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Gate One and Forum for the Future held the first event in their roundtable series designed to ignite sustainability ambitions for leaders within the space. Caro Ruttledge, Partner at Gate One, chaired a discussion with Sally Uren, CEO of Forum for the Future, Zoe Arden, fellow for CISL, and Briony McKinn, HR and people development director for EasyJet, discussing what is a sustainable mindset, what opportunities can it bring to your organisation, how can you shift the mindset of your organisation and what are the current barriers to this change.

So far, sustainability transformation has been focused on short-term fixes and limited to ‘sticking a plaster’ over the problem. We’re now at a cross-road – we need to address the root causes of the problems through deep, systemic transformation. This includes reconfiguring systems from linear to interconnected, ensuring transitions to new energy, new production and consumption models. This transformation towards a more regenerative future starts with individual leaders and organisations shifting their mindsets from ‘do no harm’ towards ‘just and regenerative’.

The attributes of an institutional, sustainable mindset

  • Courage, confidence and commitment to drive change are key components of a sustainable mindset. These three qualities are crucial in enabling leaders and organisations to see a vision through to action.
  • Senior level support – to have a sustainable mindset embedded across your organisation, there needs to be senior level support and buy-in. This will allow individuals and the organisation to innovate and do something different.
  • Willingness to explore the future – a leader needs to be open and curious to new ideas, and willing to explore future thinking tools and techniques that can be introduced to the organisation.
  • Systems change – it’s important to think about the potential we’re not seeing, exploring the opportunities to drive benefits across all stakeholders in the system, not just within the business. For this, there needs to be a clear understanding on what is meant by systems change and how your organisation can play a role in driving this.

Building a sustainable mindset

  • Quiet your cleverness – it’s critical to move away from a know-it-all mindset. Instead, leaders need to adopt a growth and learn mindset of collaboration, openness, curiosity and willingness to learn from others.
  • Empower your community to take ownership of solution development – their delivery will create a sense of collective responsibility and connect them to the long-term ambitions of the organisation.
  • Meet people where they’re at – recognise that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ in shifting mindsets. It’s important to understand the most prevalent and dominant mindset within the organisation to help you tailor an engagement approach accordingly (i.e. adopting an approach that connects intellectually versus emotionally). This enables you to meet people where they’re at, using an approach and language that truly connects with the individual.
  • Open mind, open heart, open will – using the core principles of the ‘Theory U model’ can help you challenge the current organisational mindsets and let go of thinking that no longer aligns with your sustainability ambitions.1
  • Make it real – it’s important to connect the sustainability vision and mindset to individuals and their role. This will help them clearly see what it means for them and evoke a reaction. For example, connecting sustainability to their own health and wellbeing is much more tangible for people than the planet.
  • Storytelling is your superpower – people connect through stories, they help people imagine a more hopeful future, make sense of complexities and understand where an individual can contribute. It can also be a great way of communicating the journey you’ve been on and where is left to go.
  • Leverage the three horizons model – striking the balance between the short-term needs and the long-term vision can be difficult when it comes to sustainability. The three horizons model can help leaders identify the ‘no regrets’ actions they can take now that will positively reinforce the steps needed in the future.2
  • Use education as a driver for shifting hearts and minds – equipping both your colleagues and those across your value chain with the skills, knowledge and values of sustainability will enable them to contribute more effectively to a better future for our people and planet.

Take the first step

Sustainability transformation starts with your leaders holding a regenerative mindset. Using the tools available will provide the building blocks to transform your organisation, but rewiring deep-rooted business operations is the next challenge to address. If you’d like to join our next roundtable to discuss operationalising businesses for sustainability transformation, please get in touch.

This roundtable was part of a series focusing on how to ignite sustainability ambitions and accelerate from intention to action.

Caro Ruttledge
Jen Nixon

The time is now for businesses to take action to show they are a key part of the solution and not just the problem. Gate One can help businesses to overcome the challenges and explore the opportunities being a sustainable business unlocks.

Read more sustainability insights