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Research report: Unearthed Potential - considerations for sustainability leadership

At the heart of Dattner Group’s mission lies a profound commitment to the greater good. For over a quarter-century, we’ve spearheaded transformative change within organisations of all sizes and sectors, guided by the principle of improving personal, organisational, and planetary well-being. As the world evolves, so do our efforts, increasingly focusing on the urgent need for leadership that is inclusive, collaborative, and sustainable.

While sustainability has long been a cornerstone of our work, recent years have seen a notable shift in its prominence within organisations. Yet, despite this growing emphasis, our exploration reveals a surprising gap in understanding the individuals driving sustainability initiatives. A cursory glance at the Australian Government’s Labour Market Insights reveals a striking absence of explicit roles dedicated to sustainability.

During a recruitment drive, our team stumbled upon a curious pattern among candidates for sustainability leadership roles – many lacked a formal background in science or sustainability. This revelation sparked a series of questions: Are these individuals adequately supported in their roles? Do they possess the necessary skills to navigate the complex challenges they face? And perhaps most importantly, what support and development do they require to ensure the integration of sustainability into business as usual?

Motivated by these inquiries, we embarked on a research project. Over three months, we interviewed and surveyed individuals across Australia and New Zealand who hold roles responsible for sustainability management or leadership. Our aim was to uncover insights into their roles, the challenges they encounter, and the skills they deem essential for success. Additionally, we conducted in-depth interviews with eight individuals to gain a deeper understanding of their experiences and aspirations.

The data gleaned from our research was rich in detail, revealing emergent themes and shedding light on the complexities of sustainability leadership, and the critical development opportunties, for both leaders and workplace cultures, to increase our ability to effectively drive outcomes on the key sustainability development we so desperately need to achieve.

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