A Call for Collective Action

In our globalized world, systemic shocks run rampant, from COVID-19 to climate change. “Pandemics are no longer just biological—they are now geopolitical, financial and atmospheric, too” according to the journalist, Thomas Friedman.

Collective action is our best tool to address systemic shocks and the factors that cause them.   Companies can work collectively with their stakeholders to address the global challenges of our time: deforestation, pandemics, climate change, and human rights.  

A risk too high for one company to take becomes an opportunity if undertaken collectively. Because of this, partnerships and industry initiatives add value as learning labs, creating blueprints for action that can enhance environmental efforts, create social value, and lead to new modes of governance. Collective approaches impact policy through legislation and develop industry-wide opportunities for systems change.  

Recently, the High Meadows Institute launched a White Paper I co-authored on the role of partnerships and industry initiatives to drive change, along with a database of over 200 partnerships and initiatives.

Partnerships provide common frameworks for addressing environmental and social challenges. These can take the form of a set of tools, such as a code of conduct, an auditing system,  certification or a labeling protocol. The Forest Stewardship Council created a widely-recognized labeling system for products made from trees, including paper, construction materials, and clothing. These labels allow consumers to know that the products they buy come from trees grown according to ethical and sustainable principles.

Partnerships and industry initiatives can define strategic visions and road maps for action by creating frameworks, guidance and tools. These tools build capacity at many levels, within industries, among managers and suppliers, with workers, and within social structures through consumers, retailers and wholesalers. These agreements can activate governments and coalitions into bolder and more inventive directions, based on the empirical evidence, research, and indices that such networks produce. Together, stakeholders can raise awareness of socially-responsible business practices throughout the sector. Partnerships can mobilize resources, technology and awareness to drive shared understanding, collective action, innovation and systems change.