance.