VIDEO: The skills you need to become a sustainability leader

What makes a great sustainability leader? Here, edie rounds up all of our 'sustainability skills' videos filmed over the past month, and brings you a final episode on how to effectively lead your company's CSR strategy - marking the start of our Sustainability Leadership Month.

The series of short videos, broadcast throughout November, broke down the essential skills that sustainability and CSR professionals have been utilising to take their abilities onto the next level; delivered through 60-second pitches from a selection of highly-experienced sustainability leaders and advisors.

The final episode of the series (below) sees Asia Pulp & Paper’s (APP) managing director of sustainability Aida Greenbury explain how sustainability professionals can combine a number of soft skills to effectively lead a CSR team and drive positive change within their organisation and beyond.

VIDEO: 60-second sustainability skill – The Leader

In the above video, Greenbury discusses the role of ‘The Leader’ within a sustainability team. What skills or techniques are required to spearhead a successful sustainability strategy? And how do you get your team fully on-board with that strategy without coming across as too dictatorial?

Greenbury uses her experience leading a transformation of APP’s approach to managing deforestation in the pulp and paper supply chain to explain that being an effective leader is all about being prepared to challenge the status quo, and seeing the bigger picture.

“Leadership is very important in sustainability because sustainability continuously evolves,” Greenbury said. “So, it is important to always continue to challenge the status quo with what is considered ‘sustainable’.

“One thing that’s very important for people who want to succeed in sustainability is to always consider the big picture. Sustainability is not a small part of something – you have to look at the full picture and see exactly how it works. That’s what I try to do with my team.”

Aida Greenbury’s top tips on sustainability leadership

– Challenge your teammates. You should continually try to challenge your team regarding their knowledge of sustainability in the business. I test my team every day, it’s a bit annoying for them but I test them every day, asking them questions about key topics.

– Work out your responsibility, and others. What is the scope of your responsibility? For me, I take a few steps back and look at what I’m responsible for, from their I know what I need to manage, and how I should manage it all. The most important thing is to set up a strong team to support each pillar that you have responsibility for, and remember that you are the leader of each pillar, so you can attach KPIs to them for your team.

– Keep an open door. It’s important to give your team enough assurance that when they’re stuck, or when they have problems, they can always come to you. Full access to the team is crucial – it shouldn’t matter if they are supposed to reports into you or someone below, you should be saying to everyone: “If you have questions or you are stuck then come to me and I will support you.”

– Remember: it’s ok to make mistakes. Businesses can be scared to make mistakes sometimes, especially in sustainability. But if you are scared to make mistakes then you can end up not doing enough. You should always be proactive and take a trial and error approach. And if your team does encounter an error then you should reassure them that you can fix it together. Of course, you should always try to reduce risks but you can learn from your mistakes and come up with a stronger strategy the next time around.

– Don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. One thing that is very important for anyone who wants to succeed in sustainability is to always consider the big picture. Sustainability is not a small part of something – for Asia Pulp and Paper it is not about the forests alone; it is about communities, about the landscape and about greenhouse gas emissions as well. You always have to look at the full picture and see how everything works together, that’s what I try to do with my team.


60-second sustainability skills – The full series…

Each video below features a different sustainability expert discussing a particular skillset, as edie sought to find out what makes a well-rounded, successful sustainability leader.

1) The Influencer (Part 1)

2) The Influencer (Part 2)

3) The Innovator


4) The Disruptor

5) The Motivator

6) The Collaborator

7) The Storyteller

edie’s Sustainability Leadership month and Sustainability Leaders Forum

The month of December sees edie shift the editorial spotlight from skills to leadership, ahead of the Sustainability Leaders Forum in London on 25-26 January 2017. (Find out more and register to attend here).

Taking the conversation beyond the operational, this month is dedicated to the leading edge of sustainability thinking. We’ll meet the organisations and the individuals that are driving the agenda forward, discuss the hot topics that are keeping the UK’s chief sustainability officer’s awake and night, and showcase some of the suppliers and technologies that are driving the green industrial revolution.

Read all of our sustainability leadership content here.

Luke Nicholls

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie