Sustainability is absolutely critical in terms of advisory and board work. We’re at an important juncture in Europe and the US, where we really need businesses to rethink how they deliver shareholder value in the longer term. There is no shareholder value without stakeholder value.
Cleopatra Kitti has decades’ worth of experience advising businesses, international organisations and governments on reputation, market entry and business risk. Her expertise sits at the intersection of politics, regulation, business, and society. In 2015, having lived and worked across Europe, Middle East, Africa, the UK, and US, she founded the Mediterranean Growth Initiative, delivering geo-economic analysis and networking across the economies of the Mediterranean. Hers is a career that is hard to pigeon-hole, she says, though a common theme is governance—and consulting around the kind of leadership that drives shareholder and stakeholder value.
More recently Kitti took the decision to return to her native Cyprus and the Mediterranean where, including her consulting work, she serves on the board of the Eurobank Cyprus. Working in this region—the “midriff” between the continents of Europe, the East and Africa, as she puts it—she has become increasingly conscious of the need for greater trade and socio-economic connectivity; a need that calls for strong corporate and institutional governance. And it was this discovery, she says, that brought her to INSEAD.
“My journey with INSEAD began in 2015 when new advisory and board roles meant that I was looking for greater guidance and insight into corporate governance. The school had been recommended to me by a good friend who is an alumnus, and we decided to come together to take the International Directors Programme.”
That decision marked the start of a long relationship with INSEAD, says Kitti. Since 2015, she has returned “every year,” to build on her Certified Advanced Certificate in Corporate Governance and her Finance programme, she completed most recently the INSEAD Business Sustainability Programme.
“Sustainability is absolutely critical in terms of advisory and board work,” she says. “We’re at an important juncture in Europe and the US, where we really need businesses to rethink how they deliver shareholder value in the longer term. There is no shareholder value without stakeholder value”.
Choosing this programme represented an opportunity to understand the fundamentals of business sustainability; to “remove the noise,” and dig deep into the spaces where climate, geo-economics, regulation, business and capital markets interact—to really get to grips with the strategic imperative of sustainability, says Kitti.
“I knew that INSEAD would deliver in this space—that this programme would also deliver the magic knowledge you get at the school: that INSEAD blend of academic analysis and real-world case studies that translates theory into practice.”
Learning with diverse peers, and having exposure to a diversity of speakers—experts in the practices of sustainability—was key to exploring challenges across a breadth of contexts and through multiple lenses, she says.
“In class you exchange ideas and perspectives with peers—senior executives and board members—all from very different worlds, yet who are all facing the same strategic decisions about the design of their business or executing strategy against a backdrop on sustainability. Every conversation reveals something new and telling—it’s really effectively done.”
Working in small groups with classmates around real-world cases and challenges to find practicable solutions and new answers was immensely rich and helpful, she adds. INSEAD faculty were incredibly adept at “removing the noise.”
“INSEAD professors bring their own research and their real-world consulting expertise to the mix, so they simultaneously bring theory to life while ensuring that you absorb new ideas clearly. They lead the learning both by teaching and by example—you come away from this programme with a radical new sense of business as a driver for good.”
The INSEAD Business Sustainability Programme is game-changing, says Kitti, in that it provides new lenses on climate, business, society and governance within a multi-stakeholder context, while challenging participants to think more broadly about the big issues. So powerful is the learning process that it has fundamentally shifted the way that she contributes to her board work and gives advice to her consulting clients. The programme has given her deep clarity and confidence around creating value, she says.
“Left to their own devices, most businesses would drift on the issue of sustainability. Sure, there is growing regulation in this space but it’s really up to each organisation to figure out its own path and its trade-offs. Doing this programme has equipped me with the clarity and the confidence to better direct companies and senior executives, and to steer them towards value creating processes.”
Indeed, so profound was the impact on her that she has captured all the learnings from the class and group work on sustainability in a living document—a corporate “Bible,” she says—that she has shared with fellow board members and colleagues.
“Wherever you are in the world, you will have to embrace sustainability whether you are designing or implementing strategy. You need to know how regulation is poised to impact your business and how you can create value over the long term,” says Kitti.
“This programme is a must-do learning experience that will reshape your thinking around sustainability. And like every INSEAD experience, you will come away enlightened mentally, intellectually and emotionally.”