The European Business Network
for Corporate Social Responsibility
Mobile Menu

Collaboration – a mechanism to make exponential progress

Thursday, October 4, 2018

There is a growing appreciation for collaboration as a mechanism to make big leaps forward. Indeed, many challenges to achieve societal and environmental progress can only be tackled in concert with other actors. D. Grayson, Chr. Coulter and M. Lee, authors of All In – The Future of Business Leadership explain how it works.

Main takeaways of this interview:

  • Collaboration is the skill and the will to collaborate with other businesses, NGOs, social enterprises, public sector agencies, academia etc., to drive more positive impact at pace and scale.
  • Multi-sector partnerships are highly appreciated by sustainability experts for their performance and value.  Because so many of the challenges we must tackle to achieve the SDGs can only be done in concert with other actors

 

Q1. No single company can achieve the SDGs or current societal and environmental challenges on its own. In your new Book ‘All In’ you describe ‘collaboration’ as one of the attributes for sustainable Corporate Leadership. How can collaboration help Leaders to get their company more sustainable

The authors: In our recent book: “All In – The Future of Business Leadership” – we distil five key, interlinking attributes for businesses that want to go All In for sustainability. One of these core attributes is Collaboration: the skill and the will to collaborate with other businesses, NGOs, social enterprises, public sector agencies, academia etc., to drive more positive impact at pace and scale.

All three of us were very struck during the inspiring interviews we conducted for the book, with how many of our interviewees emphasised that collaboration is essential – and not an optional extra.

Depending on the types of collaboration that a business is involved in, collaboration can help businesses embed sustainability in a number of ways. These include finding technological solutions and sustainable innovations more efficiently and effectively than trying to do so unilaterally; having more leverage for sustainability with suppliers, trade associations and industry leaders; and making it easier to set and promote successfully sustainability standards and get critical mass take-up faster.

Collaboration can also help businesses to influence pro-sustainable development public policies; and build greater credibility with / acceptance from society – especially where business collaborates with NGOs, development agencies and other public sector bodies.

These different potential benefits will determine which types of collaborative platforms the business creates or joins – and also which types of partners they look for.

 

Q2. In your 2018 Leaders’ survey, respondents rank multi-sectoral partnerships quite high in terms of performance. Can you explain?

There is a high appreciation from sustainability experts as to the performance and value of multi-sector partnerships. Over four in ten (42%) of global sustainability experts we surveyed, give a positive rating for the performance of ‘multi-sectoral partnerships’ in terms of making a contribution to progress on sustainable development.  As comparison, experts rate the performance of the private sector (24%) and national governments (8%) much lower.  

These findings are very much in line with our understanding of the evolving nature of leadership in a low trust world where pace and scale are critical to secure the future we want. Because so many of the challenges we must tackle to achieve the SDGs can only be done in concert with other actors, there is a growing appreciation for collaboration as a mechanism to make exponential progress.

For instance, CSR Europe facilitates Drive Sustainability , a partnership between 10 automotive companies to enhance sustainability throughout the global automotive supply chain by better integrating sustainability in the overall procurement process.

 

Q3.   What are the main ingredients to reach ‘Collaboration’? What are the challenges?

The “main ingredients” include:

  • clarity of purpose and desired outcomes / impacts
  • alignment on expectations on what participants bring to the table and sanctions for non-performance
  • mutual understanding of any constraints on partners and any things that individual partners must have
  • clear governance of the partnership
  • effective delivery mechanisms for the partnerships which will normally involve some kind of secretariat / delivery unit or delivery co-ordination
  • that representatives from participating organisations have the authority to commit their organisations.

The challenges are when one or more of the key ingredients for collaboration just described, are missing. Or when the key people responsible for collaboration – from partner organisations and collaboration secretariat/ co-ordinating teams lack the Partnership M.U.S.T.-Have skills as defined by Darian Stibbe and his colleagues in The Partnering Initiative.

All In – The Future of Business Leadership is published by Routledge: www.AllInBook.net