• 16 Apr 2020
  • SBS-ED
  • 4Min

3 businesses driving sustainable development

3 businesses driving sustainable development

Part of the Lessons from Extraordinary Leaders series

The mass activism around climate change is catalysing a global conversation about sustainable development. Businesses are expected to be bastions of morality and advocates for social good. That means making a difference has become a business imperative and ongoing KPI.

Just pursuing profit doesn’t cut it anymore. Companies need to be doing their bit to save the world as well. That means setting company goals that align with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

As part of our lessons from extraordinary leaders series, USB-ED is shining a spotlight on some global and South African leaders who are pushing sustainable business agendas. As a leader, championing sustainability is crucial to a company’s longevity and relevance. Customers want to do business with brands that genuinely care. Here are a few of the ‘good ones’ getting it right.

Who are sustainable development leaders in business?

  • Engie:

President and CEO Gwénaëlle Avice-Huet has helped the North American arm of the business transform. With an advanced degree in molecular chemistry, she’s actively advocating for subsidies to drive new, greener technologies like biogas. She’s also all about sharing her company’s data regarding its innovation wins. Engie’s French wind farm was the world’s first to open its data up to scientists in order to optimise operations.

The take-out? Many businesses closely guard their data – which is completely understandable. But so many exciting advancements can be made through a collaborative, open-source approach. By sharing knowledge, we can accelerate the pace of ushering in sustainable, human-centric advancements.

Founded by award-winning engineering entrepreneur Vere Shaba, this South African business is all about making skylines greener. Committed to advising companies on how to design green, energy- and water-efficient buildings with low waste, Shaba and Ramplin is helping to put lasting sustainable solutions in place. Recognising that Africa will be home to unprecedented growth and urbanisation, it’s looking for ways to amalgamate the required construction with the preservation of the natural environment. It’s taking environmental awareness to new heights.

The take-out? It’s about creating sustainable solves to the real collective challenges that society is facing. Africa is already a growth hub. The need for continent-wide construction is inevitable. So, what sustainable interventions can we put in place?

  • IKEA:

CEO Jesper Brodin is dedicated to helping people create their dream homes in a way that doesn’t take a big toll on the wallet or the planet.

He sees sustainability as an absolute imperative – from IKEA’s trendy couches to tasty vegan hotdogs. He believes customers are demanding businesses to demonstrate commitment and leadership when it comes to treading lightly on the earth. So, he’s answering the call.

IKEA wants to be carbon positive by 2030. It already produces more renewable energy than its operations demand. And it intends to roll-out electric vehicles for deliveries by 2025.

Plus, it’s in the process of phasing out single-use plastic. It’s a business that really does seem to be pursuing the SDGs.

The take-out? It’s about knowing the customer of today! People are educated and informed and they want decisive leadership action from the businesses they support. Leaders need to stop underestimating their clients and realise that by not putting a line in the sand and actively changing their operations for the better, they’re going to lose customers to those that do. 


Enrol in USB-ED’s course on strategy execution to start proactively strategising on how to introduce more sustainable measures into your business. Now is the time for leaders to lead the charge on sustainable development and protect the planet. We need decisive action more than ever before.

written by


- Latest Insights

  • 04 Jul 2024
  • Sarah Babb
  • 4 Min
EDTalks Resilience
  • 10 Jul 2024
  • Vanessa Thurlwell
  • 4 Min
EDTalks Resilience