What must non-profit leaders do to tackle the world's sustainability challenges? 22 Apr 2021

By Arabella Chichester, Global Head, Non-Profits and Social Impact and Sophia Copeman, Partner, Non Profits and Social Impact.

No one can deny that we are in the midst of a global climate emergency, facing unprecedented threats to communities around the world. We have long supported talented organisations across the non-profit and social impact sectors, who are working tirelessly to combat these challenges, and improve the world in which we live.

Today, on World Earth Day, we asked ourselves, what is the role of leadership in tackling these critical issues? And what must leaders do to combat and overcome these challenges now and in the future?

Power with as opposed to power over

The detrimental impact of climate change disproportionately affects LMICs. However, global leadership on combating climate change comes most commonly from the West.

Leaders must endeavour to work with those most directly impacted by climate change, rather than dictating to them. Individuals who have this lived experience can best recognise the urgent challenges and identify realistic options that work for these communities, such as nature-based solutions. Organisations would be wise to recruit their employees from all corners of the world.

At Perrett Laver, we recognise the power of diversity and believe that only through inclusive recruiting can organisations across the non-profit and social impact sectors achieve the skills and knowledge required to combat our global sustainability challenges. Recruiting authentic voices of those with lived experience, allows organisations to truly understand the challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss, and thereby develop and implement initiatives that will have a real impact.

Global collaboration

Our experiences this past year has shown us that remote working is not only possible, but effective. Climate change is a global problem, requiring a global solution, and by opening up the world and truly working collaboratively, organisations have the incredible opportunity to expand their offices and work with talented individuals from all backgrounds.

People are more comfortable than ever with the prospect of a colleague who they have only ever met through a screen, which provides organisations with a new opportunity to seek out and utilise expertise wherever it may be. No longer do global environment and sustainability hubs need to be restricted to just Washington DC, Brussels or London, and there is now good reason for organisations to be more flexible about where leadership is based.

The makings of a powerful leader

The challenge of climate change is multifaceted; it is simultaneously a local and global issue. It is impossible for one individual or even a group of individuals to understand and solve these challenges, and so individual leadership qualities, such as humility and positivity, are critical attributes that organisations should look for in their leaders.

Leaders in this area must be passionate, forward thinking, and possess the ability to see how interconnected climate change issues are. Organisations should therefore be open to working with candidates from a whole host of rights-based organisations, and not just narrow their searches to technical expertise. Expertise is important but the ability to galvanise and drive an organisation forward in an uncertain and disruptive environment is paramount.

Looking to the future

At Perrett Laver, we have seen first-hand the passion and drive with which non-profits and social impact organisations tackle the challenges of climate change. We are optimistic about the future and believe through global collaboration and inspirational leadership, organisations can - and will – help us to overcome our greatest sustainability challenges.

Global Development Health and Social Care Social Impact and Environment

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