Collaboration and partnerships play a critical role when companies, governments and cities wish to drive sustainable growth. But establishing and running partnerships is a new leadership dicipline. Leaderlab Founder & Managing Partner Sofus Midtgaard was in Istanbul this week to give a keynote on the topic.
In a 2015 survey by MIT Sloan Management Review, The Boston Consulting Group and the United Nations Global Compact, 90% of executives state that collaboration is important to address sustainability challenges while only 47% are actively engaged in sustainability collaboration and partnerships.
Over the last five years partnerships to drive sustainable growth have become increasingly important. Systemic challenges – i.e. unaware investors, disengaged citizens, lack of enabling policy or introduction of new standards throughout a supply chain – are all issues that no-one company can address on its own.
With the Sustainable Development Goals it was outlined that multi-stakeholder partnerships are fundamentally necessary and should encourage and promote effective public, public-private and civil society partnerships.
“When you look at any issue, such as food or water scarcity, it is very clear that no individual institution, government or company can provide the solution”
Poul Polman, CEO, UNILEVER
Collaboration and partnerships play a critical role in addressing systemic barriers, driving collaborative innovation and sharing risk. But like most complex projects, partnerships have a failure rate of about 50 % (Harvard Business Review, 2004). Here are 10 rules for successful sustainability partnerships that will help you avoid the most common pitfalls and help you build partnerships that last and will drive change.
”These are massive problems of scale. they are going to require an ecosystem of thinkers and solvers and creative minds.”
Cyrus Wadia, VP, Nike
“Collaboration can bring great results, for example we work closely with Nike to pioneer new techniques for textile dyeing that dramatically reduce the use of water, energy and chemicals”
Håkan Nordkvist, Head of Sustainability Innovation, IKEA Group
Here are the slides from the presentation:
10 Rules for Sustainability Partnerships
1. PARTNER WITH PURPOSE
Partnerships should make you able to achieve something you can not achieve on your own. Partnerships should never be the parking lot for difficult CSR-agendas better solved alone .
Senior leadership support might give you a head start – but unless you find a sweet spot for the participating managers you will fail. Make sure to find a sweet spot/overlap between core strategic priorities of the partners.
3. SET FEW BUT AMBITOUS GOALS
Many stakeholders often result in cluttered goals and reporting. Agree on a moonshot, or at least set a few but ambitious goals, that will aspire people for change.
No partnership can run on money alone. Only by leaning in you will harvest the real benefits of a partnership.
5. PASSION IS KEY
You can prepare, make strategies and plans – but in the end it always comes down to people. A partnership needs champions who would die in a ditch for what the partnership is trying to achieve.
6. DEDICATE THE RIGHT PEOPLE
If a partnership is strategic, staff it like it is strategic! Include people from relevant business units – not just the CSR department.
Unconventional partners will bring new perspectives and spur innovation. Watch out for the usual suspects when forming partnerships.
Some of the most effective partnerships are the ones that map, connect and embrace existing initiatives – rather than conquer them. This is especially true when it comes to systemic challenges.
Even a focused partnership with few and clear goals will produce unexpected value for partners. Be open for surprises and calibrate your measures of success.
You can achieve amazing things if you are able to step back and let other people step into the limelight.
Up to 50% of all partnerships fail to deliver value and are terminated before time (HBR, 2004). Try to think about these 10 rules in relation to your existing partnerships or next time you consider entering a new partnership.
If you have reflections or suggestions to this list please feel free to contact us. If you need help shaping a new partnership, mapping potential partners or focusing and energizing an existing partnership, do not hesitate on contact us: