Collaborating for a Sustainable Future


GLOBE-Net, December 20, 2012 – The latest GlobeScan SustainAbility Survey finds that, despite a poor track record by governments, most experts believe that the most effective way that companies can advance the sustainable development agenda is by working with multiple actors-including governments.

Relatively few SD experts think progress will be best made through partnerships that do not include governments or by companies acting alone.

The findings are drawn from a GlobeScan / SustainAbility Survey of sustainability experts across corporate, government, NGO, academic, research, and service organizations in 74 countries. Nearly 800 experts were surveyed online by GlobeScan and SustainAbility in September 2012.

Notes the report, the most effective forms of partnership are seen to be those that focus in on a single issue or purpose, rather than those that seek to address a broader set of topics.

Despite this singularity, experts expect all of the forms of collaboration that are examined in the survey to become more common over the next five years.
[stextbox id=”custom” float=”true” width=”200″ bcolor=”add3d5″ bgcolor=”add3d5″ image=”null”]”Multi-actor collaboration that involves government is the most effective approach companies can take to work with the public sector, but experts have significant doubts that business will be as willing to pursue it” [/stextbox]

However, not all forms are created equally-experts perceive partnerships that focus on addressing a single issue, rather than a broad set of topics, as being most effective.

This is probably due to familiarity with high-profile single-issue initiatives such as the Forest Stewardship Council, the Marine Stewardship Council and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, as well as perhaps a skepticism with more diffuse membership collaborations such as the UN Global Compact, says GlobeScan.

It also notes that despite a growing awareness of the need to take a more systemic approach to sustainability – the interrelations and interdependencies of issues such as climate, water, biodiversity and food security is probably too ambitious for consideration by collaborations at this stage.

This focus nonetheless leaves a many types of initiatives that range from a company working on a single issue with one NGO to large scale multi-issue partnerships with companies working with industry peers, governments and other groups.

Business Case For Collaboration

Why Collaborate

Nearly half of experts cite access to diverse perspectives and expertise and pooling risk as keys to the business case  for collaboration; Cost reduction is not seen as a primary reason to collaborate.

Whether partnering with an NGO or company, shared  purpose and the transparent exchange of information areimportant pre-requisites for collaboration.

[stextbox id=”custom” float=”true” width=”200″ bcolor=”add3d5″ bgcolor=”add3d5″ image=”null”]”Executive-level commitment is seen as the most critical attribute of a corporate collaboration partner; Shared purpose and sharing information also deemed important”[/stextbox]

“While experts believe companies will involve governments in collaborative partnerships, the range of responses indicates there is no clear-cut approach to how businesses and governments will work together to advance sustainability”

Under the collaboration banner there are diverse arrangements in terms of the nature and number of organizations that can be involved.

Collaboration’s renewed moment in the sun translates to some aspects of the sustainability agenda better than others and the results provide a steer on where companies should remain strongly competitive.

Systemic barriers – such as disengaged investors & citizens, lack of enabling policy and resource scarcity in the supply chain – issues that no-one company can address on its own, are seen as having the most upside when addressed through multi-actor collaboration.

However competition still plays its part and the majority of experts believe that individual, direct action should drive the development of sustainable products and services, says the report.

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