Knowing what needs to be achieved is perhaps the most powerful screening technique for finding the right people for partnerships. Intel’s Esque believes that creating deep trust with partners is indispensable, especially in the beginning. “I find that most collaborations fall apart because the early commitment work isn’t done,” she says. “There should always be clarity around expectations, pro- cess, language and measurement.” Collaboration is ultimately about building relation- ships, says Stonyfield’s Turner. As he puts it: “I find that the best collaborations come out of existing relation- ships. You spend a lot of time talking to colleagues at other businesses and organizations about what needs to be accomplished. In many ways, that’s how you start to move things forward. It’s an iterative process.” Selecting the right partners in a process that Esque calls “matchmaking” makes a real difference. When Intel launched its digital literacy program for young women in sub-Saharan Africa, it needed the advice of local partners, including community players and local governments. “When you cast a wide net for partners and meet with a lot of different organizations, probably
R E S E A R C H R E P O R T J O I N I N G F O R C E S the majority of them are not a good fit,” she says. “And that’s okay, because we are all being really clear about what we want to achieve. Many organizations hesitate there, because they don’t want to turn people away.” BOARD ENGAGEMENT Getting the board of directors on board is another driver of success. As we pointed out in the introduc- tion, an engaged board is a predictor of successful sustainability collaborations: In companies where boards are perceived as active supporters, 67% of re- spondents say collaborations are very or quite successful. In companies where the board is not en- gaged, the rate of success is less than half that (see Figure 11). BASF’s recently introduced accelerators program, which aims to turn all products into sustainability all-stars, is the fruit of a carefully planned approach to engaging its board. BASF established a steering initiative for sustainable solutions that combined a “top-down” perspective — driven by a sustainability board chaired by a member of the board of directors — with a “middle-out” perspective, where every business unit assesses its own products against strict sustainability criteria. The process was deliberate and moved step by step. To begin, BASF established a corporate sustainabil- ity board, which includes 12 company presidents. The sustainability board then made an initial pro- posal to the board of executive directors to review all products through the lens of sustainability, which was very positively received. The sustainability board then went to the business units to secure buy- in from their leaders and draft strategies for making needed changes.
- Fall '15
- MIT Sloan Management Review, mit sloan management