Global Actions, Global Solutions

Key insights on leading for impact to drive profitability now and sustainability in the future.

Fatemah Din

Senior Director, Client Solutions

This past December, Korn Ferry colleagues from Advisory, Executive Search, RPO, Global Account, and Leadership attended COP28, the world's largest annual climate gathering. Attended by representatives from nearly every country and from both public and private sectors, around 100,000 participants reviewed global progress on climate change and made crucial decisions for the future.

COP28 was a hub of negotiations, with countries and companies pledging to reduce their carbon dioxide and methane emissions and set aside financial resources to achieve these goals. This year also marked a significant shift in the conversation, as over 50 oil and natural gas companies joined the conversations, recognizing their role in climate change and committing to being part of the solution.

However, despite the urgency and the global pressure for action, business leaders are often caught between the need to address climate change and their responsibilities to shareholders demanding profitable growth. The challenge is to reconcile sustainability and profitability—to transform businesses into entities that are profitable now and sustainable in the long term.

That's where leading for impact comes in. It's about redefining performance and integrating profitability and sustainability impact together. While most conversations at COP28 centered around emissions reduction, technology, and financing, few touched on how we bring leadership and people into the solution. Leading for impact is grounded in the premise that business action requires leaders and managers with the right skills, experiences, and capabilities to deliver both profit and sustainability impact together. They do this by allocating time and resources, innovating business models to incorporate sustainability, engaging communities, and changing business cultures. By embedding sustainability into the organization and aligning with short-term business priorities, leaders can drive transformative change that addresses immediate challenges and drives long-term success. 

COP28 emphasized the need for action and impact. It's not enough to simply commit to reducing carbon emissions. We need to move from understanding the issue to taking tangible action. This means businesses, governments, and individuals creating concrete plans for action and committing the resources needed to create a profitable and sustainable future.

Thanks to our dedicated colleagues in the UAE, our One Korn Ferry team gained first-time access to the blue zone, which is where the main negotiations and events are held. This gave Korn Ferry the closest connection possible to the world’s change leaders and to share our thoughts on leading for impact.

Climate change is a global issue that disregards borders—a key message underscored at the conference. It demands global solutions and global action. It is time for leaders to lead for impact, redefine performance, and ensure their businesses are both profitable now and sustainable in the future.