CSR and Sustainability

Joining Forces: Collaboration and Leadership for Sustainability report: Some key findings

This post highlights some of the key findings of a new report from MIT Sloan Management Review.Many thanks to Bob Eccles at Harvard for summarising the below.

This new report, “Joining Forces: Collaboration and Leadership for Sustainability ” was published in the January 2015 MIT Sloan Management Review (SMR)

It’s the sixth annual global survey of sustainability practices that SMR has done in collaboration with the Boston Consulting Group.

This year they were joined by the UN Global Compact. The survey results are based on 2,587 responses from commercial enterprises.

A decent read, as these things go

There were two main themes for this survey:

(1) collaboration and

(2) the role of the board of directors.

The results are very interesting and, in some cases, rather disappointing.

Let me just point out a few findings of interest to me and encourage you to read the whole report.

In terms of collaboration, 90% of respondents agreed that collaborations are needed for sustainability, yet only 47% said they engaged in them; of those who did, 61% reported their efforts as successful.

The primary types of collaborations were strategic or transformational rather than philanthropic or opportunistic and ad hoc.

Some of the most important reasons for collaboration were to increase reputation and brand building, product and service innovation, fostering market transformation towards sustainability, and risk management.

As with many things in life, experience improves outcomes. The more collaborations a company was engaged in, the more likely it was that each one was successful.

Similarly mixed results were found regarding the role of the board of directors.

Whereas 86% of the respondents agreed that the board should play a strong role in sustainablity, only 42% felt that their company’s board did so.

This finding was noted in a recent article in The Guardian which cited other findings regarding the lack of interest of many company boards in sustainability.

There are a number of reasons for this, including a common misunderstanding about the fiduciary duty of the board.

Equally sobering findings from the SMR/BCG/Global Compact study were a four-year downward trend in strong CEO commitment to sustainablity (-9%) and linking sustainability performance with financial incentives (-2%).

On the flip side, the number of companies that have sustainablity as a top management agenda item increased from 46% in 2010 to 65% in 2014.

In those four years the percentage of companies that have not created a business case for sustainability dropped from 42% to 23%.

Thanks again to Bob for the excellent summary.

It seems to me that whilst one could read some of the earlier findings above as a little depressing, the last two numbers provide a decent silver lining.

Firstly, more companies are putting sustainability on the senior management agenda, and fewer of those have not created a business case.

These sorts of numbers are also reflected in CEO research from Accenture.

So sustainability marches on, slowly but surely gaining traction.

Our planned contribution to furthering the debate this year can be found here, and there’s a few below.

Events schedule:

March 16-17 2015 – London – Sustainable and Ethical Cotton Sourcing – How to get it right and make it pay for your business

With: Ikea, Marks & Spencer, CottonConnect, BCI, Lindex, Shell Foundation, John Lewis, Gina Tricot, Nudie Jeans, Solidaridad, and many others.

April 14-15 2015 – Washington, D.C. – How Business can Tackle Deforestation – Understand deforestation risk, benchmark your policies and collaborate effectively with NGOs

With: Wilmar, Greenpeace, TFT, WWF, WRI, Disney, Staples, 3M, Weyerhaeuser, Dunkin’ Brands, Rainforest Alliance, Hershey, ADM, New Britain Palm Oil, Sime Darby, IOI Loders Croklaan, Friends of the Earth, Calvert and many others.

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