Corporate sustainability becoming more robust and more collaborative

New research by Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan Management Review, The Boston Consulting Group and the UN Global Compact, shows that a growing number of companies are turning to collaborations – with suppliers, NGOs, industry alliances, governments, even competitors – to become more sustainable.

Among some of the key findings of the survey research:

  • Most businesses understand that their sustained success depends upon the economic, social and ecological contexts in which they operate.
  • The physical environment is becoming more unpredictable, a more interconnected global economy is altering social conditions, and technological innovation is transforming the nature of consumption and production.
  • Corporate sustainability has evolved from expressing good intentions and looking for internal operational efficiencies to addressing critical business issues involving a complex network of strategic relationships and activities.
  • As sustainability issues have become more global and pivotal to success, companies are realizing that they can’t go it alone. Through their strategic networks, business can, and arguably must, tackle some of the toughest sustainability issues, such as access to stressed or nonrenewable resources, avoiding human rights violations in value chains or moderating climate change.
  • The network of interdependencies among companies, governments and the public has created a world of mutual reliance, in which collaboration is a necessary route to progress.
  • Companies need to reach out to others if they want to address sustainability challenges, help shape the social context in which they operate and even explore vital new market opportunities.
  • Businesses across the globe are partnering to surmount sustainability challenges that can impact a company’s viability and success.
  • 90% of respondents to the survey (2,587 executive and manager respondents from commercial enterprises in 113 countries) agree that businesses need to collaborate to address the sustainability challenges they face.
  • Only 47% of businesses surveyed are engaging in sustainability-related partnerships. A majority (61%) of those assesses their collaborations as “quite” or “very” successful.
  • 86% of respondents believe that their boards of directors should play a strong role in driving their company’s sustainability efforts, but only 42% of boards are perceived to be at least moderately engaged with the company’s sustainability agenda. Organizations where the board is actively engaged in sustainability collaborations are twice as likely to report success with those efforts.
  • The number of companies that have sustainability as a top management agenda item jumped from 46% in 2010 to 65% in 2014.
  • As strategic collaborations become more commonplace, prolonged tensions between corporations and NGOs are waning.

This highly recommended article, including much more information as well as case studies and survey results, can be found at

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