Young leaders call for coherence in tackling crises

The Sustainable Leadership working group by CEC European Managers has invited young leaders to share their views about sustainability in leadership and the world of work. The rich discussion underlined the importance of meaningful work, a trustful and collaborative mindset and coherence in leaders’ action.

CEC’s working group on Sustainable Leadership invited three young leaders to listen to the purpose that drives them and better understand how they envision the world of work in the future. This article highlights the rich insights from the conversation that took place on 15 December 2022.

Maria della Rosa Prati, impact strategist at AWorld, is convinced that young people share a feeling of urgency in the face of today’s sustainability challenges. Young people want to be an active part of the solutions and transform the very DNA of organisations. “When there is a clear path and commitment to sustainability – not just paper promises – then this will attract young people. They want to find jobs that support their passion, values and mission” she underlined.

Francisca Sassetti, senior consultant at Sedex, has been a climate and human rights activist for many years. She joined Maria in saying that it is key to be honest and accountable to the progress you are making on sustainability – or not. On one extreme, there is greenwashing with empty promises but no action. On the other side, there are also companies that could attract passionate talents, but don’t talk about their sustainability measures, whether it be the ecological, social or economic dimension of sustainability.

Anders Magelund, who works with Sustainable Leadership at Lederne, observed that his parent’s generation was driven by quite a different motivation for working than many today. Following a career had more something to do with a fear for the loss of social status. Many baby boomers find their work not quite meaningful nor contributive to life satisfaction.

Today, young people have a great awareness of the discrepancy between values and action. Values should be lived if they are shared. A strong company culture that lives its values through collaboration and compassion can become “a superpower for companies”. Indeed, as Anders pointed out, “many have left their employer because of toxic workplace cultures, a control mindset etc. Companies that went best through Covid had a strong and healthy company culture – it pays off.”

For instance, Orsted made the shift from fossil fuels to renewables because of a strong vision for both the organisation and its role in society: “a world that runs on clean energy”. Also Grundfos has been a leader by shifting its mission towards “clean drinking water for 400 million people” instead of “producing high quality pumps”. Graduates want to work for such companies.

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Also check out the purposeful insights of the Sustainable Leaders’ Summit 2022 on creating sustainable and attractive workplaces!