Knut Haanaes

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

Knut Haanaes' research and teaching focus 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 like demands 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 plan to 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.

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 companies 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 and 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 2 million views.

Haanaes has published articles in top publications such as Harvard Business Review and MIT Sloan Management Review and 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 the 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 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

Business schools must do more on climate change (Harvard Business Review, 2022)

How the university of the future must adapt to train future leaders (Forbes, 2020).

Your Strategy Needs a Strategy (Harvard Business Review Press, 2015)

Making sustainability profitable (Harvard Business Review, 2013)

How serious is climate change to business? (MIT Sloan Management Review, 2013).

Sustainability as adaptability (Journal of Applied Corporate Finance, 2012)

Sustainability nears a tipping point (MIT Sloan Management Review, 2012).

New sustainability study: The 'embracers' seize advantage (MIT Sloan Management Review, 2011)


President’s Award, BCG

Expansion Management Review Best Article

BI Norwegian Business School best lecturer prize


MSc (Economics)

Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration (NHH)

PhD (Strategy)

Copenhagen Business School

Leading Sustainable Business Transformation
This program provides you with a complete business transformation journey through the lens of sustainability.
Driving Sustainability from the Boardroom
Driving Sustainability from the Boardroom enables you to fulfill your role of influencing and steering the integration of sustainability into your company's strategy.
Master of Business Administration
Develops young and experienced international professionals into future corporate leaders through an intense one year program focused on leadership and general management.
Orchestrating Winning Performance
IMD's signature program, OWP, brings you the latest business trends, thought leadership and insights to revitalize your business, drive innovation and lead you forward. Fully customizable schedule. For executives and teams.
All IMD programs
Knut Haanaes's Publications
Why all businesses should embrace sustainability
DSM: Transforming to a sustainable business model
Case study
Umicore: From laggard to sustainability champion
Case study