By Simon Hayward, CEO of Cirrus and Global Lead, Leadership & Culture, Talent and Organisation/Human Potential at Accenture.
Collaboration is core to the success of COP26. The UN negotiations are consensus-based, and reaching agreement depends on ensuring multiple views are heard. Success also depends on governments, business and wider society working together to transform the ways we work, shop, travel, eat and live. The priority is to increase the collaborative muscle in and between organisations and to drive progress towards sustainability goals, building trust and mutual action. What can we learn from COP26, and how can we increase collaboration across and beyond our own organisations?
Examples of innovative collaboration at COP26
There have been some great examples of collaborative achievement at COP26. NatWest Group is COP26’s banking sponsor and its chief executive Alison Rose is committed to going above and beyond everyday business to create impact. For example, NatWest Group’s partnership with the University of Edinburgh’s Climate Change Institute supports Scottish businesses to identify the opportunities a net zero economy can create while also helping them become more sustainable operations.
ScottishPower is another COP26 sponsor and parent company Iberdrola is an active participant in high-level initiatives and events, including the organisation of an event on energy transition in collaboration with the UK government.
The UK government has also collaborated with the government of Canada to set up the global Adaptation Research Alliance. This network of over 90 organisations across 30 economies will see governments, research institutions and communities collaborate to increase the resilience of vulnerable communities on the frontline of climate change.
And the United States and China, the world’s two largest emitters of carbon dioxide, have unveiled a deal to ramp up cooperation tackling climate change. Another bold step forward in collaboration.
Accenture has partnered with The United Nations Global Compact – a voluntary initiative based on CEO commitments to implement universal sustainability principles – on new report, Climate Change in the Eleventh Hour. It showed that 49% of CEOs are engaged in cross-sector initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The majority want governments to increase business engagement in policy formation for collaborative climate action.
How can collaboration make your organisation more sustainable?
Accenture’s Shaping the Sustainable Organisation research found that many organisations need to transform their ways of working in order to become truly sustainable. Crucially, they need to move towards human connections, collective intelligence, and accountability at all levels:
|Patchy, one-way stakeholder relationships.||Human connections: Strong, symbiotic stakeholder relationships, and an understanding of stakeholder needs.|
|Shallow insight into stakeholder perspectives.||Collective intelligence: Decision-making mechanisms that turn insights about stakeholder needs into action.|
|Lack of shared ownership for operating sustainability.||Accountability at all levels: Stakeholder value creation becomes an expectation across the entire organisation.|
How can you build a more collaborative organisation?
Based on my own extensive research when writing my books Connected Leadership and The Agile Leader, I identified some key things leaders can do to boost collaboration within and beyond their organisations – something which COP26 has highlighted is a key goal for all of us.
- Begin by building self-managed, multi-skilled teams
- Ensure your societal purpose is clear and that people understand the role they play in achieving shared goals
- Embrace cross-functional collaboration to remove silos and accelerate processes by putting one’s ego to one side and really listening to what matters to others
- Encourage your teams to look outside your organisation and find ways to add deeper value to your customers, your partners, and your wider communities
- Disrupt normal patterns of thought and behaviour; encourage people to be bold and welcome challenges to ‘how we’ve always done things’
- Create a psychologically safe environment where people are free to experiment without fear
By being a role model for collaboration you will accelerate collaborative achievement inside and outside your organisation and fast-track progress towards net zero.