CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly
March 20, 2018
Forward Thinking

To make progress on sustainability, team up with others

A new study finds that the most successful sustainability programs involve collaboration with external partners.

Companies that want their sustainability programs to succeed may not achieve that goal if they try to "go it alone." Instead, successful sustainability efforts require collaboration with other businesses, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), government entities, and other third parties. That's the view of 90 percent of the executives and managers who participated in a new study conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) publication Sloan Management Review, the Boston Consulting Group, and the United Nations Global Compact.

The study, Joining Forces: Collaboration and Leadership for Sustainability, is based on survey responses from almost 3,800 executives and managers in more than 100 countries.

Despite this strong belief in the importance of collaboration, only 47 percent of businesses are putting that concept into action. To show how it can be done, the report contains a number of examples of successful partnerships. For example, the outdoor apparel and boot maker Timberland works with an organization called the Leather Working Group to make sure it sources leather from environmentally responsible tanneries. Another example is the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition, which brings together companies from across that industry to press suppliers to develop environmentally responsible supply chains.

A key factor in a company's success in such efforts is the level of involvement of its board of directors, according to the study. For example, 67 percent of respondents who work at companies where board members are actively involved in environmental matters reported that their collaboration efforts are successful. In comparison, only 32 percent of companies with no board involvement reported successful collaboration efforts focused on sustainability.

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