Going far, together – Partnerships critical to sustainability goals

13 Jul 2017
SOURCE:
Alison Herft, Member Engagement Manager

"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."

It's an old proverb recognised around the world, but Sustainable Business Council Chair, Alistair Davis, says it still rings true for business in 2017.
 
At our Sustainable Business Council Annual Meeting the Toyota NZ CEO told businesses that partnerships are important for organisations, if they want to achieve their environmental and social goals.
 
The theme of SBC's meeting was partnerships – because members tell us their organisations can achieve more if they work together. Executive Director Abbie Reynolds said, "If we are going to make the transitions we need to, we need to do it together".

The event brought together senior decision-makers and sustainability managers to talk through the big questions about partnerships and collaborations.

Discussions included:

- Why is it important to work together?
- How do you build meaningful partnerships?
- What do you do when partnerships go wrong?

Fonterra's CEO, Theo Spierings, said the company is taking its restoration and protection of waterways to the next level through partnerships. He said connecting with different communities and embracing new digital innovations, will help them get the best outcomes. Fonterra is working with farmers and rural communities to restore five freshwater catchments. Theo said the company now aims to restore another 50 catchments – a bold and ambitious commitment.

In the panel discussion Wellington Zoo's CE, Karen Fifield, said sustainability projects aren't just environmental, they are social too. "Most things of value have been done through partnerships". She outlined the community value Wellington Zoo created when it established initiatives like the Zoo's Neighbours Day.

Karen said that partners need to be really honest with each other. And this is particularly important when hard decisions need to be made. When partners realise their objectives are fundamentally opposed, they must be open about what's not working, learn from that and try to move on in a positive way.

Vector's CEO, Simon Mackenzie, described the big benefits that can come from collaboration – learning from one another's achievements and errors, particularly with new technology and systems. Simon said the company's goal to transform energy systems – and how they are perceived – is only possible if Vector works with people with like-minded views and objectives.

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Whai Rawa's Director, Ngarimu Blair, said a great partnership involves people who are positive, willing to share information and help people. Ngarimu said Ngāti Whātua has been shut out of the Auckland economy for 150 years, but now they're back making new connections. They want to work with partners who understand their history and world view. "Our great challenge now is how do we take those learnings from the past and bring them into this world we are in now," he said.

The meeting reinforced the message that the best, most sustainable businesses have strong partnerships - that benefit people and the environment, as well as the economy.