Leadership and Sustainability: This Time It’s Personal

Ajla Rustempasic & Ingse Bergh Monsen

Student thesis: Master thesis


Existing theories addressing leadership and sustainability are mainly focused on organizational perspectives in tackling challenges that sustainability brings to business. Sustainability leaders are at the same time under scrutiny in media, which focuses more on the individual level. Thereby, there seems to be a gap in theory regarding the importance of leaders as role models and as sustainable individuals - in driving organizational sustainability.
The purpose of this research is therefore to explore the field of sustainability leaders and their behaviour. In order to add awareness to the need for an individual dimension to existing leadership theories, ways to be a sustainable individual are analysed, and practical guidelines are suggested.
The issue at hand was researched through (6) case studies based on articles regarding sustainability leaders, which have been either scolded or applauded in media for their unsustainable or sustainable personal commitment to sustainability. Moreover, additional case studies were conducted on various websites suggesting ways to be a sustainable individual. These have laid the foundation of the analysis, together with existing theories regarding values and behaviour – as a suggestion to an added dimension for sustainability leadership.
The research suggests that being a sustainable individual is important in order to change the current unsustainable norm - by creating a situation of habitual actions towards sustainability. Since there is a need to have a holistic approach to sustainability, individuals also have a responsibility. Furthermore, it is suggested that leaders have a chance to be role models in order to drive sustainability in business, and by changing lifestyle, in society. The conclusion of this research is thereby to adopt sustainable behaviour altogether if you want to drive sustainability further in the business. Meaning, if you want to be a sustainable leader you should also (try) to be a sustainable individual, by adopting behaviour that support the message of sustainability one is promoting as a leader.

EducationsMSocSc in Service Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2016
Number of pages131