FT Professor of the Week: Judi Marshall, Lancaster University School of Management

Judi Marshall

Every Thursday a business school professor defines five key terms on FT Lexicon, the FT’s online economics, business and finance glossary.

Judi Marshall is professor of leadership and learning at Lancaster University Management School. Her research interests include leadership for sustainability, systemic thinking, women in management, action research and gender in organisations. She is especially keen to bring more inquiry into issues of environmental sustainability and social justice into management school education.

Professor Marshall was previously professor of organisational behaviour at the University of Bath School of Management, where, along with colleagues, she developed the MSc in Responsibility and Business Practice. She is the co-author of Leadership for Sustainability: An action research approach, which reports this work, along with the stories of 29 graduate ‘change agents’, taking action in their diverse worlds.

The five terms defined by Judi Marshall on FT Lexicon this week are:

Carbon footprint

The estimated climate change impact of something, such as a product or service or a company’s operations.

Any footprint calculation is an estimate, based on more or less reliable data – so figures need treating with caution and discernment. As ever, we notice and value what we measure, so may ignore and devalue vital intangibles we cannot measure such as biodiversity and its loss.

When organisations take on the task of carbon footprinting, often change is progressive. Developing carbon-consciousness helps individuals and companies make strategic choices, and influences daily practices.

You could calculate the relative carbon footprints of people travelling by train or plane to a meeting, or of video-conferencing instead.

Environmental sustainability

A state in which the demands placed on the environment can be met without reducing its capacity to allow all people to live well, now and in the future.

Evidence is strong that we are exceeding and eroding the earth’s carrying capacity, that there are limits to growth on a finite planet.

Rainforest destruction

Leading thinkers suggest that to stand any chance of achieving environmental sustainability, businesses need to move from a sense of right-to-exploit the natural environment to a worldview of mutual interdependence and radical eco-innovation.

Some routes towards environmental sustainability include: adopt so-called ‘cradle-to-cradle thinking and practices’; dramatically reduce CO2 emissions; stop rainforest destruction; combine contraction and convergence to align carbon footprints internationally.

Internal activist

People who work from inside their organisations to take on current challenges such as environmental sustainability, social justice and corporate responsibility.

Internal activists want their organisations to do well, but they also want them to respond to the needs of the times. They seek to contribute to systemic change. As well as initiate change themselves, they also, importantly, help mobilise other people’s energies. Often people work through achieving small wins, finding ways to align change with their organisation’s goals.

Typical activities for internal activists: connecting up people with interests in corporate responsibility to prompt more action; lobbying board members to place environmental sustainability at the heart of strategy; bringing information on social trends into the organisation to help people discuss its licence to operate.

Responsible careers

People with responsible careers seek to address societal challenges such as environmental sustainability and social justice through their work-related choices, including what organisations and projects to join.

They explicitly put their careers at the service of society. Responsible careers have gained more legitimacy over the past decade: for example, in the emerging fields of corporate responsibility and social investing.

Responsible careers are guided by internal values, and are also very pragmatic. They seek to influence their organisations well beyond their immediate job remits, and so may be internal activists.


Some people shift to work that they perceive as having more meaning in mid-career, deploying their accumulated expertise and understanding about how to influence change. Others start from high environmental or social awareness and find ways to express this from the outset. Often, people pursuing responsible careers work across sectors.

Sustainability leaders

People and organisations who are clear that climate change, loss of biodiversity, reductions in non-renewable fossil fuels, depletion of rare earth metals and other significant shifts are serious and urgent challenges to which human society needs to respond.

Courage and risk-taking are key components of sustainability leadership. People work at developing the crafts of doing this work well, including skills of communication.


Some examples of sustainability leaders include: people pioneering responsible policies and practices in their organisations and building appropriate coalitions.

Read the original article, compiled by Emmanuelle Smith, at ft.com.

Leadership for Sustainability Buy Judi Marshall’s book, co-written with Gill Coleman and Peter Reason, Leadership for Sustainability direct from Greenleaf Publishing and receive a 30% discount. Use voucher code LS962 at checkout.


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