Whether it is at a corporate level or a blue-collar environment, women continue to face major issues in equitable integration and opportunities within the workforce [1, 2]. Bridging the gender gap, achieving fair wages, and ensuring more representative demographics at leadership levels are key. This International Women’s Day, LEAD-WiSE brings you the insights of Cynthia Hansen, Managing Director of the Innovation Foundation, and their work on these issues that underpin those very challenges.

[Annabell Cox] You do a lot of exciting projects and one of those is getting women back into the workforce and I’d love to hear a little bit more about this project you’re running. What are the reasons women are taking career breaks? Why do we have that gap?

[Cynthia Hansen] We’ve actually done a lot of looking at why women drop out, and there are a lot of different reasons, but I think for the most part it comes back to balancing all the different demands on you in your life. In a lot of cases, it’s caring. The statistics show hugely that it’s usually caring not just for kids, but also caring for elderly parents or for people with disabilities, other people in your life… And so caring is one of the biggest reasons, but I think it comes down to not just caring – it’s kind of a surface-level issue. It’s more about how you can balance the different demands of your time in a way that suits you. Ultimately most of the people we see, women in particular, are dropping out for that reason.

Is there a specific age group?

We find that a lot of women drop out at that age of say between roughly 25 and 45 when they have school-age kids. That’s not the only reason, but that is definitely a trend that we see throughout the world. We did a couple of pieces of research last year, they were specifically looking at why women drop out and the kind of hidden target audiences within that, because it’s not just women in general, but also we’re seeing that women at either the bottom end of the age range or at the top end of the age range tend to drop out at higher rates and women in mid and low skill demographics also tend to drop out. Women with caring responsibilities also drop out, but the trends are really across the board.

What kind of concrete actions could small and medium enterprises put in place in order to welcome women or avoid women dropping out within those age groups you’ve just mentioned?

I think for SMEs, it is particularly hard, because a lot of those provisions that bigger companies can put in place, are really expensive. So, if you look at the returnship programs that exist in a number of big companies, they’re geared toward bringing women back in after they have had a career break, but they’re focused mainly on white collar, educated, high skilled women and big companies will do that, because that’s a premium audience. They want those women back in and so they’ll create the glide path, they’ll create the programs to come back in with. But if you’re looking at low-skill, mid-skill women or if you’re looking at smaller organizations, they’re often just isn’t the ability or the will to invest there. 

So, I would say what SME’s can do is actually build this retention of women all the way in from the attraction and the hiring process to the onboarding, to the culture. Make sure that women feel welcomed, supported, that they see the role models at the top levels, that there is this idea from the beginning that it’s a ‘bringing your whole self to work’ situation. That [as an SME], you will work with them to figure out what suits them and to make sure that you can be flexible around the other needs in their life. SMEs actually have more ability to do that as a small organization than you do as a large organization. 

We’ve tried to model this in my own team. 

We are a separate legal entity from the Adecco Group. We’re clearly very embedded with the group, but we’re tiny. Right now, we’re seven people, at our biggest we’ve been 12. I’ve had people who worked part-time, who worked entirely remotely. We had people who needed to go and work remotely for a month or two because of family issues. For us, it doesn’t matter where you are, as long as you’re really embedded with the team, you’re connecting with people, you’re delivering what you’re supposed to. We had a colleague who went and worked for two months in Russia, another who worked for a month in Spain for family reasons. That’s absolutely fine. So as a small light company, you can make those provisions. You can weave it into your culture in a way that maybe is harder in a bigger established organization.

What are you doing in particular as the Innovation Foundation to accelerate that transition for women going back to work? What is that project about? 

So this is a project that is partway through our process – that thing that looks like a propeller, our process of Scan, Build, and Scale.

Scan is data-driven landscape scanning to help us understand: Who is falling out of the workforce and why, or who’s in danger of falling out? So we use that research and that methodology to go from women, which is [a huge dataset], all the way down to women who are in low-skill, mid-skill jobs who have had a career break of over a year, excluding maternity leave. So this is not just maternity leave, but really being out of work. We’re looking at the age range of roughly 35 to 45. That’s often where women will have caring responsibilities either for kids or for parents. Then, we’ve decided to do the place-based solution in Spain. This is where we get down to: what are we solving for and for whom?

Now, we go into Build, which is the second part of that propeller. That’s design, thinking based innovation, ideation. So, we’ve got this fantastic working group that has end users, women from that demographic in it plus organizations, companies, experts, HR people and we’re running through a design process. We’ll come out with a couple of solutions, they’ll take those solutions and it goes into Scale, which is an accelerator that actually builds them into products. 

We’ll build a little venture team around each one and then they will have six months and a chunk of money to go out and build an MVP – build that thing – whether it’s an app, a platform, a campaign – into a real solution. Then they come back and they pitch to us and if we believe that it’s got legs, then they go into another six months, another chunk of money. The aim is to build it up into something that is good enough and test it enough that one of the partner organizations will take it forward. So nothing will ever stay with us.

As the Foundation, we’re always building these things kind of as a flywheel that will go out into the world. So that’s what we’re working on right now. Specific to that idea of frontline workers, mid-skill, low-skill women coming back after a career break, what we found was that nobody was looking at that demographic, nobody was building programs or solutions for that demographic. [What we’ve created] is basically an incubator, but what makes it different is we’re not incubating external ideas or SMEs or startups or even entrepreneurs. It’s really whatever comes out of our process and then we build it with the right people.

What drove you to develop this specific idea? Why is that close to the Foundation and to yourself?

So the Foundation is really focused on anyone who is in an underserved population, who is in danger of falling out of work or falling out of work, the focus on women really came from statistics. We were seeing in the wake of the COVID pandemic that women dropped out at a much higher rate and women in precarious situations dropped out at an even higher rate, and as the pandemic started to tail off. They weren’t coming back, so we were really interested in why they were not coming back and why are they not coming back into certain industries that need people. Things like hospitality, health care, logistics, manufacturing, retail. And these are all industries that tend to employ a lot of women in that demographic and that need people now. So, we wanted to unpack that and figure out if we could find a solution that would help women who are vastly needed in the workforce to come back in and that would help those industries who need people.

What would be the benefit for small and medium enterprises to get their workforce back and to keep those women into the workforce?

I think a lot of it is about deeply understanding what the needs are of the workforce that you want to attract, and this is actually what we’re spending a lot of time in that working group on. So, this is really valuable, maybe even more valuable for SMEs than for large companies because SMEs need to choose their people really carefully and they need to retain them. So, if you can actually take the tools that we are developing to better understand what the needs are of the workforce that you want to attract then you’re going to be a more attractive employer. You’re going to be able to retain people, you’ll be able to develop them and that then allows you as an SME to grow, but to grow with the right people – and you’ll probably contribute a lot to your own brands, your company brands as being family friendly or women friendly in general. 

Key Takeaways:

The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting happened as scheduled in Davos this year with some of the world’s most influential business leaders, public figures, civil society and academia to set out a vision on what economic growth looks like within today’s shifts to purpose-led operations [1-3].

Set to a media background covering mass protests at a coal mine in Lützerath, Germany, major profits from oil companies or even private jets arriving in Zürich for this world conference set the stage to what was happening at Davos: odds combined with reality – yet there are several takeaways from the summit that highlights how change is happening.

  1. Increased Global Sustainability

With back to back UN conferences focused on climate change (COP27) and the protection of biodiversity (CBD COP15) held at the end of 2022, sustainability has been a key talking point for decision-makers. While COP27 yielded mixed results, the CBD COP15 set a landmark deal to protect 30% of the world’s natural areas by 2030 by investing in blue and green economies that favor environmental protection [2, 4]. This is backed by a shift by major industrial sectors and a range of economic benefits governments are passing down to sustainable businesses [3, 5]. Having sustainability feature so heavily at Davos, only serves to reiterate how economies are being adapted to work with the environment, not against it. 

Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have increasingly sought to future-proof their business by implementing sustainable operations, of which collaboration is one of their biggest tools [6]. With Davos emphasizing a shift at the top, it can facilitate pathways to sustainability for SMEs. “Large corporates must also play a part when it comes to supporting SMEs in skills-building, especially around digitization and helping create the ecosystem for environmental transition, including unlocking financing,” explains Agility Chairperson Henadi al-Saleh [7], “SMEs are the bedrock of developed and developing economies. They are at the heart of economic growth strategies for most emerging markets looking to climb the development curve.”

While collaboration between SMEs and major companies can certainly fast-track sustainability, SMEs are faster and more nimble than international businesses when it comes to implementing change [8]. Experts at Davos unveiled a report highlighting the need for faster regulations from governments to enable big businesses to shift faster, but also to protect and promote how SMEs are finding innovative ways of implementing sustainable solutions using private funds [3, 5].“There is clearly a gap in supply and demand for finance,” highlights Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator CEO Racquel Moses [9], “There is growing interest from across the private sector to improve the resilience of communities at the front lines of the climate crisis [and] lead to long-term growth.”

From the protests at Lützerath to panel discussions at Davos, climate activist Greta Thunberg highlighted how climate action is playing a key role in societal behavior.  Purpose-led businesses are helping create a more sustainable future, and upcoming generations are more and more educated as to the risks posed by the current economic status quo [1-3]. Young people are demanding change and are following through. The inherent risk for companies not following sustainability trends or greenwashing will be more costly than the cost of their transition [10, 11]. Consumers are changing, businesses must adapt, and as the first three takeaways highlight, there is an appetite for it at all levels and readily available avenues to explore.

Have you thought about how you can level-up your business to become more sustainable?

Key Takeaways


[1] Vincent Diringer, 2022, “Purpose-Led, Value-Driven – What else?”, LEAD-WiSE.
[2] Vincent Diringer, 2023, “The Global Biodiversity Goal Promoting Purpose-Led Businesses”, LEAD-WiSE.
[3] Tom Idle, 2023, “Davos 2023: 5 Takeaways for Companies Engaged in the Climate Fight”, Sustainable Brands.
[4] Vincent Diringer, 2022, “What is the United Nations Climate Conference, COP?”, LEAD-WiSE.
[5] The Economist, 2023, “The Dispatch: 5 key takeaways from Davos 2023”.
[6] Vincent Diringer, 2022, “Circular Economy, Opportunities for Innovation and Collaboration”, LEAD-WiSE.
[7] Henadi al-Saleh, 2023, “Why big business must support SMEs to achieve economic growth and get to net zero”, World Economic Forum.
[8] Laura Chung and Abby Seaman, 2023, “How small businesses are overcoming the challenge of going green”, the Sydney Morning Herald.
[9] Racquel Moses, 2022, “Building climate resilience through private finance”, the Jamaica Gleaner.
[10] Vincent Diringer, 2022, “Gen Z Challenge Status Quo”, LEAD-WiSE.
[11] Vincent Diringer, 2022, “Greenwashing within the Global Business Context”, LEAD-WiSE.

Mere weeks after the United Nations climate conference (COP27) ended in Egypt, diplomats assembled in Montreal for another UN conference, this one focused on biodiversity (CBD COP15). Following the mixed results at COP27, the sustainability sector set its eyes on the discussions to be held in Canada, where an ambitious target to protect the world’s natural areas and promote green growth was to be tabled [1]. Over a hundred countries pledged their support for the goal which aimed to protect 30% of land and oceans by 2030. Steeped in science, protecting the world’s biodiversity would ensure that important natural systems could be maintained, helping mitigate climate change and building sustainable economies in developing nations [1, 2]. 

As Grenadian diplomat and UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell explains alongside Jamaican Minister Matthew Samuda, protecting local biodiversity could have a massive impact on global goals: “With our nations committing to both land and sea protection we will contribute to the following global benefits:

While the benefits are clear, heading into CBD COP15 roughly 17% of land and 8% of oceans were protected, further highlighting how ambitious such a target would be [3].

Driving Positive Change

Despite some drama during the negotiations process that put in doubt the viability of the target, a consensus was reached and the 30×30 target was agreed upon, and parties will now work on an implementation process [4]. While this landmark deal is drawing scepticism as to its feasibility, it has undeniably highlighted the demand for nature-based solutions and investments into sustainable economic structures [5-7]. For businesses, this signals a change in momentum favouring purpose-led businesses, as Carolina Klint explains, “Organizations should focus their resilience efforts on expediting green energy, climate and nature investments [as well as] improving employee health and well-being. [7]”

But what does this all mean realistically?

The 30×30 will have a more pronounced effect in developing nations and countries with large biodiversity hotspots, where blue/green economic growth that focuses on protection can be effectively developed. However, this also provides opportunities for companies and institutions to explore new ways of integrating nature, biodiversity, and sustainability into their business model [5-7]. This can be through partnerships with like-minded entities, creating local programs, or actively working with suppliers and customers to build sustainable supply chains – have you thought about how your business can contribute to global goals?

Key Takeaways:


[1] High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, 2022, “Why 30×30?”.
[2] Simon Stiell & Matthew Samuda, 2022, “Caribbean 30×30 target: Protecting nature to protect future”, Jamaica Gleaner.
[3] John Cannon, 2021, “Protected areas now cover nearly 17% of Earth’s surface: U.N. report”, Mongabay.
[4] Patrick Greenfield & Phoebe Weston, 2022, “Cop15: historic deal struck to halt biodiversity loss by 2030”, The Guardian.
[5] Vincent Diringer, 2022, “The Importance of Sustainable Business Models”, LEAD-WiSE.
[6] Vincent Diringer, 2022, “Net-Zero: The Future of Sustainable Businesses”, LEAD-WiSE.
[7] Carolina Klint, 2023, “Global Risks Report 2023: How organizations should respond”, World Economic Forum.

Human beings start learning with their first breath. Education is essential to acquire knowledge, the skills to survive, to develop one’s full potential and integrate successfully into today’s society.

Today 25% of the European Union’s population is in the 0-24 age bracket [1]. Educational institutions are meant to inspire this age group throughout their childhood, teenage years and into early adulthood.

The concept of sustainability has evolved over the years – today, environmental and social aspects have become increasingly important, exemplified best by growing movements calling for better diversity and inclusion and work-life balance as well as movements such as me-too, BlackLivesMatter or Fridays for future. Many of these activities have been led by a young diverse generation through weekly demonstrations, heated debates and strikes. As a result, our society increasingly demands that companies and governments take responsibility in these areas [2].

Academia is fundamental to bridge the socio-economic divide of environmental and social sustainability competencies [2]. Childcare centres, schools and universities must continuously train their educators and staff with essential new skills, encourage to undertake research, and apply their content to their own internal sustainability practices to lead by example. As a knowledge broker responsible for a well-functioning and healthy society, it is necessary for educational institutions to adhere to, convey and execute an aligned mission, adjust curricula, adapt learning methods and change organisational behaviour towards sustainability. Academia must respond to these emerging, global trends with efficient resource management, new education models, training programs and behaviour to develop integrated, responsible and future world citizens [3].

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. – Nelson Mandela

How can academia successfully enlighten its children, pupils, students, educators and staff to innovate, inspire and actively lead the transition to an equal and balanced society while staying within planetarian boundaries?

Align your Vision & Mission

Any business or organisation must develop a strategy aligned with its purpose, vision and mission. Whether it is an early childcare centre or a highly ranked university, it all starts with a strategy allowing for a healthy organisational culture including social justice, democracy and sustainability embedded in the approach. Old frameworks included only the financial aspect of growth. The new leadership requires also considering the well-being and diversity of its people including educators, administrators, building managers, students, and community members as well as the physical environment embracing internal and external sustainable practices contemplating the impact on the planet as well as the classic. All three factors, social, environmental and financial, maintain a healthy balance of sustainable progress. A sustainably aligned and managed educational institution can improve its trust, reputation and progress financially better over the years [4].

Almost 80% of young people report being aware of climate change and global warming.

Young people need to develop scientific skills, digital skills, financial literacy and sustainability competences to be ready for the green transition .
OECD, How can education systems advance the green transition? [4]

Embody your curriculum and research through your vision and values

The European Union’s ambitious 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development aims to support the green transition of corporate organisations, enable constant scientific research, create new academic programmes, methodologies and curricula allowing to understand, engage and apply the new skills and learnings. This agenda treats social and environmental sustainability as a core value and pushes educational institutions to enhance their curricula and empowers students to become changemakers. Educators and researchers attracted by your school’s purpose and vision will integrate their sustainability research findings in their teaching, delivering the content with passion.

Academia offering new skills through its programs will remain at the forefront of megatrends. Innovative programs and curricula will attract attention and lead to more admissions and prospects.[5]

Walk the talk – your internal sustainability practices

Sustainability requires a systems-based approach promoting collaboration across disciplines and departments, roles, and schools, to generate positive impact.

To apply what you teach, internal processes should align with your sustainability. Including members of faculty, educators, building maintenance, students and suppliers in this process, it will allow to overcome challenges more easily and transparently while not making it a sole leadership team’s responsibility.

Processes could include revising the following procedures [6]:

Sustainably managed institutions lead to innovative approaches allowing to save costs such as supplies, maintenance fees, energy as well as develop new business models. Lastly and more importantly, sustainable practices are life-sustaining and create value for all stakeholders in the community, not just the organisation itself.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

Communication is the primary tool for inspiring change, sharing the vision, prompting new behaviours, and recognizing accomplishments.

For your stakeholders to understand the institution’s strategy behind all the activities around sustainability, transparent, consistent and concise communications through a variety of channels with a clear, authentic and consistent message. By including all stakeholders in your efforts, you encourage open conversations and highlight the benefit of your school’s actions. [7]

As a result, your organisation reinforces its trust by translating its values into credibility.


Academia plays a vital role in the change of behaviour of our society. Childcare centres, schools, universities and business schools maintain constant contact with society. By nature, educational institutions are influenced by social and environmental issues and put their knowledge into practice to achieve sustainability of human systems.

Key Takeaways


[1] OECD Stat – Historical Population 2021
[2] The role of universities’ sustainability, teachers’ well-being, and attitudes toward e-learning during COVID-19, Melinda Timea Fülöp, Teodora Odett Breaz, Xiaofei He, Constantin Aurelian Ionescu, George Silviu Cordoş, Sorina Geanina Stanescu, July 2022
[3] LEAD-WISE – Sustainable change through education, Vincent Diringer, September 2022
[4] OECD, How can education systems advance the green transition?; Francesca Borgonovi, Ottavia Brussino, Helke Seitz and Sarah Wildi, September 2022
[5] The Centre for Green Schools, The whole school sustainability framework 2014 (PDF), Stephanie K. Barr, Jennifer E. Cross, & Brian H. Dunbar
[6] National Governance Association, Environmental sustainability. A whole school approach (PDF), June 2022
[7] Center for green schools
[8] Forbes, A brave new marker: Rising to the challenge of sustainability communications, Jessie Parker, 2021

A workplace that stands for something, company culture that supports its employees, flexible work styles, good work-life balance, a sense of purpose – these are just some of the things Gen Z wants from its employers [1-3]. While these preferences are not overly demanding, Deloitte warns that few industries and businesses seem ready for their arrival into the workforce [3]. This should come as no surprise, as Gen Z have challenged the status quo ruling society even before they entered the workforce, by calling for more inclusive and transparent actions on global sustainability issues [1, 4].

“Gen-Z’s expectations in the workplace are values-driven and aligned with their personal morals,” explains Ashley Stahl [5]. This means that employers across industries will have to adapt or face being replaced by more modern competitors [3]. So what exactly can a business do to attract the next generation of workers?

Again, while not a difficult set of changes to achieve for a business, there remains a lot of work to be done across various industries to meet them [3]. Generation Z has shown that they will not compromise their own beliefs for the labor system. Outside of this, they echo a lot of the same talking points as the generations that came before them, such as respect in the workplace and fair pay. “Evaluating the behavior of an entire generation can be tricky, but research and data show that Gen-Z workers are bringing some fresh ideas and a strong work ethic to the world of work,” Stahl concludes [5]. Is your business optimized and up to standard for the next generation?

Key Takeaways:


[1] Vincent Diringer, 2022, “Gen Z Challenge Status Quo”, LEAD-WiSE.
[2] Vincent Diringer, 2022, “Encouraging Sustainability by Digital Means”, LEAD-WiSE.
[3] Karianne Gomez, Tiffany Mawhinney, Kimberly Betts, Kerri Sapp, Ahmed Brown & Kara Santner, 2020, “Welcome to Generation Z”, Deloitte.
[4] Vincent Diringer, 2022, “Dialogue Between Activists and Businesses – Key to Creating a Sustainable World”, LEAD-WiSE.
[5] Ashley Stahl, 2021, “How Gen-Z Is Bringing A Fresh Perspective To The World Of Work”, Forbes.
[6] Carl Oliveri, 2022, “Want to attract and retain Gen Z talent? Respect them”, Fast Company.
[7] Jordan Rosenfeld, 2022, “Here’s How Gen Z Is Changing the Workplace — and What Experts Think It Means for the Future”, Yahoo Finance.

We figured that there are lots of articles with advice and wisdom to guide StartUps in their development, progress, and growth. While the lifecycle of a StartUp is very focused on financial growth, we focus on sustainable progress to be measured in its development of inclusive action and engagement with stakeholders on sustainable growth for society and planet. Define your company’s purpose first to guide your vision and mission for your StartUp.

The traditional lifespan of StartUps starts with the idea and development of the project itself, the early stage, followed by the growth stage. After raising the “friends, family & fools” funds, the seed and Series A stage, StartUps enter the Series B, C and D stages. Those phases represent the maturity of the new-born business. The reason for the segmentation of StartUps into these stages lies in the indication of risks. It signalizes to investors as well as clients the financial maturity of the organisation when thinking about investing and engaging with the company. Investors in particular focus on the entrepreneurial team first. It is the number one asset of the company representing a wealth of competencies. Investors then concentrate on the market in which the business operates before considering the actual product and service, the new business develops.

Pitching and selling to make your business and operations progress and grow, are hard work. We would like to provide you with some tools for sustainable progress and thoughts from a marketing perspective aiming for your organisation to successfully position itself, gain confidence, convince investors, and gain capital, but also develop shared value.

Prepare and refine your pitch

The pitch, yes, it is so little, and it is so important. When you pitch, there is never enough time. Often you need to pitch in different languages which requires training. A pitch provides your audience with a precise understanding of your purpose, your plan, and your vision. A pitch is an inspiration that gives relevance to your audience and to the market in which it operates.  An effective pitch generates enthusiasm, motivates your audience, and persuades to buy in.

Work on your pitch, so you can do it in several timeframes, for example, 3 minutes, 1.5 minutes, and 30 seconds. If you pitch in a different language other than your native one, prepare and repeat it until you feel comfortable with it. Test and tailor your pitch, so that you have different ones to match the multiple audiences you are engaging with. The pitch needs to be to the point, entertaining, flawless, and sincere. It needs to be an authentic story and part of yourself.

To structure your pitch effectively, we recommend Patrick Dang’s pitch formula which simplifies your speech when meeting the following requirements: I help x achieve y by doing z. [1]

In your pitch story, inspire through your vision of where your business is heading, confirm your competencies and passion and explain how your product or service solves your audience’s challenges. Apply the formula and test it in various timeframes and languages. Now you are ready to pitch.

Develop a professional presentation

When you create your business, you build your visual identity – this includes your logo, font, colours, image concept and tone of voice. Every item of your visual identity represents your business purpose, your vision, and your mission. After the development of your visual identity, you define your owned media channels including your website and your social media channels corresponding to your specific audience. These media channels serve as your loudspeaker to the rest of the world.

Having your communication platforms reflect your visual identity helps you establish business credibility. It allows you to convene meetings more easily and earn a better understanding when you pitch for investment or sell your product. During the meeting with your stakeholder, we suggest you emphasize your pitch with a clear and slick presentation highlighting your message tailored to your audience. Take into consideration the industry sector, the hierarchy of your audience, the gender and political environment, in which they operate.

The presentation can be easily done through PowerPoint, but also through other online tools such as Prezi [2]. Your presentation and slides shall always represent your corporate identity. Depending to whom you pitch, vary the content giving relevance to your audience. For example, for investors, you start with your vision, brand promise and logo. You also point out how you can help overcome the challenge, who your team is, in what market you operate in, and what your solution represents. Depending on your audience, you add additional features such as data and a timeline of growth. For potential customers, you present a pricing structure and potentially a return on investment. We follow Matt C. Smitt’s advice [3] for more detailed information on how to structure your slide deck.

Collect your contact information

When you start reaching out to investors, partners, and potential clients, it is essential to collect the contact information of all your stakeholders. It will serve as a base for your marketing-related activities and growth hacking actions. Through this collected data, you also understand the client journey, user interests and customer behaviour. Invest a little time in finding the right Customer Relationship Management (CRM), instead of adding your details into an excel sheet. You find readily online CRM tools with a freemium subscription. Choose a CRM that can connect to your media channels, allows you to segment your contacts and has e-mail marketing options. Freemium options are for free up to a certain number of contacts in your database. Very often, CRMs provide discounts for start-ups. It is important to also consider data privacy. If your business is based in Europe, ensure that the server of your CRM is also located in Europe. With the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) policy, this detail is important to respect your stakeholders’ sensitive information and store this data within European legislation.

Hack your growth

Reaching out and turning every stone to find investors or clients is tiring and time-intensive work. The fact that you collect your stakeholder information allows you to engage your audience longer and continuously and support you in your business development.

Option 1:

Social Media Engagement: Identify specific companies and organisations you expect to be the ideal investor or client. Follow the organisations you wish to work with and engage in their social media posts through likes and comments continuously. It allows you to understand their challenges and progress, lift your profile to your target. It also helps you to grow your followers on your personal and corporate social media platforms. Keep in mind that each social media channel represents different audiences. Social Media engagement should be done daily. Also, company content shall be posted very regularly on your channels, so your target audience understands what you offer.

Option 2:

Newsletters: With the collection of your client data, you can engage your audience through e-mail marketing activities. This allows you to share your content such as articles from your blogs, company news, stories and pictures of past or upcoming events, product promotions, announcements of new partnerships and job advertisements. Ideally, you send out these newsletters following a timeline of your choice and you stick to it to maintain a regular information push.


When entering a new market as an unknown brand, it is important to focus on visibility and credibility. You should choose a partner who is aligned with your values and aims for the same vision as your company as well as includes the same target audience that you wish to reach out to. A partnership means developing value not only for your own business, but also for the partner organisation and all other stakeholders (clients, members, third parties, civil society, government etc) in parallel. This shared value supports you with gaining credibility. Your audience will feel inspired by your common vision and believe in your brand. Partnering with organisations, for-profit or not-for-profit, also permits you to extend your visibility due to combined networks. Through partnerships, you start to build your reputation and extend your reach.

When developing progress for your company, focus on the purpose of your organisation. It is the guiding light of your decisions, your storytelling, and to the investors and clients you are aiming for. It is the glue to your brand.

By creating shared value for all your stakeholders and not only focusing on the financial aspect of your business, you progress sustainably and convince your audience not only to buy into your product, but also to understand your purpose and believe in your vision. This is true for all – including clients and investors.

Key Takeaways


[1] 2020, Patrick Dang – The Perfect Elevator Pitch – Best Examples and Templates – https://youtu.be/r-iETptU7JY
[2] A video and visual communications software company since 2009 – https://prezi.com/
[3] 2021, Matt C Smith – What investors ACTUALLY want to see in your PITCH DECK https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYWF64Um7pw

There are many ways for companies to encourage sustainability within their organization and community, yet one aspect that is often forgotten is the use of remote or digital work. Prior to the global COVID pandemic in 2020, working from home was not seen as a productive alternative to an office environment. A growing movement of ‘digital nomads’ or entirely remote workers was starting to carve itself a niche within the workforce – but overall, the concept of working individually in a non-work sanctioned environment was not usually tolerated [1, 2].

“Pre-pandemic, there […] was a negative stigma associated with volunteering to work from home,” explains Nicholas Bloom, an Economics professor at Stanford University [1], “The pandemic obviously changed all of this because everyone was doing it. Now this negative stigma has disappeared and it’s become normalized.” Several pre-pandemic studies highlighted that persons working from home were more efficient and productive overall, and following the pandemic when more fully remote and hybrid positions are available, those trends have continued [2].

A Myriad of Positive Outcomes

Enabling workers to work digitally has several positive outcomes outside of the productivity increase. Remote workers and digital nomads explain that online work enables them to better juggle their work-life balance, it makes them happier and provides them with more flexibility and time to engage in other activities [1]. In general, companies offering remote or hybrid work are more attractive for employees due to the improved flexibility. Improved mental health aside, shifting to digital operations has a range of benefits from an environmental perspective for both employee and employer. 

One of the obvious changes is the reduction of commute times. Decreasing the amount of vehicles on the road has a net positive impact on the environment, and a 2021 study shows that hybrid workers in the United Kingdom could reduce the amount of noxious emissions by up to 10% solely by working from home [3]. This same study found that a Zoom call emitted just 0.6% of the carbon emissions generated on a typical commute, and that working from home could reduce personal carbon footprints by up to 80% [3]. 

These numbers vary from person to person, but highlight the impact that digital work can have.However, as noted by Ganga Shreedhar, Kate Laffan, and Laura M. Giurge in the Harvard Business Review, the biggest consideration for employers and remote workers is providing opportunities for sustainable education [4, 5]. This can be as easy as holding workshops on best-practice or creating supportive sustainable policies. Outside of benefitting workers’ mental health, productivity, and environmental footprint, digital work can also be a boon for businesses themselves.

Good Business Decisions

Companies can reduce their overheads related to running physical locations [6]. Following the pandemic, 7 in 10 businesses in the United States closed some or all of  their permanent locations, citing their workers’ mental health and the cost of operating a physical office space [7]. This has a direct impact on budgeting but also on the environment, with less energy required to be used on buildings, in addition to a reduction in Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions [8].  

However, embracing a hybrid or digital work environment can have further benefits. Employers offering the opportunity to work from home are more likely to retain staff, a key consideration that has been at the center of the debate of the “Great Resignation”, while younger workers from Gen Z have expressed an interest in having a choice in choosing their work environment [9]. Within the global sustainability context, maintaining a sustainable, engaged workforce is a net-positive for any business.

Another positive aspect of shifting a portion of, if not the entirety of a company online is the diversity aspect, as Tatiana Reuil explains in the World Economy Forum [10], “Embracing borderless remote work could help companies improve their talent pool. Moreover, for companies seeking to boost Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I), borderless remote work can help create a truly diverse and global workforce.” 

Organizations opening themselves up to hire remote workers are not just ensuring that they will have an efficient workforce, but one that draws from a diverse background, and can help form bridges with workers in underrepresented communities [11, 12]. Embracing digital work practices can not only help your business, your workforce and their community, but also support the completion of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals [13]. Have you considered how shifting parts of your business online can drive sustainability? 

Key Takeaways:


[1] Justin Fox, 2022, “Are Workers More Productive at Home?”, Bloomberg.
[2] Rani Molla, 2022, “Tell your boss: Working from home is making you more productive”, Vox.
[3] Adi Gaskell, 2021, “How Eco-Friendly Is Remote Working?”, Forbes.
[4] Ganga Shreedhar, Kate Laffan, and Laura M. Giurge, 2022, “Is Remote Work Actually Better for the Environment?”, Harvard Business Review.
[5] Vincent Diringer, 2022, “Sustainable Change Through Education”, LEAD-WiSE.
[6] Laurel Farrer, 2020, “Remote To The Rescue: How Virtual Jobs Are Saving The World”, Forbes.
[7] Digital, 2022, “7 in 10 businesses have permanently closed office space during the pandemic”.
[8] Carbon Trust, 2022, “Briefing: What are Scope 3 emissions?”.
[9] Raisa Bruner, 2021, “Remote Work Is All Gen Z Knows. But Are They Satisfied?” Time.
[10] Tatiana Reuil, 2022, “I believe the future of remote work is borderless and inclusive — here’s how we get there”, World Economic Forum
[11] Vincent Diringer, 2020, “How virtual events drive global inclusivity”, Island Innovation.
[12] LEAD-WiSE, 2022, “About”.
[13] Vincent Diringer, 2022, “Collaboration Towards the Goals: Working Together for Sustainability”, LEAD-WiSE.

Following a 2022 summer season that saw widespread drought, heatwaves, wildfires and water scarcity across the world, French president Emmanuel Macron declared the “end of abundance” as it pertained to consumption [1]. With resources becoming limited and supply chains disrupted, industries are beginning to investigate alternative solutions to solve challenges. In the case of energy production, renewable energy is growing in popularity, for transport, electric vehicles and micro-mobility are being valued more – but what are the opportunities for traditional businesses? 

Sustainable business models abound [2]. There is no shortage of sustainable alternatives that can make business operations low-carbon and have a measurable impact on global sustainability goals. However, within an economic hub there exists opportunities to reduce overall emissions, while addressing dwindling resource abundance [3].

Importance of the circular model

“Looking at today’s consumption levels, sustaining our current growth trajectory would require the ecological resources of 2.3 planets by 2050. This number is significantly higher for mature markets. The US, for example, would need five planets to sustain present-day consumption levels; Germany would need three,” points out Holcim CEO Jan Jenisch [4], “The good news is that a solution is within our reach. We can decouple our world’s growth from the consumption of the Earth’s resources by shifting from a linear “take, make, waste” economy to a circular “reduce, reuse, recycle” one.”

A circular economy uses efficient recycling of waste to fill gaps in supply chains. Recycling at an elevated level would reduce dependence and need for new raw materials, instead finding opportunities for these materials to be found within waste [5]. This process would happen continuously, as in a loop – or circular – economic model. The production and extraction of new raw materials is one of the largest vectors for carbon emissions – being able to replace these processes by recuperating materials from discarded waste drastically reduces carbon emissions and creates a more resilient economy [6].

Herein lies the paradigm shift that will ensure that a business can reduce its environmental impact as efficiently as possible, while solidifying new supply chains within the economy – or as Jenisch puts it [4], “The business opportunity of our time.”

Circularity in action

At first glance, circularity may seem more of a theory than active business practice, but certain industries have been operating within this model for a while. Aluminium recycling is one of the most successful case studies, as CircularLab Co-Founder Gina Lee explains [7]: “75 percent of all aluminium produced is still in circulation. [Current cans] contain an average of 73 percent recycled content, which means, there is a lot of can-to-can recycling taking place. Making a can from old cans uses 90 percent less energy and generates 90 percent less emissions compared to producing that same can from virgin material.”

Other examples of circular models include Holcim’s recycling of construction waste to create roofing and cement or the government of São Paulo’s initiative to encourage regenerative agriculture benefiting farmers and vulnerable communities [4, 8]. Smaller innovative businesses highlight how companies can be born from circularity: a fashion brand using dairy farm waste [9], construction cement made with recycled plastic [10], breaking down old wind turbine blades into industrial products [11], and using insects to break down biological waste and turning them into sustainable cattle feed [12] – solutions truly are everywhere.

The circular economy is more than a catchphrase. As global economies shift to a sustainable model, this will affect business big and small across industries, sectors, and countries – and encourage innovation and collaboration [3-5]. Have you ever considered how you might be able to participate in a circular economic model?

Key Takeaways


[1] Kim Willsher, 2022, “Macron warns of ‘end of abundance’ as France faces difficult winter”, The Guardian.
[2] Vincent Diringer, 2022, “The Importance of Sustainable Business Models”, LEAD-WiSE.
[3] Vincent Diringer, 2022, “Collaboration Towards the Goals: Working Together for Sustainability”, LEAD-WiSE.
[4] Jan Jenisch, 2022, “Why the circular economy is the business opportunity of our time”, World Economic Forum.
[5] Government of the Netherlands, 2022, “From a linear to a circular economy”.
[6] Dirk Nelen and Ioannis Bakas, 2021, “Improving the climate impact of raw material sourcing”, European Environment Agency.
[7] Gina Lee, 2019, “The aluminium can: America’s most successful recycling story that you’ve never heard”, Green Biz.
[8] Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2022, “Regenerative agriculture around São Paulo: Connect the Dots”.
[9] Maeve Campbell, 2020, “The company making t-shirts from gone off milk”, Euronews Green.
[10] Centre for Regenerative Design & Collaboration, 2022, “Introducing Resin8™”.
[11] Mitch Jacoby, 2022, “How can companies recycle wind turbine blades?”, Chemical & Engineering News.
[12] Nambu Group, 2021, “Our Vision & Story”.

The scale of the climate crisis can seem overwhelming at times, especially for small businesses or organizations seeking to operate in a sustainable way. Lost within the mass of information available to us and the fastest ways for global governments to shift towards a net-zero approach, are the solutions available for the entities that are key to the economic transition [1]. Believe it or not, sustainability is relatively easy to attain, and one thing entrepreneurs tend to forget is that it is not an all-or-nothing approach – small steps towards achieving larger goals often have a larger impact [2, 3]! Below you will find a range of steps any business can take to reduce their environmental impact.

Take Stock 

The two major drivers of any business are the customers and the workforce, as such, their input is critical to developing positive company policy and understanding what steps can be taken. Likewise, organizations have a responsibility to educate stakeholders and consumers alike, creating educational campaigns and programmes tailored for each can go a long way in improving local communities’ understanding of climate issues [3-5].

Easy Wins

From reducing electricity consumption, using recycled materials, generating less waste or finding ways to reduce staff travel, there are a wide range of small steps a business can take to reduce its environmental impact [6]. Other steps include installing LED lighting, improving recycling, replacing single-use items with reusable options, and swapping to renewable energy sources [7].

Subsidies & Investments

Larger expenses such as installing smart-meters that monitor power consumption, business-based heating and renewable energy production, and effective insulation have limited many businesses’ ability to transition. However, most local governments have subsidies and schemes aimed at supporting sustainable business operations [7]. Opportunities abound for entities seeking to make small changes and scale up their efforts, and high up-front costs are worthwhile investments [8].

Supply Chains

An often overlooked part of business operations is supply chains, which for certain entities represent a much higher footprint than the business itself [9]. To this end, liaising with suppliers to discuss the best pathway for sustainable operations will be the best option. For businesses with integrated supply chains, a shift to electric vehicles, reducing packaging, and a combination of the above steps will yield strong results.

Outside Help

Sometimes the best way to set and reach sustainability goals is to bring in outside help specialized in making businesses more environmentally friendly. Armed with experience, expertise in their subject matter, relevant collaborators and partners, sustainable agencies can be key in unlocking a business’ potential. Have you ever wondered about the sustainable opportunities hiding in plain sight?

Key Takeaways


[1] Vincent Diringer, 2022, “Net-Zero: The Future of Sustainable Businesses”, LEAD-WiSE.
[2] Vincent Diringer, 2022, “Changing The Status Quo”, LEAD-WiSE.
[3] Wayne Elsey, 2022, “Small Steps For Big Impact: Getting Your Team Involved In Sustainability”, Forbes.
[4] Vincent Diringer, 2022, “Sustainable Change Through Education”, LEAD-WiSE.
[5] Vincent Diringer, 2022, “Dialogue Between Activists and Businesses – Key to Creating a Sustainable World”, LEAD-WiSE.
[6] NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, 2022, “What can I do to make my small business more sustainable?”, New South Wales Government.
[7] Netherlands Enterprise Agency RVO, 2022, “How to make your business operations sustainable”, Government of the Netherlands.
[8] Paul Polman and Andrew Winston, 2022, “Yes, Investing in ESG Pays Off”, Harvard Business Review.
[9] Eloise Barry, 2021, “As More Companies Make Net-Zero Pledges, Some Aren’t as Good as They Sound”, Time Magazine.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which set out the targets to improve socio-economic wellbeing across global communities by 2030 have received a lot of attention as stakeholders from across various sectors seek to create a better world. There are seventeen goals the United Nations have outlined, including Gender Equality (SDG 5), Affordable Clean Energy (SDG 7), and Climate Action (SDG 13) [1]. Meeting some of these targets can be easier to do for some businesses than others, but one particular goal often gets overlooked when it comes to business operations: Collaboration Towards the Goals (SDG 17).  Collaboration, however, provides a swathe of opportunities for businesses to improve their sustainability, and maximize their impact [2].

A Circular System

“Delivering on climate change commitments is going to depend on industries and the Government working closely together,” explains Alison Kay, Ernst & Young Managing Partner for Client Service UK&I [3], “Businesses need a framework that supports investment and governments need entrepreneurs who can turn ambition into action. Bringing businesses together and sharing their findings with the Government, we hope to make that action better targeted and ultimately more successful.” This means that businesses working together on a range of sustainability projects can lead to breakthroughs at a national or international level in terms of technology, policy, and best practice [2].

The impact of sustainability through collaboration can be exemplified by several projects, for example:

Recognizing Opportunities

Businesses working within the same sector and location should work together to find opportunities to reduce their environmental impact across their shared supply chains. Obviously, this requires a high amount of trust between entrepreneurs, but the benefits of working together and pooling resources open opportunities to create a circular system that can provide a blueprint for companies in different industries [2, 3, 6, 7]. Have you considered where you could further reduce your carbon impact and promote sustainability through business collaborations?

Key Takeaways


[1] United Nations, 2022, “Do you know all 17 SDGs?” United Nations.
[2] Joana Kleine Jäger, 2020, “Will you be my partner? Collaborations in the circular economy”, Circle Economy.
[3] Alison Kay, 2021, “Why collaboration is key to tackling climate change”, Ernst & Young.
[4] Shel Evergreen, 2022, “Lithium costs a lot of money—so why aren’t we recycling lithium batteries?”, Ars Technica.
[5] Md Tasbirul Islam and Usha Iyer-Raniga, 2022, “Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling in the Circular Economy: A Review.” Recycling, 7, 33.
[6] Ram Nidumolu, Jib Ellison, John Whalen, and Erin Billman, 2014, “The Collaboration Imperative”, Harvard Business Review.
[7] Jacqueline Poh, 2022, “3 ways we can collaborate better for a stronger circular economy”, World Economic Forum.
[8] Vincent Diringer, 2022, “Dialogue Between Activists and Businesses – Key to Creating a Sustainable World”, LEAD-WiSE.