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  • This interview was originally published in the summer issue of Radar Magazine – Issue 04: Better, Connected.

    At the end of 2013, SustainAbility was pleased to welcome The Partnering Initiative (TPI) to share its London office space. TPI is one of the leading organisations driving the theory and practice of collaboration between business, NGOs, governments and others.

    Rob Cameron recently spent a morning in conversation with TPI’s Executive Director, Darian Stibbe, discussing the challenges and opportunities that cross-sector partnership and collaboration can bring to business, NGOs and governments.

    Rob Cameron: Partnering is necessary for making progress in sustainability given the scale of the challenges we face. But it is surprisingly difficult to find great examples of partnerships that really deliver. How do you make partnerships successful?

    Darian Stibbe: Firstly, there has to be an alignment of interest. We sometimes talk about ‘Davos syndrome’ in which, for example, a CEO of a company and the head of a UN agency agree to launch a partnership, but when it comes down to making it happen on the ground, there is the realisation that there is insufficient overlap of interest between the two organisations. You have to start off with a clear and necessary overlap of interest and that can be a challenge in itself. …

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  • Image © CC Domiriel: Compfight

    The identification and engagement of a company’s stakeholders to build trust, reduce risk and develop effective partnerships have been at the core of our work with business leaders for many years. As the rhetoric grows that no singular business is capable of addressing environmental and social challenges alone, companies must think now more than ever about how they can engage with NGOs, governments and other actors to develop collaborative solutions to system problems.

    Over the years, we have seen stakeholder engagement move in this direction. It’s evolved from tactical, compliance and risk-focused to more strategic and solutions-orientated, with stakeholders engaged up and down the value chain—not only as partners on critical issues but also as key players to improve business performance. …

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  • Many business leaders find themselves stuck in a plateau on their ascent towards “Mount Sustainability,” unable to scale at the pace required to address global challenges, says the CEO Study on Sustainability” by the U.N. Global Compact and Accenture. The report is an important read for anyone working in the sustainability profession, and the results show how far corporations have come in their journeys towards sustainability, as well as how far we have to go….

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  • Recently I attended an event as part of the United Nations Global Compact Leaders (UNGC) Summit entitled “Impact Investment in the Post-2015 Development Agenda,” that focussed on the practical steps needed to bring impact investing to scale. Given the size and systematic nature of issues that the current Millennium Development Goals seek to address, both for-profit companies and mainstream investors will need to play a key role in creating solutions. Recent reports by JP Morgan and the Rockefeller Foundation as well as the World Economic Forum (WEF) suggest that impact investing may provide the right platform to do so, but that this will require both collaboration and innovation from a range of stakeholders….

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  • Time is of the essence: Are investors failing to acknowledge long-term risks to their funds and overvaluing their assets?

    Earlier this month I attended two investor-related events – the launch of the new report published by the Carbon Tracker and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, and the RI Europe 2013: Investor-Corporate ESG Summit. Both events recognised the challenges of incorporating ESG considerations into company valuations, and discussed the growing set of initiatives and approaches that investors are taking to resolve the situation.

    In the first report in the series – Unburnable Carbon: Are the world’s financial markets carrying a carbon bubble? – Carbon Tracker argued that if the world is to remain within the 2 degrees limit of tolerable global warming then it can only “afford” to burn approximately 20% of total known fossil fuel reserves, leaving 80% of assets technically stranded and meaning that investors who are valuing companies based on their ability to continue to burn these fossil fuels may be massively overpricing their assets….

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  • Earthrise

    For me, and I daresay for many working in the sustainability space, Earth Day has become an opportunity to reflect on the progress we’ve made over the past year, and to think about where we need to focus our efforts going forward….

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  • Two decades ago, business and NGOs sat poles apart, wary of each other’s intent and aims. Twenty years on — and with the realization of the need for collective action on environmental and social issues that play out across geographical, political, market and ecosystem boundaries — we see a shifting landscape. But has this move towards a focus on partnerships and collaboration overshadowed …

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  • As SustainAbility’s web and digital media manager, I’ve been looking at how online tools and technologies can be used to support our work on The Regeneration Roadmap.

    The ambitions for the project are high, and engaging the right people in the right way will be key. Online platforms can play a significant role here: today there are fewer barriers than ever in mobilising people from all backgrounds and geographies to shape and get behind a campaign. From video blogging and social discussion forums to idea generation and crowd sourcing websites, the options available are seemingly endless. But where do you start?…

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  • Back in September, I discussed in a blog post the fact that open data was one part of a move for technology to help us become more open, collaborative, participatory, and connected. Open data is but one part of a wider suite of technologies currently being adopted for accountability in the value chain. We discussed these in a recent Engaging Stakeholders webinar featuring Leo Bonanni of Sourcemap. These technologies include RFID, apps, mobiles, and a number of different codes – alphanumeric, barcodes and QR codes. Collectively, this group of technologies …

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  • You do all the right things: establish goals and targets, publish an annual sustainability report, seek employee and public input — and then repeat the cycle. Yet despite your efforts, those around you don’t seem to be moving fast enough to address the world’s environmental challenges, and you sense that real progress will require more involvement on the part of consumers, investors and government leaders.

    What do you do? How will you make your company’s engagement efforts …

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  • How can an organisation that buys one-half trillion dollars worth of stuff every year create a sustainable supply chain? That was the question posed to me and about 80 other guests who were invited by the White House to a meeting on March 30.

    The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the General Services Administration (GSA) co-sponsored a group brainstorm on what a Community of Practice for a Sustainable Supply Chain should look like. Put simply, a Community of Practice (CoP) is a group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do, and learn how to do it better through regular interaction.

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  • It’s hard to think about brand leadership without thinking about Apple, now neck-and-neck with ExxonMobil as the world’s biggest company by market cap.

    Last week, Apple was top of mind for many of us, with two major pieces of reporting: the UK release of Adam Lashinsky’s book, Inside Apple, which describes in part-admiring, part-unmerciful detail Apple’s tough organizational culture, and the New York Times’s excellent investigation into conditions in Apple’s supplier factories in China.

    This last piece spurred CEO Tim Cook …

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  • There was a time when it was good enough just to listen. When corporate execs got credit for sitting at the table with an NGO and benefited from a “different perspective.” Their obligation was to “thoughtfully consider” the input in the development of their business plans, strategies and actions. But as the business environment and the sustainability agenda has evolved, so too has best practice in stakeholder engagement.

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  • I was in Austin last week for a Sustainable Life Media (SLM) double-header. First a meeting of the Sustainable Brands Advisory Board, then the SLM Corporate Members meeting.

    Hosted with aplomb by Dell, sessions included a tour of the Dell Social Media Command Center (a fascinating, real-time window into what everyone, everywhere is saying about their Dell experience), and an inspiring visit to the new LEED Gold certified offices of Lance Armstrong’s LIVESTRONG Foundation, with both proving there is more going on in Austin than music, football and great Tex-Mex like Guero’s (though those are fine too, with Guero’s servings proving again that everything is bigger in Texas).

    For everything packed into the two days, I left thinking about a presentation by Simon Mainwaring, the best-selling author of We First

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  • I recently had the pleasure of participating in the annual workshops of SustainAbility’s Engaging Stakeholders network. The theme for the workshops was “value.” That is, how companies can derive greater business value from their sustainability communications and engagement, and how they can deliver greater value to stakeholders and society via their efforts.

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  • In GlobeScan and SustainAbility’s latest survey of sustainability experts, we notice a worrying trend emerging: the sense of urgency to address critical sustainability issues is in decline across the globe.

    In fact, the five most urgent issues on the sustainability agenda – climate change, water scarcity, food security, poverty, and biodiversity loss – are all perceived as less urgent challenges than they were in 2009…

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  • In a previous post, I shared some insights on open data’s relevance to sustainability reporting and stakeholder engagement. While the move to open data has many benefits, including enabling stronger stakeholder connections, companies have been slow to voluntarily go public with their datasets. At the same time, companies that are already moving down this path have recognized the challenge of ensuring the data they release is truly useful to stakeholders.

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  • In early July, after nearly a year of drafting and several rounds of consultations with business and civil society, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India announced the adoption of the National Voluntary Guidelines for Social, Environmental and Economic Responsibilities of Business

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  • Organisations as diverse as the US Government, the New York Mass Transit Authority and the World Bank have started publishing their previously-closed data for the world – and more particularly, their stakeholders – to see and use. This move to open data has many benefits, from fostering stakeholder participation in solving complex problems, to enabling third parties to dream up completely new services (such as mobile applications that tell you the fastest way to get around your city).

    Companies, however, have been slower to embrace the move to open data, and this was the subject of a recent webinar for our Engaging Stakeholders network members.

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  • Alicia Ayars and Frances Buckingham on the media's brainprint and its role in shaping the world of tomorrow.

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