“Joining Forces: Collaboration and Leadership for Sustainability,” a new report by MIT Sloan Management Review, reveals 90 percent of CEOs surveyed in 2014 agree that collaboration is needed for sustainability success. The survey polled 2,587 executives from commercial enterprises in 113 countries.

“Sustainability as a top management agenda item jumped from 46 percent in 2010 to 65 percent in 2014,” said David Kiron, executive editor of MIT Sloan’s Big Idea Initiative. The study was done in collaboration with the Boston Consulting Group, and this was the first year MIT Sloan also partnered with the United Nations Global Compact.

"Increase reputation and brand building" was the most important reason CEOs said they engage in sustainability collaboration.  Illustration courtesy MIT Sloan Management Review 2015

“The biggest collaborations are business to business,” said Knut Haanaes, senior partner at the Boston Consulting Group. “The degree of success is clearly a matter of the learning curve,” he continued during a recent webinar. “We learn and then we build capabilities. Collaboration is a trust; in the beginning it is not easy.”

Kiron added, “Collaborations are complex activities. You need the right stakeholders with the right authority. They must be trustworthy but also trust-giving.” He said the study identified the following keys to successful collaborations:

  1. Strong internal collaboration
  2. A shared language
  3. Engagement with the board of directors
  4. Timely engagement (not all players have to be involved all the time)
  5. People matter
  6. Due diligence
  7. Right entrance and exit strategies
  8. Practice, practice, practice.

To see the report, click here.