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New Report Links Leader Mindset Development and Corporate Sustainability Success

Submitted by: Avastone Consulting

Categories: Research, Reports & Publications, Corporate Social Responsibility

Posted: Dec 11, 2007 – 10:59 PM EST


Avastone Corporate Sustainability Study (ACSS) Charts Ten Companies across Five Stages of Sustainability; Identifies Gaps and Opportunities for Movement Forward

Dec. 11 /CSRwire/ - ATLANTA, GA - December 10, 2007 - A new study examines the progress of ten global corporations against a comparative five-stage sustainability framework and suggests a direct correlation between leader mindsets and sustainability success. Many companies are missing a critical step in their sustainability journey, according to the Avastone Corporate Sustainability Study (ACSS). The ACSS reveals that it is not a lack of tangible systems and activities that comprise the missing component, but rather a scarcity of higher-capacity leaders.

The study findings have been released in a new report, Leadership and the Corporate Sustainability Challenge: Mindsets in Action, issued by international consultancy Avastone Consulting. To download a copy of the report, visit:

"Avastone's Mindsets in Action report presents new research and insight on corporate sustainability, integrating it with research into sustainability literature and well-grounded leadership development frameworks," said Kathleen C. Callahan, Deputy Regional Administrator, Region 2, US Environmental Protection Agency. "And just as your mind starts burning with 'how will I use this,' Mindsets in Action comes through with a solid, action-oriented path for you! It is breakthrough work on sustainability."

Study participants include diverse, global corporations ranging from $1 billion to over $100 billion in revenues. The ACSS finds that all of the companies interviewed are in the process of moving to higher stages of sustainability, yet none have reached the fourth stage (Integrate). In addition, 60% do not view as business-relevant the highest fifth stage (Redesign), where expanded mindsets are critical on the path to sustainability.

Sustainability progress is being made, yet there remains a significant gap.

The Mindsets in Action report explores the nature of leader mindsets and discusses how these mindsets impact sustainability. "While leading companies have become sophisticated in their approach to sustainability and committed to making progress, few focus on the influence of patterns of the mind and how these shape our understanding of the world," said John Schmidt, CEO of Avastone Consulting. "Certain mindsets allow organizations to navigate the complexity of sustainability and proactively work with other key players toward sustainability at the scale needed."

The report details variations in leader mindset capacity development, which explains the diverse views of sustainability and why some leaders possess ability to support fifth stage sustainability efforts, while others do not. The report suggests that, without engagement of higher-capacity leader mindsets, organizations will find it difficult to attain the upper stages of corporate sustainability.

The comparative framework used in the study to assess company progress on their sustainability journey includes five stages or "gears," based upon SustainAbility's Corporate Responsibility Gearbox.

  • 1.0 Comply Gear—companies commonly focus their sustainability efforts on compliance and philanthropy.
  • 2.0 Volunteer Gear—they put in place impact reduction and eco-efficiency programs.
  • 3.0 Partner Gear—companies begin to manage risk more proactively while building their brand and reputations.
  • 4.0 Integrate Gear—sustainability becomes strategic, and companies embed sustainability within the business and across the value chain.
  • 5.0 Redesign Gear—at this most elusive stage, companies contribute to large-scale systems changes that recast markets, redesign financial systems, and root out drivers of non-sustainability.
"The 21st-century global landscape calls for leaders with mindsets that view all five gears of sustainability as relevant to the business, not simply the gears that are obviously required to move the business forward," said Cynthia McEwen, Principal, Sustainability & Leadership at Avastone Consulting and co-author of the report. "The ACSS identifies an intricate relationship between leader mindset and achievement of complex sustainability outcomes. In other words, it states that sustainability is as much about the mindset through which the world is seen as it is about the activities taken in support of it."

The report further details the success factors critical to the ten surveyed companies' sustainability progress. ACSS findings demonstrate that, while technical and business systems may be necessary, they are not sufficient by themselves as drivers of sustainability success; subjective aspects like culture, shared values, and guiding principles are just as important. The report offers practical ways to accelerate progress based on the findings.

About Avastone Consulting

Avastone Consulting ( is an international consultancy committed to the vitality and sustainability of client organizations and the larger global community. Avastone serves as advisors to global corporations and non-governmental enterprises, bringing thought leadership, integral consulting and design, and practical impact-oriented solutions to complex challenges and human development. This includes executive and leadership development and whole-systems approaches to organization development and change.

For more information, please contact:

Cynthia A. McEwen Avastone Consulting
Phone: (1) 678-461-8880 ext 204


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