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The world is in crisis. A growing number of citizens around the globe are demanding action to fight climate change, restore social justice and set the economy on a sustainable path. While the targets, as set out by the Paris Agreement and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, clearly state what we have to change, little time is being spent on how we have to change. Managers in the private and public sectors bear particular responsibility in setting their organizations on a sustainable path and leading by example.

In response, CEC European Managers, which represents roughly a million managers at the EU-level, just launched #ManagersForFuture. The campaign is calling on business leaders at the managerial level to join a paradigm shift in management skills, practices and purpose.

At a time when the scientific community has come to a global consensus on the existence of human-caused climate change, action is now needed by policy makers, citizens, consumers, workers and managers to keep the earth’s temperatures below a 1.5–2 degree Celsius global warming scenario. Many companies are ill-prepared for a transition to a green economy, while global trade tensions, accelerating market concentration and financial instability put business prospects at risk. A well-being oriented economy that operates within the existing planetary boundaries has to be developed. Managers will be the key to doing that.

 

Time for change — starting with ourselves    

Transformative change does not come from a void. It requires knowledge, skills and action. Today, however, little attention is put on how skills, company dynamics, accounting and other work practices can become more sustainable. Managers are central in shaping the strategic development of their companies while ensuring that all business parameters align to the objectives. They’re responsible for providing learning opportunities to workers in addition to granting decent working conditions and protecting health and safety at the workplace.

How can meaningful progress towards a sustainable future be achieved if managers aren’t trained in sustainability?

Today’s business education, company structures and management practices aren’t delivering sustainable impacts. A whole new set of leadership skills is required for a world characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. Mindfulness, emotional intelligence and “learning to learn” will become increasingly important to make sense of a rapidly changing environment. Without the awareness of systemic relationships and an understanding of their own role as change agents, corporate shifts towards more sustainable practices are doomed to fail.

Rather than solely controlling and planning, managers will increasingly be asked to align purpose, action and personal creativity. By benefitting from meaningful work and taking ownership over the development of a sustainable business model, employees are likely to see their work performance, satisfaction and health increase.

Against that background, the #ManagersForFuture campaign aims to raise awareness around the role management plays in shaping the sustainability transition. We’re hoping it will spark debate on the purpose and vision of the managerial profession. The time for action has come. Only by deliberating on a clear vision and purpose for managers at the helm of implementing change can best practices be identified and implemented to the benefit of people and the planet.

Ludger Ramme is the president of CEC European Managers. He’s also the director of CEC’s German federation, ULA.

Jean-Philippe Steeger is the policy and communication officer at CEC European Managers.

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