You know that real change in organisations and society is essential to tackle the climate and nature crises – and social evils like poverty and inequality.
Whether or not it’s in your job description, you are motivated to champion sustainability in your professional life. You’re making progress but you want to have greater impact. It’s not easy and you sometimes feel unsupported and held back by challenges like these:
You struggle to really engage others with sustainability
They fail to see its relevance to their roles or seem unable to take much meaningful action.
You’re responsible for many competing priorities
It’s difficult to focus your attention on the strategic sustainability issues that you know are so important.
You feel overwhelmed by the complexity of the world’s issues
Eco-anxiety and burnout threaten to sap your energy and commitment.
We’ve lived with these feelings too
All of us at Realise Earth have experienced these and similar challenges many, many times over our years of working for sustainability. For example, when:
- Richard was a global sustainability manager in PepsiCo: “I put all my energy into my work, but again and again I doubted whether I could ever really make any difference in such a massive organisation“.
- Morag was a policy officer at WWF: “The policy solutions I wrote for government ministers and civil servants were well received, but nothing really changed in schools and colleges“.
- Osbert was an independent sustainability consultant: “I often frightened off prospective clients by explaining that radical change was essential if their organisation was to truly address sustainability“.
We thought we knew why our hard work wasn’t getting the results we hoped for – we weren’t defining the benefits clearly enough; we were insufficiently persuasive; or we needed to provide even more detailed analysis, information and evidence.
We knew there must be a better way
Our failures pushed each of us to search for more effective ways to champion sustainability in our work. Nearly a decade ago our searching brought us together and we compared our experiences. We discovered that while the details were different, what helped us move forward was fundamentally the same – it was discovering for ourselves the truth of the cliche that you can’t solve complex problems with the same mindset that created them.
The shift in mindset that we made over a decade ago is becoming increasingly mainstream and can now be found in some surprising places.
The shift in mindset that we all made, and that these respected global organisations now call for, is grounded in embracing three realities:
Humans are part of nature
But our anthropocentric culture would have us think and behave as if we are separate from, and in control of, the rest of the living world.
Humans are naturally kind and caring
But our consumerist culture assumes people are selfish, with government policies, business, the media and more, all reinforcing the worst in human nature.
We can work together to create a better world
But our individualistic culture tells us that sustainability is a matter of green consumption and private action unless it’s in our job description.
This mindset shift isn’t easy…
Shifting our mindset is easier said than done – especially when our culture is based on, and constantly reinforces, the very opposite mindset.
But it is possible. We have done it and it had a major impact on our work:
- Richard took PepsiCo on a journey to adopt science-based climate targets globally;
- Morag’s work contributed to Scotland becoming an global leader in learning for sustainability;
- Osbert helped put the positive potential of the University of Edinburgh’s influence on its 35,000 students at the core of its first sustainability strategy.
Years of expertise distilled into one extraordinary week
To support others to make their own mindshift and realise their potential to be a force for good in the world, we’ve drawn together the very essence of our collective experience to create our Sustainability Leadership Programme.
It’s designed for senior executives and experienced professionals who care deeply about the climate and nature crises, and social evils like poverty and inequality.
Join nine of your peers and the three of us (Osbert, Morag and Rich, Realise Earth co-founders) for six days where you will:
Sanquin Blood Supply Foundation and University of Amsterdam
Environment Professional | Trustee, Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland
Sustainable tourism consultant and crisis recovery expert
Our Sustainability Leadership Programme – six extraordinary days to realise your potential to be a force for good
No lectures, no slides, no cringey icebreakers, no flip charts, no sticky notes, no tests.
Instead: Wild mindfulness, guided visualisation, wilderness solos, structured dialogue and reflection.
Why: Because in our 20 years of working on sustainability leadership, we have found that nothing else comes close to the impact of having time and space to slow down, go deep and personally experience the transformative power of engaging with wild nature.
Based in a comfortable, remote, off-grid lodge, we will spend most of our time outside, where we will guide you through a unique programme of personal, paired and group practices.
This creates the optimal environment for breaking free from the unsustainable mindset of our culture and catalysing the shift in mindset that is essential for profoundly effective sustainability leadership – and for the world.
1. We are part of nature
The root cause of the climate and nature crises is that our culture would have us think and behave as if we are separate from, and in control of, the rest of the living world. Even when we acknowledge the reality that we are part of nature, our culture constantly tells us otherwise, unconsciously shaping our thoughts and our actions.
The solution is to develop a strong sense of ‘nature connectedness’ – a deep psychological and emotional feeling of being part of nature. That’s why the retreats at the heart of our programme are in wild places, off-grid and internet free; as far from the mindset of our culture as we can get. The outdoor practices will strengthen your nature connectedness, helping you:
- Boost your wellbeing to avoid and overcome burnout.
- Deepen and clarify your sense of purpose and meaning, so you can align your work more closely with your personal values.
- Find creative solutions to challenges in your professional role, organisation or sector – solutions that work with, not against, nature.
- Strengthen your courage to act for the greater good when the way ahead seems difficult.
2. Humans are naturally kind and caring
But we live in a culture where policy, media, education and business assumes people are essentially selfish, reinforcing the worst in human nature. This creates a vicious cycle that suppresses people’s kindness, holding us all back from tackling the climate and nature crises, poverty and inequality.
The solution is to engage people’s innate kindness and care, and to raise awareness that most people are actually kind and caring. The culture on our retreats draws on and nourishes the best in human nature, creating the best conditions for you to:
- Explore the limitations and contradictions of our ‘normal’ working environments and ‘professional personas’.
- Imagine projects and ways of working with colleagues, clients and other stakeholders that reinforce and reward innate kindness.
- Reflect on ways your organisation might help build fairer, thriving and resilient communities and societies.
- Build trust and connection with fellow participants that can support you on retreat and long after.
3. We can work together to create a better world
Our culture tells us that unless it’s in your job description, sustainability is pretty much a personal matter of green consumerism and supporting NGO campaigns. The problem is that the skills and experience of people who care deeply are often not applied to the greatest challenge of our times.
Feeling alone, we often take the burdens of the world on our shoulders, we see ourselves as lone ‘sustainability champions’, frequently feeling frustrated, misunderstood and unappreciated – and heading for burnout. It’s also common to feel fearful and powerless, to believe we can’t make a meaningful difference, leading many of us to suffer from eco-anxiety.
The solution is to step into your full potential to be a force for good – to skilfully create real change for a better world. To do this we need to understand how change happens, and how we can work together and support each to be effective change agents for sustainability – whatever your professional role, whatever your organisation. That’s why at the core of our retreats is the rare opportunity to truly slow down, creating a safe and supportive space for you to:
- Be gently challenged and powerfully inspired through deep dialogue with peers as you each explore new ideas and perspectives.
- Clarify what truly matters to you, what you want to achieve and how you will apply your skills and experience to make that a reality.
- Draw on our sustainability expertise, and that of your fellow participants, to determine the next steps on your sustainability leadership journey.
We’ll be your hosts and facilitators.
Between the three of us we have worked on sustainability and climate policy, strategy and implementation for organisations as diverse as PepsiCo, the Scottish Government, the University of Edinburgh, Scottish Renewables as well as small but groundbreaking third sector groups.
We have all been facilitating sustainability leadership programmes for almost a decade. We each hold Hill and Moorland Leader qualifications from the UK national awarding body so we can bring the power of working outdoors into our programmes.
The retreat runs from midday Saturday 13 May to 3pm Friday 19 May 2023
One of us will meet you around midday near the railway station at the village of Ardgay, north of Inverness. We’ll travel the final miles into the hills by 4×4.
Gather in the afternoon for a welcome to the venue, introductions and an overview of the retreat. Discover the local area on informal walks with fellow participants. Continue getting to know participants and facilitators over dinner.
Begin to break free of our cultural mindset and start learning to engage your intuition and imagination. Gentle walks, nature-based mindfulness and visualisation prepare you to focus fully on the week ahead.
Like most of the coming week, the day will be spent mainly outside. Evenings all include time for private reflection, informal discussions with your peers and one-to-one conversations with facilitators – as well as sharing good food together around the dining table.
Explore your motivation and future direction as you break free of our cultural mindset and start to engage deeply with the immediacy of the living world in which you are immersed. Become open to powerful new metaphors of change and progress rooted in natural systems to inform your leadership.
These individual, small and whole group reflective practices not only strengthen your ‘nature connectedness’, but also grow mutual understanding and trust with each other.
Building on your experiences so far this week, draw on your imagination and intuition to reflect profoundly on what truly matters to you, how you will make meaningful change for sustainability and what support you may need.
You will spend from dawn until dusk alone in a place you’ve chosen in the surrounding land. Part of many traditions since the dawn of humanity, but lost from our own culture, this ‘solo’ is a rare opportunity to open up to the transformative power of nature.
Start the day with time alone to begin processing the insights and ideas that emerged yesterday. Then come together with your peers to recognise your strengths and opportunities, accept your limitations and constraints, and acknowledge the support you may need.
This is a beautiful and profoundly powerful experience, following a practice inspired by the Lakota Sioux.
Reflect on your insights and how they will inspire and motivate you. Identify your next steps and what you need to sustain and support you when you leave the retreat and lead change for a better world in your organisation, sector or wider society.
Working outside in pairs and in the group, today you will again engage deeply with the living world around us, allowing it to stimulate your imagination and creativity.
Prepare to return to the world beyond these hills and this week together. Take with you:
- your new insights into the living world and your place within it;
- your new-found ability to draw on all your capacities;
- strong connections with others in the group, so you can support each other as you put your intentions into practice.
We’ll take you back to Ardgay village by 3pm for your journey home.
Your retreat experience is only the beginning…
You will be able to use many of the practices you have experienced in future to maintain and strengthen your nature connectedness, your courage and resilience and your commitment to sustainability.
But we’ve all come back from an inspiring conference or training, ready to put everything into practice, only to find it’s not that simple now we’re all alone. It’s too easy for our energy and commitment to fade away.
The retreat is really powerful and helpful. We’ve heard this again and again. But we know that sustainability leadership can be hard – if it were easy, the world wouldn’t be in the state that it is.
That’s why the retreat is just the start of a longer programme that we’ve designed to support you over the next few months and far beyond.
Group mentoring sessions
We run three 90 minute online group mentoring sessions just for the participants on your retreat. Led by Osbert, Morag and Rich, these sessions will support you as you put your plans into action in the two months after the retreat:
- Week 2: Reviewing your actions and insights since your return.
- Week 5: Developing and refining your plans.
- Week 8: Maintaining resolve, seeking and offering support.
Plus One-to-one mentoring
Plus Membership of the Sustainability Leadership Network
On the retreat you will develop strong connections with other participants, and you’ll likely want to stay in touch and continue to support each other.
But your sustainability leadership will also benefit if you expand your network of supportive peers. That’s why, after the retreat, we give you 12 months membership of the Sustainability Leadership Network – our international community of professionals championing sustainability in their professional lives.
- A private online space just for the group on your retreat to keep in touch and communicate.
- Get feedback on your ideas and plans, find ways through your challenges and decide how to build on your successes at peer mentoring sessions with other network members.
- Deepen your knowledge, strengthen your skills and gain new insights with expert-led online workshops, a growing collection of bespoke and curated articles and videos, and preferential and discounted access to online and in-person courses.
- Use our modern private network to be part of the conversation and connect with fellow members.
A unique programme. An exceptional facilitator ratio. An amazing location.
Our next sustainability leadership programme begins with a retreat from Saturday 13 May to Friday 19 May 2023 at Alladale Wilderness Reserve, north of Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. The full fee of £2,700 (€3,200) includes:
- Three sustainability leadership experts, just ten participants and an unrivalled programme;
- Six nights accommodation, fully catered with excellent meals in one awe-inspiring place;
- Three 90 minute online group mentoring sessions after the retreat;
- Plus: Three one-to-one mentoring sessions when you need them;
- Plus: Twelve months membership of the Sustainability Leadership Network.
Compared to many corporate leadership programmes and even conferences, it’s already very good value. But it can be a stretch for some people and for smaller organisations, so we have some offers to make it easier for you.
These offers also make it easier for us – we have the reassurance of people committing well ahead, and we can spend more time doing useful work rather than marketing!
You might also like to know…
You can cancel and get a full refund before 17 February 2023
We know that sometimes life forces you to change your plans, so we try to be as flexible as possible given that we have to commit in advance to venue hire and other costs and filling a space at short notice can be difficult. If you situation changes, you can transfer to a future programme or get a full refund if you cancel before 17 February 2023. If you cancel after that but before 17 March we will refund 50%. Unfortunately after that we can’t give a refund. See our terms and conditions for details.
Our terms and conditions
When you book you agree to our terms and conditions. You really should read these because among other things they explain that you must tell us about your health and other personal details, and that you need to take out appropriate insurance. They also explain what refund you will receive if you cancel your booking.
Is this for you?
Our sustainability leadership programme is for people who want to champion sustainability in their professional lives. We will help you catalyse and support meaningful change for sustainability – in your organisation, profession, sector or wider society.
Your opportunities are likely to be influenced by your professional knowledge, expertise and networks, and by your freedom of action within your team, organisation or sector to convene meetings and influence agendas, work plans, budgets and policies.
To make the most of the programme you are therefore likely to be a senior executive, experienced professional or business owner. If you’re not sure, just ask!
We have a bursary programme
We can sometimes offer places at reduced cost to leaders in small third sector organisations with limited income, and to future leaders aged under 35 in any sector. To get details when we open applications, register your interest:
You don’t need to be especially fit or ‘outdoorsy’
Much of the time on the retreat at the start of your sustainability leadership programme is spent outdoors, but we don’t walk far or fast. It includes gentle walks in the hills, sometimes leaving the path and going cross-country, but it’s not a test of physical endurance and doesn’t require a high degree of physical fitness. It is absolutely not about ‘conquering the mountains’.
As a guideline – you will need to be able to carry a day pack containing your personal equipment (waterproofs, spare jacket/jumper, lunch, flask, etc.) for periods of up to four hours. This four hour period will be a combination of walking at a gentle pace and sitting to talk, reflect, visualise and undertake mindfulness practices.
We can adapt the programme to meet your needs
We are committed to making our sustainability leadership programme retreats an experience accessible to a wide range of abilities. Our pace is set to that which can be comfortably managed by all group members and we design the programme to meet the needs of everyone in the group. However, for participants who would find this difficult for any reason, we will do what we can to adapt routes, terrain and activities. If this is the case, please contact us as soon as possible before booking to discuss your needs.
We will advise you what outdoor clothing you should bring
As well as your own clothes to be worn while travelling and in the lodge, you will need clothing and equipment that will keep you warm and dry in the outdoors. Download our Participant Kit List.
Relax in warm, comfortable accommodation
Deanich Lodge is remote but comfortable and warm with relaxing sofas, central heating, a cosy wood burning stove and hot showers. Bedrooms are shared with others of the same gender – 2 to 4 per room.
Enjoy good food
Each day one of the facilitation team will prepare you freshly cooked meals using local, seasonal produce whenever possible. Expect home baking, bowls of warming soup, delicious evening meals and indulgent puddings. Between meals, freshly brewed coffee, a variety of teas, biscuits and fruit are always available. We do not allow the consumption of alcohol during retreats. We will make every effort to accommodate dietary requirements which must be advised well in advance – we can’t pop out to the shops as that’s a four hour round trip.
Embrace being seriously off-grid!
Deanich Lodge on the Alladale Wilderness Reserve is one of the remotest houses on the UK mainland. There is no mobile phone signal in the glen where the lodge is located and there is no wifi at the lodge. We encourage all participants to embrace the opportunity their sustainability leadership programme retreat offers to spend a week away from digital technology and grasp the liberating experience that is a ‘digital detox’.
We’ve got you covered in an emergency
There is a private telephone landline at Deanich Lodge in case someone needs to contact you in an emergency. We also carry a satellite phone when we’re out on the hills.
Getting to and from the retreat
The retreat starts and ends at Ardgay village, about an hour north of Inverness by car or train. We meet at Ardgay around midday on the Saturday and say goodbye around 3pm on the Friday. We’ve chosen these times to fit with the train service to and from Inverness and beyond – including the Caledonian Sleeper service from London. The nearest airport is Inverness where you can get a taxi to catch the local train or go straight to Ardgay. If you need to break your journey overnight there is a wide range of accommodation in Inverness.