29 February 2024

In the realm of business, a commitment to environmental responsibility and social good is no longer just a nice-to-have, it’s essential for long-term success. As sustainability reshapes the corporate landscape, it has become increasingly clear that leadership and executive talent play pivotal roles in steering organisations towards a greener future.

To gain deeper insights into the integration of sustainability within executive search and leadership development, we sat down with Leonie Pentz, AIMS International’s Global Sustainability Lead, to discuss her insights on the intersection of sustainability and leadership.

Leonie brings to the table not only her expertise as the Head of Global Sustainability but also her role as the Head of the Global Energy Practice at AIMS International. Her dual responsibilities involve promoting sustainability throughout the organisation.


Q. What are your thoughts on sustainability becoming crucial for businesses and its impact on Executive Search and Leadership Development?

Leonie: A corporate sustainability strategy and plan is no longer an optional extra – it is essential for the longevity of any business.  Companies that don’t take sustainability seriously risk becoming obsolete. You can look at it as a risk or an opportunity.

Bob Willard has been saying for 20 years what most people are just now realising: to be profitable, you need to be sustainable, not the other way around.  

We know that in order to reach any strategic goal, the culture needs to change, and that culture is driven by behaviours. This starts with leadership behaviour.  

Shareholders must understand the behaviours that drive sustainability targets and evaluate their executives for a sustainability mindset.  

To fill the gaps, we must recruit leaders with a sustainability mindset, and for the rest, training and development are essential.


Q. Can you explain your strategy for identifying and recruiting leaders who prioritise sustainability and environment responsibility

Leonie: At AIMS, we consider a sustainability leadership mindset a mega competency.  

It is important to identify the behavioural competencies that drive sustainability, localise them to your particular context, and assess them when recruiting your leaders. 

Leaders who are inclusive will in turn recruit for inclusivity, creating a positive ripple effect all the way down the chain.  

Many people think that a person from a vulnerable group will automatically be open-minded and inclusive, but this is not always the case.

On the other hand, a white male in his mid-fifties could in fact be exceptionally culturally agile and inclusive. 

Therefore, conducting the correct assessments with the input of an Industrial Psychologist is essential when recruiting executive leaders. 

Similar assessment tools can be used to evaluate your current leadership team’s cultural agility and ability to drive corporate sustainability targets. You can only improve what you can measure.


Q. How do you integrate sustainability with clients and how does it impact organisational culture and performance?

Leonie: For every assignment that we discuss with our clients, we prepare an in-depth profile analysis that includes the role and company’s value proposition, essential competencies needed for the role, and a specific section on corporate sustainability where we discuss our client’s ESG challenges and targets. 

We know that leaders today want to align their purpose with the purpose of their organisation, and that our client’s Employer Brand is intricately linked to their sustainability reputation. 

This information helps us successfully align the essential skills and culture needed for a particular environment.  

As Peter Drucker said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”  Your business objectives are driven by people.  Leaders should create a culture that is fertile for their business strategy to grow, by fostering the necessary behaviours.


Q. In what ways does AIMS International incorporate sustainability to reach all Local AIMS offices around the world?

Leonie: AIMS International recently joined the UN Global Compact as a global participant and we are currently rolling out this initiative to all our Partner offices worldwide, in more than 50 countries.  

Our sustainability team has already been tracking certain targets such as gender diversity, both internally and for positions filled in various industries with our clients. 

Many of our Partner offices are paperless and quite a few offer remote work opportunities like in South Africa and Switzerland, where we work remotely almost 90% of the time.

We have implemented virtual conference facilities and will continue to have a hybrid model in the future. 

Our next step is to clarify and break down our targets even further into measurable bite-sized chunks and get all our Partners’ commitment to work towards these targets in participation with the UN Global Compact initiative.  


Join the Conversation on Sustainability

As AIMS International continues to lead the charge in integrating sustainability into the core of executive search, board services, and leadership development, we invite you to become part of this crucial conversation. 

Whether you are a business leader looking to enhance your company’s sustainability strategy, a professional seeking to align your career with your values, or an organisation ready to take the next step in sustainable transformation, AIMS International is your partner in this journey.

Reach out to us to discuss how we can help you find leaders with the right sustainability mindset: https://aimsinternational.com/en/sustainability/