Those who advocate moving towards
sustainability debate how change can be achieved. Does it have necessarily to be
top-down or can it also be bottom-up? Can radical organisational and social
change be spread from ‘the middle’? Who can lead change when those with
seniority and credibility are necessarily embedded in currently dominant
mind-sets and power structures?
This book focuses on what it means to take up leadership for sustainability, from a variety of organisational and social positions, and considers the consequences of different strategies and practices for influencing change.
Leadership for Sustainability shows what an action research based practice of leadership for sustainability looks like and provides a sense of the personal and professional challenges this involves; it demonstrates how people who are influencing change draw on reflective practice strategically (to create a context in which they can be influential) and also tactically (in moment-to-moment choices about how to act). It also illustrates and reflects on the kinds of outcomes that can be expected from this work, both the specific and strategic achievements, and the difficulties, challenges and disappointments. Thus the major part of this volume consists of accounts by graduates of an innovative Master's programme, the MSc in Responsibility and Business Practice, of their activities, projects, achievements and learning. Accompanying sections from the editors overview, analyse and reflect on these accounts and the issues they raise for notions of leadership, practice, sustainability and change. One substantial chapter offers ideas, frameworks and practices for people taking leadership.
One of the most dispiriting aspects of the environmental challenges that beset us is the lack of agency that many people experience: we do not know what to do or how to do it. Many organisations espouse a sustainable approach. This may be lip service or it may be a genuine attempt to integrate sustainability into business strategy. Whatever form it takes, organisational sustainability programmes need committed, intelligent, reflective leadership at all levels to make them work. The examples in this book show how people in very different contexts have seized the opportunities open to them and acted with courage and initiative to make a difference.
This book will be relevant to a wide range of people, including managers, consultants and others in commercial, non-profit, public and intergovernmental organisations who want to contribute to the development of a sustainable world. It will be of particular interest to people working in organisations already thinking about issues of sustainability and those who are seeking to take on the role of change agents in organisations or communities.
In addition, the book will be a resource for those in educational fields, primarily but not exclusively higher and further education, who wish to work with their students to develop leadership practices through action research based educational approaches.
All contributors to this book have been associated with the MSc in Responsibility & Business Practice at the University of Bath, School of Management, UK, either as tutors or participants. This innovative degree course used action research to engage with challenging issues in a wide range of business, public service and civil society contexts.
|At the heart of this book are stories from 29 people who are seeking to make the world more environmentally sustainable and socially just. They report their purposes, journeys, impacts, learning and disappointments. Their accounts are diverse and from many different worlds, ranging from fast moving consumer goods to international forestry and conservation projects. They have in common that they are among the 254 graduates of an innovative Master's programme, the MSc in Responsibility and Business Practice community, who in one way or another are adopting action research as a practice of taking leadership for sustainability, and believe their actions can be significant contributions to the causes that matter to them.|
This book brings ecological concerns slap bang into the realms of corporate business. Using the language of sustainability the contributors write openly about spiritual and emotional engagement, knowing ourselves as nature and helping business reconnect with cyclical systems that emulate the natural world. This is a story of stories promoting the importance of storytelling as we strive to achieve some semblance of leadership for sustainability.
I rarely read a leadership text from cover to cover, but I found this to be a page turner, reading more like a novel, difficult to put down, and I wondered what each of the short stories would reveal as people have been moved to: “take on the challenges of living courageously in extraordinary times” (p.1).
The main purpose of the book is to publicise and promote ...stories of leadership for sustainability. And what a range of leadership activities they include! From a local neighbourhood action research project in the northwest of England to the conservation of black-maned lions in Addis Ababa, via local produce for school meals in New York, a triathlon event in Weymouth and building an eco-factory to make clothes for Marks & Spencer in Sri Lanka ...
I cannot do justice to 29 stories here, and I would hate to miss out any one, as they each tell of unique ways of applying common threads of learning, shared beliefs and values. This is where you have to read the book to really appreciate the passion, energies, highs and lows of everyday managers and leaders, putting their learning into practice, each in their individual contexts. They go to show how we can all do something if we are moved to do so ...
For myself as a social researcher this book has renewed my confidence to
follow my values, take notice of my instincts, listen to my inner thoughts and
reconnect with the power of the earth. For those in this field of leadership
inquiry I think there are rich pickings here.
Sue Chapman, Independent Leadership Learning Coach and Facilitator in Business Leadership Review 8.4 (October 2011)
Marshall and her colleagues have shown leadership … using a Trojan horse approach by setting up their MSc in the heart of a traditional business school, and seeding other courses. Positive deviance in practice!
The power of the action research approach shines through in the collection of twenty-nine stories, which made this book – despite the somewhat heavy going of the theoretical chapters – the most compelling sustainability book I’ve read for a long time. People have taken action about things they care about, and they have learnt from it.
Their stories demonstrate that we encourage people to show leadership in part by allowing them to be humble and to experiment, not by pretending that only the perfect can show leadership. The stories do not trumpet an approach or sell us a technique. They are travellers’ tales for people who’ll see themselves in the narrative, and be inspired and comforted by it.
Marshall and her colleagues on the MSc course have evidently created a safe space for people to reflect about their doubts and uncertainties as well as their hopes and insights. Chapters including this kind of personal testimony from people like Gater, Bent and Karp are intriguing, dramatic and engaging.
Karp’s story about food procurement shows the difference between an action learning approach and the leader as hero – she’s as open about the set-backs as the successes.
I instantly recognised Bent’s description of holding professional optimism with personal pessimism, and many people I know have had that same conversation: wondering where their bolt-hole will be, to escape the impacts of runaway climate change.
Gater’s story is a brilliantly honest account of his work within a mainstream
financial institution, moving a certain distance and then coming up against a
seemingly insurmountable systemic challenge. In a model of authentic
story-telling, he describes tensions I have heard so many organisational change
agents express. He talks about visiting his colleagues ‘in their world’ and
inviting them to visit him in his. At the end of his story, the two worlds
remain unreconciled, “but it was okay – I had done what I could do as well as I
believe I could have done it, and that had to be enough.”
Penny Walker, independent consultant on change and sustainability, 22 July 2011
Full review on Defra website
Leadership for Sustainability is dedicated to the memory of Anita
Roddick – and she would have loved the overarching theme that we must now move
faster with the implementation of today’s organisational change agenda and, at
the same time, work out how to disrupt our economic and business models to
reboot capitalism for the 21st century.
John Elkington, Executive Chairman, Volans; co-founder, Environmental Data Services (ENDS) and SustainAbility
These are front-line stories from the battle to save the planet and they are
a testament to the quality of this MSc course. Nothing beats reading about the
struggles from so many different situations to understand what it’s like and,
importantly, how immensely rewarding it can be to navigate the challenges of
sustainability and make a difference. As one student described the years
following the course, “These have been both the best and the worst years of my
life. But at least now I know that I am alive.” How many courses can you point
to where the student comes to understand that how they are determines
the effectiveness of what they do. There’s no doubt that those who have
the courage to take part in this programme, to engage in active research in this
messy terrain, learning the skills of the “tempered radical”, will emerge
through their foot-soldiering to become the leaders of tomorrow. Start following
their stories now.
Tessa Tennant, Innovator in Sustainable Finance
How can we can harness the power of leadership to create a more
sustainable, inclusive, and just society? Leadership for Sustainability
opens a fascinating window into this line of inquiry. It tells the stories of an
educational experiment, interweaving first-, second-, and third-person action
research to offer insights for the emerging foundations of a 21st-century
university – and it tells these stories from an authentic first-person view.
Otto Scharmer, author, Theory U; Senior Lecturer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Founding Chair, Presencing Institute
In a world pushed to its ecological, social and economic limits, we don’t
need more words, we need action. This book describes the work of sustainability
pioneers, putting into practice their insights and knowledge in ways that are
designed to create significant and lasting change. Many of these insights and
much of this knowledge was acquired through their time on the MSc for
Responsible Business – a brilliant course where the best thinking on action
research and learning collides with a cutting-edge understanding of
sustainability. This happy fusion of learning and sustainability, creating a new
wave of sustainability practitioners, is critical for achieving the transition
from our unsustainable world to an equitable and sustainable
Dr Sally Uren, Deputy Chief Executive, Forum for the Future
Leadership for Sustainability offers many important insights into
the qualities and processes of leadership. I highly recommend it to anyone
interested in learning how to lead sustainability initiatives.
Bob Doppelt, Executive Director, The Resource Innovation Group
We live in a culture of mass suicide and too many educators either divert
attention from this frightening reality or actively abet the madness by, for
example, normalizing self-interested economics and emphasizing intellectual
loftiness over pragmatic engagement. Amid this conventional madness Judi, Peter
and Gill, along with their colleagues and students, share the fruits of an
important and successful experiment with a more responsive, responsible, sane,
humanistic and enlivening educational or inquiry process, namely action
research. I hope that it will catch on among more educators and graduate
students. In embracing the work described, and doing it together, we may escort
each other through the insanity of our unsustainable and exploitative ways of
living and studying, reinvigorated by our deeper desire for friendship, truth
and ways of acting that honor our more enlightened natures and fellow
participants on the planet. Action research or death: it’s our choice,
encouraged by this volume.
Starting with an important exploration of the “ground upon which we stand,” the author–editors give voice to our daily experience of participation with each other and the larger universe. This is a mercifully different account from the domineering Western myth of each of us separate from the other and the rest of nature. This separation myth, so deep in the psyche of Westerners, has given rise to the exploitative ethos which is now killing us. A participative worldview, described and enacted in this volume, enables a new way of being, learning and acting for ourselves and for the world. This new way also demands a transformative orientation to knowledge creation. Indeed, it has already resulted in an enhanced way of living for students, educators and all they touch, including this reader. Chapter after wonderful chapter, told in the intimate first-person narratives that speak so well to other graduate students, we see the fruits of being honest about our interdependence. Instead of withering under admission of our vulnerability we see lives, careers and people revitalized. We may look forward to the next volume.
Hilary Bradbury Huang, PhD, journal editor-in-chief, Action Research; Professor, Division of Management, Oregon Health & Science University, USA
The Masters in Responsibility and Business Practice at Bath was a benchmark
for education in corporate responsibility in Europe. It is exciting to hear the
impacts that just some of this innovative course’s graduates are having in
contributing to change for a more environmentally sustainable and socially just
Peter Lacy, Managing Director, Accenture Sustainability Services – EALA; Founding Director, European Academy for Business in Society (2003–2007)
Most thinking people now accept that we must make the transition from a
society based on fossil fuels to one using alternative technologies – a
transition at least as great as the shift from an agrarian to an industrial
society. We also know that we must make this transition fast. The key
question is not whether we should make this move but how.
Frankly, we do not yet know how. In the words of Antonio Machado: “Walker. There
is no path. The path is made by walking.” Leadership for Sustainability
provides 29 stories of people who along with their organisations are striking
out on paths to a more sustainable future – paths they are defining for
themselves, inspired and informed by a course they shared in common. They are
all graduates of Bath’s innovative MSc in Responsibility and Business Practice
and their stories remind us that we must all be leaders where we are: “tempered
radicals” taking responsibility for shaping a more sane world where we live
mindfully, aware of each other’s needs and the needs of the ecology that
supports us. The philosophy of the course is presented here too with accounts of
its consequences for some of those who were inspired by it. This is a
must-read for those who hope, and want to translate hope into
Dexter Dunphy, Emeritus Professor, Faculty of Business, University of Technology Sydney
Alumni of a radically different kind of Master’s program make clear: an
individual can, in fact, make a difference, but the “village” is
helpful in shaping skills and sustaining courage to practice business in a way
that creates real sustained value. The villagers are the lucky graduates of the
Responsibility and Business Practice program; Master’s programs around the
globe will learn from its example.
Judith Samuelson, Executive Director, Business and Society Program, The Aspen Institute, USA
Building a sustainable society and economy is too often presented as a
challenge of technology or policy. The preserve of a few technocrats. In
practice, sustainability is all about convincing people to change the way they
lead their lives. Not in their millions but in their billions. Not through
coercion but through inspiration. Not through management but through leadership.
This book shows how a diverse range of people are already leading change. Their
stories are a very human testimony that change is not just needed but is also
Mike Barry, Head of Sustainable Business, Marks & Spencer
2 Educating for inquiring practice in
3 Ideas and practices
4 Promoting alternative questioning, policies and practices in mainstream organisations
- Catalysing a strategic approach to sustainability in a major IT
- On being a change agent for sustainability
- Imbuing work with ecological values
- Thinking out of the box: Introducing action research into neighbourhood
practice in the north-west of England
- Choose life
- Leadership for change in USA public food procurement: People, products and
- Two worlds?
- Putting my learning into practice
5 Establishing sustainability practices in organisations and industries
- Working below the parapet
- Protesting and engaging for change
- Building an iconic eco-factory
6 Paying attention to everyday practices of sustainable living
- Like a river flows: How do we call forth ‘a world worthy of human
- Sport as inquiry: Safe escape, activism and a journey into self
7 Seeking to shift systemic rules and awareness
- Lessons from the entrepreneurial path
- Creating places to stand and the levers to move the world
- Leading by nature
- The practice of making business responsible
- The gap between discourse and practice: Holding promoters of Amazon
infrastructure projects to account
8 Connecting up stakeholders for more sustainable outcomes
- Challenging the system with the success of inquiry
- Collaborative conservation
9 Itinerant change agents to professions and sectors
- ‘Holding up the tightrope’ — helping us all act for
- Doing things right — and doing the right thing
10 Working through community and society
- The journey to CONVERGE
- GYVA.LT: An initiative to promote environmentally friendly living and
sustainability in Lithuania
- CultureWork for a world in transition
11 Working with young people
- Growing food — growing people
- Learning for sustainability: Living a new world-view
- A journey of dialoguing: Peace and inner peace
Lalith Gunaratne and Mihirini De Zoysa
|Judi Marshall is Professor of Leadership and Learning at Lancaster University Management School, UK, which she joined in 2008. Judi currently works on a range of leadership for sustainability activities, including Lancaster’s MA in Leadership for Sustainability. Her interests also include inquiry as life practice, action research, women in management, systemic change, the gendering of corporate responsibility and ‘responsible’ careers. She always seeks to integrate inquiry, research, practice and life. While at the University of Bath’s School of Management, Judi was Director of Studies for the MSc in Responsibility and Business Practice from 1996 to 2008. Working on the programme with colleagues and course participants was a major delight and challenge of her academic career.|
|Gill Coleman is Co-Director of the Ashridge MSc in Sustainability and Responsibility, and Director of the Centre for Action Research at Ashridge Business School, UK. Since the early 1990s she has been concerned with creating inquiry-based participative learning for sustainability and corporate social responsibility—first at Bristol University, then through Anita Roddick’s New Academy of Business. With Judi and Peter she co-founded the MSc in Responsibility and Business Practice in 1996 and has been closely involved with the growing community of inquirers and activists stemming from the course. She continues to work with a wide range of individuals and organisations on questions of sustainability and change.|
|Peter Reason retired from the University of Bath, UK, where he had been Professor of Action Research, in 2009. His academic work contributed to the theory and practice of action research, and teaching and research about sustainability. His major concern is with the devastating impact of human activities on the biosphere. While he values the ‘bright green’ work of creating more sustainable institutions, he believes the root of the problem is that too many humans see themselves as separate from, rather than part of, the community of life on earth. Post-retirement he is writing non-fiction narrative, stories of the sea which reflect on our place as participants in the life of the planet.|