The results are in: Multi-sector partnerships are central to a sustainable future

blogimage_sustainablefuture (1)Multi-sector partnerships will be key to advancing sustainability in the future, according to a recent survey of more than 500 sustainability experts from around the world. “Multi-actor, systems-based partnerships” with major roles for multi-national corporations, non-profits, governments, and multilateral organizations will be critical to solving the world’s most complex problems, according to the survey, conducted by GlobeScan and SustainAbility

According to a recent report on the survey, “These kinds of partnerships, which are characterized by broad bases of support that attempt to create wholesale shifts in the underlying systems, are viewed as more effective than when governments simply collaborate with each other, businesses partner with themselves, or even when non-profits and businesses join together.”

When asked which sector is best suited to lead which issue-specific initiatives, experts responded that government is best positioned to lead initiatives on water scarcity and climate change; business is best suited to tackle supply chain labor conditions; while NGOs should lead collaborations around preventing biodiversity loss.

When it comes to building effective partnerships, experts indicated that executive-level commitment to partnerships is the single most important attribute of an effective corporate collaboration partner, while credibility and reputation among stakeholders is key for an effective NGO partner.

Interestingly, survey respondents reported that the key benefit of collaboration for the business sector is access to the expertise and perspectives of external partners. For NGOs, on the other hand, the major perceived benefit of collaboration is the “chance to engage rather than pressure other actors.” For governments, collaboration presents an opportunity to “work around” traditional policy process, which can be cumbersome.

When asked which collaborative initiatives they “most admired” the experts survey responded:

  • World Wildlife Fund
  • Forest Stewardship Council
  • Vaccine Delivery by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Sustainable Apparel Coalition
  • CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project)
  • Global Reporting Initiative

What does this mean for practitioners? If multi-sector partnerships will be central to  future sustainability efforts, skills for building effective partnerships will be increasingly valuable. At The Intersector Project, we aim to help practitioners develop just those skills. By carefully studying successful collaborative initiatives, we provide insights into what makes collaborations successful. For more on the tactics to establish effective partnerships check out our Toolkit.