The power of partnership and collaborative thinking

Abu Dhabi, 27 September 2016
I once attended a sustainability related event where a speaker of some repute gave an interesting speech that pretty much said that if we wanted to resolve the global issue of trying to get everyone to a decent standard of living - he called it the ‘flat-screen’ lifestyle - we would be most effective if we brought the leading global supply-chain experts together to come up with the solution. This has stuck with me because it resonates so powerfully around using the best minds from the corporate world to address global sustainability challenges that are still problems for governments and NGOs to overcome, thereby making it glaringly obvious that partnerships and alliances are the best way to resolve the growing issues of sustainability.

Let’s not make this complicated. Sustainability is here to stay. It’s just that not every organisation has worked out exactly what their position is in the bigger picture; how they are going to tackle business unusual , how they embed accountability into their business model, what their position on key sustainability issues is or what they want their legacy to be.

Some organisations have traditionally been active in philanthropy and charity and jump straight to reporting to drive internal change. Others are reacting to increasing regulations to enable them to do business in new locations and jurisdictions and others are merely avoiding reputational damage as there is nowhere to hide anymore. Some companies ‘see the light’ with the arrival of a passionate and inspirational CEO who drives the agenda from the top down. But more and more the change is toward understanding the new business opportunities and value that comes from developing a sustainable business model.

Whatever the reason, however big the catalyst, it’s nevertheless a journey that takes resilience, commitment and passion and I’m just talking about the people who are responsible for bringing about the internal changes to the businesses and organisations. Making changes within an organisation, however big or small is a bit like trying to manoeuvre a super tanker: it takes understanding and patience and lots of business language that doesn’t involve what might be perceived as ‘tree-hugging’, activist, world-saving fluff.

The strength in numbers and diversity

Where am I heading with this? Well I am edging towards the importance of finding allies, partnerships, working collaboratively and using commercial business skills to address some of the huge issues we are facing today, to ensure that the legacy we leave is a viable future for the generations to come.

What I am driving at is this:there is strength in numbers. Gone are the days that the buck gets passed on to someone else. We can’t just sit back and let governments set the agenda to address the huge global issues such as climate change, access to fresh drinking water, stable and affordable energy supplies, prosperous communities based on economic growth and job security and long term global food security.

It’s no longer acceptable to spend valuable internal resources on coming up with ways to circumvent international, national or regional laws and regulations. We have the brilliant minds, the creative thinkers and the innovators within the private sector, and can do the sensible and the right thing and take our business skills, our commercial thinking and problem-solving and our understanding of how our particular sector can play a role in addressing the global sustainability challenges by understanding and applying solutions at local levels. We can do this very effectively by using the strength of collaborative partnerships and networks to bring about change.

In many areas, governments are voted into power to represent the people. In areas like the GCC, there is the cultural system of the majlis where members of the community can take their concerns directly to the ruler and senior community and social leaders. But, to achieve the momentum and pace on the scale that is required to really bring about change we need strength in numbers. It is the diversity of teams that is most powerful when tackling big issues.  It is the dynamism of corporates where strategic and commercial thinking underpinned by innovation are strong. It is the independent, free-spirited - and sometimes utopian - thinkers within NGOs that help keep the checks and balances of accountability at the forefront of behaviour and responses to the big global challenges.while the government sets the enabling environment to manage and mitigate the growing list of challenges.

So, it basically comes back to something very simple, that just needs repeating because it’s easy to get distracted in the day-to-day focus on ‘doing’: working together, dividing and conquering challenges to find new ways of doing things, learning from others instead of trying to re-invente the wheel. The power of the diverse partnerships is the way to go.

Belinda Scott
NBAD's Head of Citizenship and Corporate Sustainability

For more information on NBAD's sustainability activities:

- Read the Corporate Sustainability Report 2015:

- Visit the Sustainability page of NBAD's website:

Belinda Scott:
Belinda Scott is currently NBAD’s Head of Citizenship and Corporate Sustainability.
She is also a member of the Dubai Sustainability Network, an elected member of the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Group (ADSG) Facilitation and Coordination Committee and a member of the recently launched Women’s Empowerment and Equality Board (WEEB), an initiative spearheaded by HH Sheikha Shamma Bint Sultan Bin Khalifa Al Nahyan. Belinda also participated in the MENA-OECD Investment Programme Regional Taskforce on Responsible Business Conduct. During her time as a member of the team that, in 2002, set up the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), she successfully brought Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to the agenda, establishing and heading the internal and external stakeholder CSR Committees.
Her key strengths are in building external partnerships and seeking and identifying opportunities to develop relationships with the purpose of creating and achieving shared value across the public, private and non-profit sectors.


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