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How BMW successfully practices sustainable leadership principles

Gayle C. Avery (Professor of Management at Macquarie Graduate School of Management, Sydney (
Harald Bergsteiner (Director of the Institute for Sustainable Leadership and an Honorary Fellow at the Australian Catholic University, Sydney (

Strategy & Leadership

ISSN: 1087-8572

Article publication date: 8 November 2011




This BMW case aims to show how many of the company's practices that accord with principles espoused in the authors' sustainable leadership model contributed to its recovery after the global financial crisis (GFC).


This case illustrates how BMW institutes the 23 honeybee leadership principles and practices described in the authors' 2011 article “Sustainable leadership: practices for enhancing business resilience and performance” in Strategy & Leadership.


The examples provide a glimpse into the honeybee practices that enabled one firm to emerge successfully from the GFC. Regarding the five performance outcomes on the sustainable leadership pyramid, BMW clearly exceeded expectations in 2010 on financial returns and shareholder value.

Practical implications

Clearly BMW provides long‐term value for all its stakeholders – suppliers, shareholders, employees and customers – as is expected of a sustainable enterprise. BMW's business model, innovative approach to problem‐solving and adherence to sustainable leadership practices underpin a capacity to survive crises such as the GFC.


This is a rare case study of corporate‐wide sustainability practices and principles in operation. Informed by the examples of best practices at BMW, managers at other companies can envision how honeybee management might be implemented at their firm.



Avery, G.C. and Bergsteiner, H. (2011), "How BMW successfully practices sustainable leadership principles", Strategy & Leadership, Vol. 39 No. 6, pp. 11-18.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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