What's behind the leadership shift in sustainable development from politicians to CEOs?

B.C.J. Zoeteman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Leadership in sustainable development has gradually shifted during the past decades, with forward-thinking CEOs of prominent multinational corporations increasingly taking over the role formerly played exclusively by national politicians. This paper discusses possible drivers for a growing divide in governmental and corporate leadership in sustainability. Special attention is given to the role of the sustainability attitude (SA) of organisations and their leaders, as SA levels have been rising in corporations and diminishing in many OECD nations since the year 2000. The drivers involved in shifts in SAs of corporations and governments include particular impacts of globalisation, of social media, of the economic crisis in OECD countries and of growing differences in power between political and corporate leaders. The likelihood of these drivers exerting a continued effect during the coming decades is discussed. The sustainability attitude of the forward-thinking CEO may become the most important driver of all. To gain insight into the motivation of these leaders, the paper also highlights the biographies of several pioneering CEOs who have demonstrated a type of corporate leadership beyond leading their corporation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-130
JournalEnvironmental Development
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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