Collaboration and board engagement leads to business sustainability claims new research

BY Fraser Tennant

Companies that embrace collaboration and foster board engagement have a greater chance of achieving business sustainability, according to a new global research study.

The study, carried out for a sixth consecutive year by MIT Sloan Management Review (MIT SMR), the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and the UN Global Compact, surveyed more than 3,795 executives and managers from 113 countries about the sustainability challenges they faced.

 “While collaboration is not yet the norm, among those who are doing it, we are increasingly seeing a focus on transformational, strategic results”, said David Kiron, executive editor of MIT SMR and co-author of the study. “More than half of reported collaborations aspire to fundamentally change the market in which the business operates, so sustainability efforts are much less likely to be discrete projects and much more likely to engage a company’s entire ecosystem—from suppliers and customers to governments and academic institutions.”

The study’s key findings include: (i) 61 percent of executives whose companies participated in sustainability-related partnerships view these collaborations as quite or very successful; and (ii) 90 percent of respondents recognise the importance of sustainability collaboration but only 47 percent reported that their companies are actively collaborating.

Focusing on board engagement as a driver of sustainability success, the study found that 86 percent of respondents felt that company boards should play a significant role in driving their company’s sustainability efforts. However, just 42 percent considered their own boards to be at least moderately engaged with the sustainability agenda.

“We identified several ways to overcome the barriers to board participation," said co-author Knut Haanaes, a Geneva-based senior partner at BCG. “They include establishing a broader vision of the board as steward of all stakeholders and managers of risk versus the traditional maximising only of shareholder financial value.”

Summing up the findings of the study, co-author Georg Kell, executive director of the UN Global Compact, said: “With commercial activities and investments reaching every corner of the earth, companies increasingly face complex uncertainties and risks related to social, environmental, and governance issues. Companies are starting to see that when they provide a collective voice, share risks, and pool resources, they can deliver transformative solutions that benefit both business and society.”

Report: Joining Forces: Collaboration and Leadership for Sustainability

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