Main Report: CEO Decision-Making for Sustainability


This report outlines influences on CEO decision-making for sustainability and identifies actions for change agents to support their CEOs.

Why do some CEOs incorporate sustainability into strategy — and what holds others back?

This main report builds on the executive guide on CEO decision-making for sustainability. It outlines:

  • Influences on CEO decision-making for sustainability

  • Key barriers preventing CEOs from prioritizing sustainability

  • Actions for change agents to support their CEOs

  • Characteristics of effective sustainability change agentsBased on extensive research and in-depth interviews, this comprehensive report enables CEOs and others in the C-Suite to gain perspective on sustainability by learning from their peers. For change agents, the report provides deep insights into top-level decision-making.


How CEOs Opened Up

“It’s amazing how many business leaders really feel strongly about these things, but have operated in corporate environments where they weren’t able to realize some of the ambitions that they have in relation to these issues." — CEO (excerpt from main report) "If it’s not going to be important for the company it’s going to be lip service. They can say what they want but we are here to optimize the performance of this company.” — CEO (excerpt from main report)

“We put sustainability into our core values eight to nine years ago... We got to a point about three years ago where we said, ‘Well, we haven’t really done much about this. We’ve put it in our values, and it is important to us. We’ve now dealt with some of our other crisis that we needed to. Let’s do something.’ ” — CEO (excerpt from main report)

About the Research

This report was inspired by the Leadership Council of NBS-South Africa and conducted by Dr. Stephanie Bertels, Jess Schulschenk, Andrea Ferry, Vanessa Otto-Mentz and Esther Speck. The project involved a review of over 122 articles and 84 interviews with CEOs, chairpersons and board members, executive team members and internal and external change agents in South Africa and internationally. For additional information on the research, please see the last page of the report.

An executive guide and primer accompany this executive guide. In addition, the Embedding Project hosts complementary resources on CEO decision-making, including Being an Effective Change Agent(Guide, Personal Inventory) and Supporting Your CEO (Guide, Tactical Inventory).



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