Global sustainability consultancy Corporate Citizenship undertook a survey of CSR experts around the world to take a snapshot of the current environment for social impact.

The survey found that the majority of effective collaborations undertaken are with non-profits (87%) and governments (64%). Same-sector (51%) and cross-sector (41%) partnerships are also becoming more common place, the research showed.


“More and more organisations are seeking to achieve a greater social and environmental impact through collaboration with others,” Corporate Citizenship co-founder Amanda Jordan OBE said. “Many different types of collaborations and relationships are emerging as organisations engage in new ways, in order to address big issues and deliver long-term change. We believe that those engaged in truly collaborative initiatives are the ones achieving the biggest impact.”

Effective models

Almost 70% of practitioners surveyed said that they are already collaborating with others to achieve tangible impacts, while 43% of those collaborating are doing so with eight or more organisations to achieve their goals.

The research highlighted several models of effective collaboration, such as “The Conductor” – a single company which co-operates with a number of not-for-profit partners to solve a specific challenge. As an example, the report notes the partnership between multinational food manufacturer Kellogg Company and a range of not-for profits which helped achieve a goal to provide one billion servings of cereals and snacks to poverty-stricken individuals by 2016.

Among the other business approaches to collaboration is “The Alliance” – a group of firms that have come together to tackle a specific industry issue – and “The Engager” – a company that engages and collaborates with its clients or customers to find solutions to sustainability issues.

The study highlights 10 key steps to successful collaboration, such as creating shared goals and understanding a partner’s agenda. The recent launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is cited as enabling businesses to focus on specific issues and identify opportunities to bring multiple stakeholders together to achieve lasting impact.

The research echoes a recent survey which found that the SDGs are increasing in prominence among businesses. The findings of that survey concluded that cross-sector collaboration in adopting the SDGs is an opportunity failing to be capitalised on by companies, with 70% seeking to collaborate but less than half offering any opportunities to do so.

Helping hand

Various calls for private-sector collaboration to drive a sustainable, low-carbon global economy have been issued in the past. The World Economic Forum (WEF) recently urged global leaders to collaborate to avert “hardship and volatility” over the next 10 years – much of which will be intensified by extreme environmental dangers.

Companies seeking to engage with increasingly aware consumers on matters regarding sustainability should do so through reaching out to grasp the “huge benefits” of collaboration, according to the chief executive of co-operative organisation Collectively, Will Gardner.

During edie’s recent series of sustainability skills videos, Supply Chain Sustainability School chair Shaun McCarthy explained how sustainability professionals can use collaborative skills and techniques to drive positive change within their organisation and beyond.

George Ogleby

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