Knut Haanaes
Knut Haanaes

Professor of Strategy and Lundin Chair Professor of Sustainability

Knut Haanaes is Professor of Strategy and Lundin Chair Professor of Sustainability. His research and teaching focuses on strategy, sustainability, strategic renewal, and business models. He says these different pillars enable him to help companies think about their path for the future and take account of new trends, including the demand for greater sustainability.

Sustainability now plays an important part in his work. He was the driving force behind the creation of the Business Schools for Climate Leadership (BS4CL) alliance of eight leading European business schools, which was launched in 2021 to address the climate crisis. The schools collaborate on research to identify and shape best practices and work across industries to accelerate the business community’s response to climate change, and Haanaes continues to play a leading role in the group’s activities.

The very best organizations are those that are excellent at both improving their current business and exploring new opportunities.

He is also deeply involved in IMD’s strategic partnership with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), which aims to equip business leaders with the skills to accelerate the pace of sustainable business transformation and create the most sustainability-centered MBA program in the world.

At IMD, Haanaes is Director of the Leading Sustainable Business Transformation (LSBT) program and Co-Director of Driving Sustainability from the Boardroom (DSB), a program developed as part of IMD’s collaboration with WBCSD. He is also head of the sustainability stream in the MBA program and teaches in many of the school’s key open programs, including the Advanced Management Program (AMP), Breakthrough Program for Senior Executives (BPSE) and Orchestrating Winning Performance (OWP).

Through his work with clients, Haanaes has also accumulated extensive experience in a number of industries on issues of strategy. He believes that the secret to creating lasting, impactful business is to find a balance between doing what you’re good at (exploitation) and looking for new challenges to take on (exploration).

At IMD, he has helped run custom programs for Neste, CMS, Technip FMC, Coca-Cola Bottling, Mondelez, Maybank, Rio Tinto, and Iberdrola.

Haanaes’ teaching on strategy is underpinned by his best-selling book Your Strategy Needs a Strategy. The book won praise from the likes of World Economic Forum founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab, Pfizer Chairman and CEO Ian C Read, and Benetton CEO Marco Airoldi after being published by Harvard Business Review Press in 2015. It has since been translated into seven other languages.

He is also a successful TED speaker. His TED talk Two reasons companies fail – and how to avoid them has attracted more than two million views.

Haanaes has published articles in top publications such as Harvard Business Review and MIT Sloan Management Review as well as research reports for the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), The World Economic Forum, and MIT.

He joined IMD in 2016 from BCG, where he was a senior partner and Global Leader of Strategy Practice. He also led BCG’s collaboration with MIT on sustainability, developing one of the largest databases globally of how executives address the topic, and founded the BCG global sustainability initiative.

Haanaes was Dean of the Global Leadership Institute at the World Economic Forum between 2018 and 2020. He is also a member of the CEO’s Sustainability Advisory Board at Carlsberg and a board member at private bank Alpian, and he previously served as Chairman of BI Norwegian Business School, a member of the Global Agenda Council on New Economic Growth Models at the World Economic Forum, Executive Director of the Research Council of Norway and a Visiting Scholar at Stanford University.

Selected publications
Article
How the university of the future must adapt to train future leaders
Education will change significantly over the next decade as competitiveness becomes increasingly driven by learning. Many higher education systems were designed for the needs of the past century an...
Published 8 January 2020
Article
Your strategy needs a strategy
In a business environment that is changing ever more quickly and becoming increasingly uncertain and complex, it has never been more important – or more difficult – to choose the right approach to ...
Published 29 June 2017
Article
Making sustainability profitable
Emerging economies are often thought of as environmental laggards; they're perceived to be focused more on addressing poverty than on protecting the planet. But when the Boston Consulting Group and...
Published 1 March 2013
Article
How serious is climate change to business?
This is the third year that MIT Sloan Management Review has teamed up with the Boston Consulting Group on their Sustainability and Innovation Global Executive survey, to which more than 4,700 execu...
Published 1 November 2013
Article
Sustainability as adaptability
Most corporations now view sustainability as a key requirement for competitive advantage, but few claim to have achieved it. One of the key obstacles separating intention from execution is that the...
Published 1 May 2012
Article
Sustainability nears a tipping point
MIT Sloan Management Review and the Boston Consulting Group recently conducted their third annual sustainability survey of executives and managers worldwide. The survey results indicate that an inc...
Published 23 January 2012
Article
New sustainability study: The 'Embracers' seize advantage
Despite the economic downturn and tenuous recovery, more than two-thirds of businesses are strengthening their commitment to sustainability, according to a new global study by MIT Sloan Management ...
Published 1 May 2011
Academic publications
Article
Sustainability as adaptability
Most corporations now view sustainability as a key requirement for competitive advantage, but few claim to have achieved it. One of the key obstacles separating intention from execution is that the...
Published 1 May 2012
Article
New sustainability study: The 'Embracers' seize advantage
Despite the economic downturn and tenuous recovery, more than two-thirds of businesses are strengthening their commitment to sustainability, according to a new global study by MIT Sloan Management ...
Published 1 May 2011
Article
First look: Highlights from the third annual sustainability global executive survey
This is the third year that MIT Sloan Management Review has teamed up with the Boston Consulting Group on their Sustainability and Innovation Global Executive survey, to which more than 4,700 execu...
Published 2 September 2011
Article
First look: The second annual sustainability and innovation survey
Despite the economic downturn and a tenuous recovery, businesses are increasing their investments in sustainability, The Boston Consulting Group and MIT Sloan Management Review found in their secon...
Published 1 February 2011
Article
How serious is climate change to business?
This is the third year that MIT Sloan Management Review has teamed up with the Boston Consulting Group on their Sustainability and Innovation Global Executive survey, to which more than 4,700 execu...
Published 1 November 2013
Article
Sustainability nears a tipping point
MIT Sloan Management Review and the Boston Consulting Group recently conducted their third annual sustainability survey of executives and managers worldwide. The survey results indicate that an inc...
Published 23 January 2012
Insight for Executives
Businesses are forging ahead with climate action
Article
Businesses are forging ahead with climate action
The recent COP27 meeting made only limited headway on measures to tackle climate change, but climate action by companies gives more grounds for optimism, and the current challenging economic and ge...
Published 2 December 2022
Article
Préparer la prochaine génération de leaders aux crises de demain
A few years ago, one of us helped redesign the undergraduate curriculum at our university. One of the main goals was to make students more ethical citizens. Soon, the idea of offering a simple ethi...
Published 2 November 2022
Article
When climate collaboration is treated as an antitrust violation
What do Covid-19, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the climate crisis have in common? All three challenge our sense of safety and illuminate the interconnected nature of the modern world. Each ...
Published 17 October 2022
Bridging the sustainability skills gap
Article
Bridging the sustainability skills gap
To prepare for the green revolution, companies need to rethink their approach to skills development – starting in the boardroom.
Published 22 August 2022
Being less bad is simply not good enough anymore
Article
Being less bad is simply not good enough anymore
Why Paul Polman believes that companies whose leaders bring humanity back into business will help us all achieve net zero.
Published 11 July 2022
Carrots and sticks needed to speed up the green business transformation
Article
Carrots and sticks needed to speed up the green business transformation
Government incentives to promote green technology and collaboration between startups and established companies will help accelerate the transformation to net zero, experts said in the latest Busine...
Published 20 June 2022
Article
Business school collaboration: Embracing our responsibility towards our planet
For over half a century, evidence about climate change has been mounting. Growing numbers of citizens, governments, civil society organisations and companies have come around to embrace their respo...
Published 25 May 2022
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Article
Sustainability is becoming more important for all companies, across all industries. 62% of executives consider a sustainability strategy necessary to be competitive today, and another 22% think it ...
Published 9 May 2022
Article
Business schools must do more to address the climate crisis
Business schools have much to contribute to the fight against climate change. They are experts in organizational transformation, performance measurement, operations, marketing, leadership, and gove...
Published 1 February 2022
Report
Business schools for climate leadership
CHAPTER 5 (IMD contribution) Climate change and Business Transformation: As we act to mitigate and adapt to climate change, we are undergoing the biggest business transformation the world has ever ...
Published 10 November 2021
Article
Farmers and food industry must work together to avoid disaster
Intensive farming methods, pesticides and fertilizers have provided more food as the world’s population has tripled over the past 70 years, leading also to a large reduction in the numbers living i...
Published 16 September 2021
Article
Escape ESG risk traps: How to reinvent your company's role in society
Taking the high road to positive impact on people and planet. Too many companies still focus on extracting value from society. But being stuck on a “low road” of negative societal impact can be co...
Published 17 August 2021
Four steps to stay ahead with sustainability
Video
Four steps to stay ahead with sustainability
Sustainability is like a new Olympic sport – some are champions and their businesses are winning, others are lagging behind. At OWP liVe, Lundin Chair Professor of Sustainability Knut Haanaes will ...
Published 18 May 2021
Article
Sustainability: From the drawing board into the business
The first steps towards creating a credible sustainable business, is to clearly frame what sustainability really means for your organization and ensure cross-organizational buy-in. When it comes t...
Published 19 April 2021
Article
What should your sustainability strategy look like?
Blurring the details on sustainability is easily done without clear definitions, but this comes with a cost attached. Applying clear parameters to enable a clear sustainable agenda is vital to busi...
Published 12 April 2021
Article
Why 2021 is the year to focus on sustainability
There are fresh winds in the sails of sustainability. From a strong momentum on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) investment, to the US re-entry to the Paris Agreement, to plans for the po...
Published 6 April 2021
Sustainability: Attitude will help solve climate crisis
Article
Sustainability: Attitude will help solve climate crisis
In this case study, Professor Knut Haanaes says we can tackle the environmental emergency — it depends whether you see the glass as half full or half empty.
Published 2 April 2021
Reshaping industries: Embracing a new normal
Article
Reshaping industries: Embracing a new normal
Knut Haanaes, Professor of Strategy and Lundin Sustainability Chair at IMD, paints a picture of what the future might look like and guides leaders in analyzing the way forward in this ever-changing...
Published 24 March 2021
From crisis to sustainability champion
Article
From crisis to sustainability champion
In this case study, Professor Knut Haanaes suggest what organizations should do to avoid hugely expensive and damaging sustainability scandals.
Published 21 March 2021
Capitalism must rediscover its purpose
Article
Capitalism must rediscover its purpose
Knut Haanaes, Professor of Strategy and Lundin Sustainability Chair at IMD, paints a picture of how sustainability can shape the future in four mini case studies. In this third case study, Haanaes ...
Published 20 March 2021
Greenwashing: The biggest threat to sustainability
Article
Greenwashing: The biggest threat to sustainability
In this mini case study, Professor Knut Haanaes suggests how to judge whether a company’s environmental claims are credible.
Published 20 March 2021
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Article
In the 1920s, mass production and consumption dominated; in the 2020s, new technologies and business models available will help us address the pollution, climate and health challenges created by th...
Published 29 December 2020
Sustainability: A better way to shape the future
Video
Sustainability: A better way to shape the future
A new mini case study series
Published 9 October 2020
Reshaping Industries: Embracing the New Normal
Video
Reshaping Industries: Embracing the New Normal
A new mini case study series
Published 17 August 2020
Article
How the university of the future must adapt to train future leaders
Education will change significantly over the next decade as competitiveness becomes increasingly driven by learning. Many higher education systems were designed for the needs of the past century an...
Published 8 January 2020
Report
Neste and IMD: Partnering for renewal
When Matti Lievonen became the CEO of Neste in 2009, the Finnish oil refining company was facing strong headwinds – a sharp fall in oil prices, market overcapacity, falling margins and new carbon e...
Published 28 February 2018
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Article
Although greenwashing is far too common, recently there have been two powerful “green shots,” which show that business is finally taking sustainability a lot more seriously. These are, in our opini...
Published 16 February 2018
Article
The BlackRock letter: A turning point for real change?
Although greenwashing is far too common, recently there have been two powerful “green shots,” which show that business is finally taking sustainability a lot more seriously. These are, in our opini...
Published 12 February 2018
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Article
Why the cynicism? Consider this real setting: About 25 owners and top executives of medium-sized companies have come together to discuss sustainability. An executive for a major oil company present...
Published 12 January 2018
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Article
The US film industry has been immensely successful and has overshadowed its rivals around the word, but are we starting to see signs of its decline? Is it a victim of the success trap?
Published 12 June 2017
Article
Alle virksomheder bør omfavne bæredygtighed
Bæredygtighed bliver mere vigtigt for alle virksomheder på tværs af alle brancher. Data fra BCG/MIT viser, at 62% af ledere mener, at det er nødvendigt at have en bæredygtighedsstrategi for at være...
Published 13 February 2017
Article
Globalisering ved en skillevej?
Det er egentligt trist, at mens den nordiske model synes at være et forbillede i store dele af verden i dag, så bevæger vi os i modsat retning. Den nordiske model søger at skabe inkluderende vækst ...
Published 18 January 2017
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Article
A few years back the author was involved in an exercise where the strategy processes of a large set of leading global firms were observed. These were all companies you would expect to be exceptiona...
Published 13 January 2017
Article
Ikke let at være topleder i dag. “På toppen i dag, borte i morgen…”
Published 19 December 2016
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Article
The hardest type of corporate renewal, by far, is that of transforming the successful firm. Despite the fact that we live in times of fast change and frequent competitive and technological disrupti...
Published 16 December 2016
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Article
In most industries, the competitive landscape is rapidly changing and as a result, companies speed through their life-cycles at an unprecedented pace (actually twice as fast as 20 years ago, accord...
Published 30 September 2016
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Article
If you want your company to thrive, you need to take the tricky middle way; you need to find the right balance between exploring new ideas and exploiting existing ones.
Published 14 September 2016
Article
Joining forces: Collaboration and leadership for sustainability
The growing importance of corporate collaboration and boards of directors to sustainable business.
Published 1 January 2015
Article
Making sustainability profitable
Emerging economies are often thought of as environmental laggards; they're perceived to be focused more on addressing poverty than on protecting the planet. But when the Boston Consulting Group and...
Published 1 March 2013
Article
The power to adapt: Building one of the world’s largest renewables power producers
In just two decades Statkraft has grown from a state-owned, Norwegian-focused power supplier to one of the world’s largest renewables power producers. Statkraft now generates 57 Terawatt hours per ...
Published 11 August 2011