Sustainability belongs in the boardroom

IMG_8506On October 1, I had the honor to moderate an excellent panel on Sustainability and Governance. The internative evening was organized by the Alumni Circle for Sustainability at Nyenrode University in the Netherlands.


International perspectives

Carlos Eduardo Lessa Brandao leveraged his unique background in governance roles the Global Reporting Initiative and the Brazilian Institute of Corporate Governance, as well as his active role in the Corporate Sustainability Index of the Sao Paulo Stock Exchange, to debunk the myth of shareholder value as the ultimate responsibility of the board. He argued that succession planning and enabling a sustainable culture are paramount roles for the board.

Professor, author and advisor Mahendra Chouhan shared his insights into the Indian business culture, which influences local governance structures. He also spoke passionately about the need to connect corporate and public governance to drive change for a more sustainable future. He recently co-founded the International Institute of Governance and Leadership to develop passionate, principled, innovative political, corporate and civil society leaders.

Nyenrode’s MBA Program Director Christo Nel positioned business as a powerful lever of change. There is an opportunity for Nyenrode and other business schools to create the right mindset in business leaders. He also called for the need to move sustainability from principles and philosophy to practice and pragmatism.


Interaction and integration at the board level

photo (1)After an interactive session with the audience, the panel concluded that sustainability belongs in the boardroom and in the executive committee. To really anchor sustainability in the organization there is a need for a strong connection of governance and sustainability through personal leadership, continued education, and the active engagement of shareholders and other stakeholders.


Suggested reading on this topic: Leadership and Corporate Governance for Sustainable Growth Business Models, published by the Dutch Sustainable Growth Coalition.

Written by Marjolein Baghuis (@mbaghuis)


  1. Sustainability goes beyond boardrooms and/or executive committees…It should be part of the company’s mission/vision, its overall strategy, its genetics. However, It is the boardroom’s responsibility to explain this to shareholders in order to eliminate short term Wall Street opportunism, which destroys any attempt to create long term sustainability.

    • Thanks Ronald for your comment – completely agree that it cannot be just in the boardroom. The point the panel was making that it cannot be left just to the sustainability department – which I think you would agree with!

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