In Your Words: Journalist and Author Simran Sethi on Leadership

November 9, 2011

Simran Sethi (@simransethi) is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Kansas and the contributing author of Ethical Markets: Growing the Green Economy (Chelsea Green 2007).

What does the notion of redefining leadership for sustainability mean to you?

Leadership for sustainability requires authentic democratic participation: to listen before talking, to place greater emphasis on ideas over personal ambition, and to acknowledge and strive to understand the deep complexities we hold as employees, consumers, and citizens. The assumptions we have made about who cares and who does not care about sustainability are usually a false distinction. We need to develop ways to articulate how sustainability is already central to people’s lives and, subsequently, forge and communicate initiatives borne out of those needs.  

In your opinion, what are the most significant sustainable business trends of the last decade?

I’m intrigued with grassroots, collaborative entrepreneurism funded through crowdsourcing. It is still in its infancy but holds great promise for citizen engagement with and in sustainability. Cause marketing efforts to crowdsource design or PR funding reflect a deeper level of commitment from both consumers and companies and shift the paradigm of consumer/company engagement.

When it comes to promising opportunities for sustainable business now and in the next five years, where are you placing your bets?

My financial planner just asked me the same question! I believe we need to tackle essentials first, so I am looking at investments in water infrastructure and medium-scale sustainable agriculture. Electrical vehicles are also of great interest. Our appetite for cars is not going away. EVs can help transform the electrical grid through vehicle-to-grid technology, thereby fortifying the case for renewable energy.

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