What is Integral Sustainability?

Integral sustainability is two things: a sophisticated and comprehensive approach to leading change toward global sustainability, and an applied research field concerning how to accelerate that change. There are eight main areas of integral sustainability: Leader & Change Agent Development, International Development, Climate Change, Governance & Economics for Sustainability, Corporate Responsibility, Sustainable Design & Green Building, Urban & Community Development, and Sustainability Education.


For leaders, integral sustainability is a powerful method to help guide individuals, organizations, and systems through the shifts and transformations required to create a more sustainable society. The integral sustainability leadership toolkit includes integrative thinking techniques, systems and complexity lenses, human and organizational development processes, embodiment practices, social technologies, and frameworks for analysis and communication. The principles, lenses, and practices at the heart of integral sustainability allow leaders to better innovate, strategize, design interventions, inspire, and implement at any scale.


Integral sustainability is also an applied science that uses integral research to understand and design responses to complex environmental, social, and economic challenges. Researchers in this field use integral frameworks to coordinate and synthesize knowledge from the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities to generate a comprehensive understanding of sustainability issues such as climate change or corporate responsibility strategies. This research supports leaders in business, government, civil society (NGOs), and education to a) implement sustainability initiatives, and b) develop the advanced human and institutional capacities that such work requires.


Why our Work Matters

Our vision is to help leaders develop the awareness and capacities needed to cultivate an unprecedented flourishing of humanity and nature. Our work addresses two meta-challenges in sustainability – complexity and fragmentation – by emphasizing deep human development and results-focused integration of knowledge.


The first challenge is complexity. Wicked problems are everywhere; we’ve never confronted such difficult social, environmental, and economic issues. Most leaders are in over their heads, struggling with a gap between their mental complexity and the complexity of this work. Yet wicked potential is everywhere, too. Decades of psychological research show that it’s latent and able to be unlocked. We help leaders to accelerate development of the significant cognitive, emotional, and relational skills required to address complex sustainability issues. We support them to literally transform their mindset, embody new ways of engaging, and shift into the type of leader needed for tomorrow.


The second challenge is that most approaches to sustainability are fragmented. They rarely integrate ideas and knowledge from the many fields that have critical pieces of the puzzle for sustainability. These siloed attempts at driving change aren’t working. Integral sustainability practitioners craft tailored interventions by integrating the most relevant data from as wide a scope as possible. They draw from the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities, and often directly engage the structural, cultural, and human dynamics influencing sustainability initiatives. This whole-systems and renaissance approach to complex change ensures a greater chance of success.

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