Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership

Founding Year: 1989

Staff: 150


Dame Polly Courtice (Director)

An institute of the University of Cambridge that works on “developing leadership and solutions for a sustainable economy.” Their Rewiring the Economy framework puts forward a pathway to align our economy with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Through their Rewiring Leadership frmework they focus on “individual and organisational leadership capacity and capabilities” to “catalyse change and accelerate the path to a sustainable economy.”

Helps influential individuals, major organizations and whole sectors develop strategies that reconcile profitability and sustainability and to work collaboratively with their peers to develop solutions to shared challenges and catalyze systems change. HRH The Prince of Wales (Prince Charles) is the Patron of CISL, and is actively involved.

Work Foci:

  • Business Action focuses on: low carbon transformation [e.g., IPCC Climate Science Business Briefings in 16 different categories]; natural resource security [e.g., the Natural Capital Leaders Platform that convenes companies wishing to better understand and manage their impacts and dependencies on natural capital]; strategy and implementation [Works with executives to develop strategy and business models, identify key operational challenges, and build organisational capacity and resilience related to sustainability]; sustainable finance [e.g., creating ClimateWise, a network of multiple global insurers concerned about climate change and aware of the significant resources they can contribute to finding a response];
  • Executive Education offers programs of varying lengths, e.g., a series of six-day seminars for 500 leaders of the African Development Bank to find ways to integrate sustainability in their practices, and support sustainability among clients;
  • Graduate Study has five graduate degree/certification programs, e.g., the Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Value Chains designed for senior and mid-career professionals and managers.  An alumni network brings together several thousand senior leaders and leading practitioners from across all sectors and regions, representing business, the public sector and civil society.  Conducts a range of research, e.g., the Nexus Network, “a three-year initiative to foster debate, innovative research and practical collaborations across the linked ‘nexus’ domains of food, energy, water and the environment.”



  • Blog
  • A library of reports, briefings and case studies
  • Networking events
  • HIGHLIGHT:   Rewiring the Economy: Ten Tasks, Ten Years – (Dr. Jake Reynolds et al., Nov 2015; 20p), which serves as CISL’s organizing framework.  The analysis supports the 17 UN Sustainable Development grouped in six categories: climate stability; satisfy basic human needs (e.g., water and food); health and well-being; decent work; resource stewardship (efficient and circular use of natural resources); healthy ecosystems (ecologically sound landscapes and seas). The ten tasks are: 1) Measure the right things and set the right targets; 2) Use fiscal policy to correct externalities; 3) Drive socially useful innovation; 4) Ensure capital acts for the long term; 5) Price capital according to the true costs of business activities; 6) Innovate financial structures to better serve sustainable business; 7) Set a bold ambition, and innovate to deliver value; 8) Broaden the measurement and disclosure framework; 9) Grow the capacity and incentives to act; 10) Harness communications for positive change.  These tasks positions CISL as uniquely qualified to support the private sector in accomplishing these tasks. Director: Polly Courtice;.


Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership contributes to the following Sustainable Development Goals

  • SDG 1 - No Poverty
    Calls for an end to poverty globally by 2030 and promotes increased access to basic services and social protection.
    View archive
  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
    Aims to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
    View archive
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well Being
    Aims to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages, by reducing mortality rates and increasing access to equitable health care for men and women.
    View archive
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
    Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
    View archive
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
    Aims to end gender discrimination in all forms and promote equal opportunity for all women and girls in terms of education, career, and sexual/reproductive rights.
    View archive
  • SDG 6 -Clean Water and Sanitisation
    Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by promoting global access to adequate sanitation and hygiene.
    View archive
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
    Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by promoting affordable and reliable energy sources.
    View archive
  • SDG 8 -Decent Work and Economic Growth
    Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
    View archive
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
    Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.  
    View archive
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
    Aims to achieve economic growth by reducing inequalities regarding social, economic and political opportunities and freedoms.
    View archive
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
    Aims to promote the globalization of sustainable cities and communities in turn providing universal safe and affordable housing.
    View archive
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
    Aims to create responsible and sustainable practices involving consumption and production through efficiently using natural resources.
    View archive
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
    Calls to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts through global awareness, education, and integration into government policies.
    View archive
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water
    Calls to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development and prevent and reduce marine pollution in order to protect ecosystems and achieve healthy oceans.
    View archive
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land
    Aims to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.
    View archive
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
    Aims to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. Calls to reduce all forms of violence and deaths related to violence and to end abuse and exploitation
    View archive
  • SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals
    Aims to strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development by mobilizing domestic resources in order to provide support for developing countries.
    View archive

Related Content

A collaboration between Stanford faculty and students dedicated to mitigating global catastrophic risks, such as pandemics or nuclear proliferation. The goal is to encourage engagement from members of the Stanford…

An organization that promotes sustainable values, planning, and living in Israel. Their goal is to develop and implement a vision of sustainability that includes a just and cohesive society, a…

The research arm of McKinsey focused on business and economics, providing fact-based insights to aid management and policy decisions. Aims to provide independent research and analysis, and its work is…