More Companies Leverage Partnerships to Improve Sustainability
(3BL Media/Justmeans) – The last goal in the list of 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 refers to creating “Partnerships for Sustainable Development.” This 17th goal is meant to help in the achievement of the other 16 goals. Therefore, for a company committed to aligning its business strategy with the SDGs must recognize the value of this most essential 17th goal.
Unilever, a company that has been driving business growth through its well-known ‘sustainable living brands’ strategy, was among the early ones to leverage the power of collaboration and partnerships to improve its sustainability. Unilever’s CEO Paul Polman describes the company as a “place of purpose.” Much of the company’s ‘purposeful’ activity is performed in collaboration with organizations outside the company.
Unilever continues to add new partners specializing in different areas of expertise. Just to pick three very recent examples, the company has partnered with a consultancy called 2degrees to achieve zero-waste in its supply chain; International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. to enhance the livelihoods of Haitian smallholder farmers; and the environmental charity, the Hubbub Foundation, and food waste specialist, Wrap, to help cut food waste in the UK.
For most companies with limited resources, the key to success would be to invest deeply in fewer partnerships and to focus on building strategic relationships and trust with them. Dan Henkle, Senior VP of Social Responsibility at Gap says that there was a time when the company had 3,500 factories and thousands of vendors, but fewer partnerships. By consolidating its supplier base, the company has increased leverage and the ability to share knowledge and conduct more thorough monitoring.
Starbucks contributes to economic development by hiring locally and sourcing local products. To this end, the company has partnered with YouthBuild USA, an NGO that helps low-income youth gain the skills they need for employment, and the Shultz Family Foundation, to create a career development program for at-risk youth.
Large companies often do not have the natural advantage of serving disparate communities that require a highly customized on-the-ground presence. Therefore, Barclays partners with local NGOs with a better understanding of the needs of customers, including rural farmers, in its inclusive business activities.
Essilor relies on a partner network to implement its inclusive business initiatives at scale. Greater awareness of vision-correction issues is essential to promoting Essilor’s eye-care products to new demographics. Therefore, it works with NGOs and other organizations to raise awareness of access to eye-care as a key health issue.
Genzyme is looking for ways to engage in the Chinese market for the longer-term. It has partnerships with local entities to ensure treatment delivery and product affordability for patients. Genzyme Humanitarian Programs provides therapies free of charge, while simultaneously working with governments and other local entities to identify sustainable, long-term financial resources for treatments.
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