Special Initiatives - Leadership Development Program

CEF Sustainability Leadership Development Program

An Annual Competition to Inspire and Cultivate Emerging Sustainability Leaders

CEF Sustainability Leadership Development Program 2018:
Meeting Sustainability Challenges with Transformational Leadership

Mashpi Forest, Ecuador
November 4-10, 2018

CEF’s 2017 winners in Mashpi Forest

  1. Click here to download the application form (Word document)
  2. Complete the candidate information section
  3. List two supporting references and ask them to complete this very brief online recommendation form: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/8M9W836
  4. Complete an essay of less than 500 words
  5. Include a resume/CV
  6. Email your completed application to devon@corporateecoforum.com by August 15, 2018


Each year, CEF selects a small group of standout employees from member companies to join a once-in-a-lifetime leadership development program built around a theme that is intended to inspire, educate and empower emerging corporate sustainability leaders. Previous programs have included trips to Yellowstone National Park, Patagonia National Park, Chiapas, Idaho’s Salmon River, the Amazon, and Antarctica, each led by renowned experts in sustainability, conservation and business leadership.

CEF’s 2018 Leadership Development Program will focus on the theme, “Meeting Sustainability Challenges with Transformational Leadership.”

Transformational Leadership has been defined as a process where “leaders and their followers raise one another to higher levels of morality and motivation” and where people are inspired to “reach for the improbable.” During the week-long program, attendees will grapple with questions like:

•    How can leaders become better champions for sustainability internally?
•    How can leaders ramp up engagement with existing “green teams” and other ranks of interested employees?
•    How can they be more effective in driving sustainability into the fabric/DNA of companies and
everyday thinking/practice of employees?
•    How can leaders help create new openings for conversation and engagement with skeptics, the
disinterested, or the discouraged?
•    How can leaders stay resilient and energized for the long-term?

The program will be led by a transformational leader in his own right, Rob Bernard, CEF Leadership Council Member and Chief Environmental Strategist at Microsoft, along with Julia Novy-Hildesley, Professor of the Practice and Executive Director of Stanford’s Change Leadership for Sustainability Program and renowned National Geographic experts, connected to the program’s base for the week, Mashpi Lodge.


Mashpi Lodge is one of National Geographic’s “Unique Lodges of the World” — an unparalleled place to gain inspiration from the resilience and diversity of the surrounding ecosystems. Though only a short drive from Quito, the capital of Ecuador, the lodge is perched at more than 3,000 above sea level between lower montane rainforest and cloud forests, situated in the Chocó biogeographical region, which runs norths-south from Panama, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. It encompasses the biodiversity hotspot known as the Tumbes-Chocó-Darién, extending along the western foothills of the Andes. It is considered to be of “high interest for the global conservation of biodiversity”. This is also the first forest to be considered a “Model Forest” in Ecuador. Worldwide, there are only 28 of these hotspots, spread over 164 countries.

What past participants have said:

The CEF Leadership Development trip was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Global sustainability issues are much larger than any one company, but we all need to continue to put forth the effort to do the right thing and collaborate with as many community members, competitors, customers and partners to drive positive change. I left this trip with a renewed optimism that we can do just that!
-Ann Lott, Dell
Read more reflections from the 2016 trip to Cody, WY and Yellowstone National Park

Having access to luminaries in the field, such as Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins, was a once in a lifetime experience. And the location, of course. I’m not sure there are many places more beautiful, peaceful and inspiring.
-Aaron Frank, The Walt Disney Company
Read more reflections from the 2015 trip to Patagonia National Park

I feel stronger in my convictions, driven to act faster and bigger, richer for all the conversations, calm and energized.
-Dorothée D’Herde, McKinsey & Co
For more reflections from the 2014 trip to Chiapas, Mexico, click here and watch the following video:

I can honestly say that this experience provided a new prism for my views and values.
-Russ Wilkenloh, Duke Energy
Read more reflections from the 2013 trip down Idaho’s Salmon River

It was an absolute privilege and pleasure to meet so many like-minded, inspiring people. But more importantly, the plethora of ideas resulting from our invigorating conversations will be an invaluable point of acceleration for our individual efforts.
-Anamica Srinivasaragavan, Bayer Technology Services
Read more reflections on the 2012 trip to the Amazon Rainforest

Without a doubt, the experience of participating…has provided KPMG a competitive advantage in the business world. I guarantee that the knowledge, resources and contacts that Janet and I gained on this journey will help our companies benefit from the world’s thought leaders in sustainable business.
-Darren McGann, KPMG
Read more reflections on the 2011 trip to Antarctica

To help support members’ efforts to engage their employees on sustainability, CEF organizes an annual competition open to employees at all CEF member companies. Winners take part in an enriching Sustainability Leadership Development Program led by various members of the CEF Advisory Board held in the field. The selection jury looks for exceptional candidates they deem as being at “an inflection point in their lives or careers with regard to sustainability—ready and eager to take their sustainability leadership to the next level within their communities and/or organizations—as well as being strong team players accomplished in setting ambitious goals and getting results.

2016 Program: “Learning in our Last Wild Places”

Yellowstone National Park and Cody, WY
August 13-19, 2016


In 2016, nine outstanding leaders from CEF member companies joined wildlife ecologist Arthur Middleton for a trip to Cody, WY and Yellowstone National Park to explore the connections between wildlife, conservation, development and business. The winners were deemed by the selection jury as being at “an inflection point in their lives or careers with regard to sustainability—ready and eager to take their sustainability leadership to the next level within their communities and/or organizations—as well as being strong team players accomplished in setting ambitious goals and getting results.” During this week-long journey, participants experienced the Wyoming wilderness where Buffalo Bill camped and hunted over 100 years ago. They traveled on horses through the spectacular Absaroka Range, surrounded by peaks that stretch up to twelve thousand feet above sea level, and examined the challenges of balancing the fast pace of development while respecting and learning from the ecosystems that have defined the region. Participants met with key local leaders – ranchers, government officials, business leaders and conservationists – to learn more about the leadership skills and sustainability expertise required to move forward even in areas of significant conflicting interests.

2015 Program: “New Frontiers for Sustainability Leadership: From Reflection to Action”

Patagonia National Park
November 29-December 5, 2015

Patagonia 2015 bright

In 2015, applicants competed for an opportunity to join renowned adventurer and VP of Environmental Initiatives at Patagonia, Rick Ridgeway, and corporate sustainability expert, Jib Ellison, for a trip to Chile to witness the launch of a new national park in the Aysen region. In this week-long journey, participants experienced and contemplated the vast restored wildlands of the Chacabuco Valley, while fostering leadership skills and sustainability expertise that they are now using to accelerate sustainability within their organizations, and beyond. Beginning with a flight to Santiago, Chile, winners traveled on to the town of Balmaceda and then made the 6 hour drive to Patagonia National Park. After a breathtaking journey past bright blue rivers, snowcapped mountains, and wild terrain, the group arrived at the Lodge at Valle Chacabuco to catch up on sleep and prepare for the week’s adventures. Throughout the week, the group embarked on a guided car tour of the valley, a 5 hour loop hike on the Aviles Trail, across the Chacabuco River, and took small launch boats on Lago Cochrane to view an endangered Huemul deer reserve. The trip closed with the Lagunas Atlas Hike, a 23 kilometer loop that winds around numerous alpine lakes, climbing toward Tamanguito Peak.

2014 Program: “Sustainability Leadership at the Eco-Social Nexus”

Mexico City and Chiapas, Mexico
November 9-14, 2014


In 2014, winners joined FEMSA Foundation Director and C.K. Prahalad Award Winner Vidal Garza Cantù for a trip to Mexico City and the southern Mexican state of Chiapas. Over a 6-day journey, participants discussed business strategies that work for both for people and planet, with the goal of fostering leadership skills and expertise that they can bring to bear on their jobs and in their efforts to accelerate sustainability within their organizations. The trip began with a flight to Mexico City for a workshop with conservation leaders, corporate sustainability managers, and academic experts to discuss new ideas and approaches for aligning business success with the preservation of Earth’s vital natural systems. The group then flew to the southern state of Chiapas to visit organic coffee cooperative Comon Yaj Noptic and tour a partner plantation to get a first-hand view of the immense work that goes into a cup of coffee. Participants spent time exploring the El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve, a diverse forest home to quetzals, jaguars, and other endangered species. The trip closed with a visit to San Cristobal de las Casas to examine local water conservation projects. Meet the participants.

2013 Program: “Building and Leading Collaborations for Sustainability”

Middle Fork of the Salmon River, Idaho
August 22-25, 2013


In August 2013, nine “rising stars” from CEF member companies– chosen by competitive application– embarked on a life-changing leadership development journey along the Middle Fork of Idaho’s Salmon River hosted by Canyons River Company and led by corporate sustainability expert and class V river guide Jib Ellison. Participants flew to Boise, Idaho, and were then chartered to the launch site along the Middle Fork of the Salmon River– one of the first to be designated a National Wild and Scenic River. Filled with world class whitewater, pristine green forests, hillsides of wildflowers, huge sandy beaches, natural hot springs, breathtaking hiking vistas, and star-filled skies, the Middle Fork is truly spectacular. The challenge of navigating a Class III-IV river– requiring trust and collaboration among all participants– provided a unique backdrop for organized discussions and problem-solving around 21st century sustainability challenges that demand complex collaborations among unlikely partners. Read reflections from winners.

2012 Program: “Thinking Bigger: Reflecting on Sustainability Leadership from the Amazon Rainforest”

Camp 41, Amazon Rainforest, Brazil
July 7-14, 2012


In 2012, ten outstanding leaders from CEF member companies were chosen to embark on a life-changing sustainability leadership development program in the Amazon Rainforest with world-renowned ecologist Dr. Thomas Lovejoy.

The winners flew to Manaus then traveled to “Camp 41″– an off-the-grid research camp situated 100 kilometers into primary forest. From there, the team participated in treks to learn from veteran scientists about the intricacies of the Amazon ecosystem. After three nights in the forest, the group ventured to study complex ecosystems in and around the Amazon River and Rio Negro. This field experience created a unique to stimulate group thinking about company strategies and spur new ideas. Read personal reflections from the participants.

2011 Program: “Leadership on the Edge”

March, 2011


Two winners from CEF member companies were selected to join a diverse international team of corporate leaders, environmentalists, entrepreneurs, teachers and young people on a life-changing journey through the Antarctic Peninsula. The “Leadership on the Edge” Program led by polar explorer Robert Swan OBE, encompassed leadership development, environmental education, communication skills, team-building, and survival training. Guest experts on the environment, climate change, sustainable development, and outdoor leadership host presentations, debates, and lessons in the dynamic classroom of the Antarctic, giving team members a broad, practical base to start the process of change. By their return home, team members were equipped to become powerful sustainability leaders. Read insights from the participants.


Sign up for CEF Newsletter
* = required field