Partnerships of all kinds are common in the business world, and the average consumer encounters them more than they may realize.  

Businesses often collaborate as a way to accelerate growth and profit, via creating new products or marketing to a wider audience. Think Marvel character toys included in kid’s meals at McDonald’s, or the luxury brand Balenciaga designing for fast-fashion chain H&M; these partnerships boost brand visibility and profits for both parties. In a collaboration, businesses can share resources, brand power, and marketing tools to make it mutually beneficial. Now, with more businesses looking toward Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and sustainability goals, there’s room for partnerships that could benefit the planet. 

Integrating sustainable, circular practices takes time, and can require major shifts away from entrenched practices; think switching to new packaging for an entire product line, or revamping a formula with sustainable ingredients. This is where environmental (or ESG: environmental, social, and governance) partnerships can be helpful, as businesses can share expertise and resources to meet sustainability goals.  

An ESG partnership can take many forms, from something concrete like sharing supply chain resources, or more abstract, through knowledge-sharing. An example of this is seen in the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, established in 2014 between industry partners across the country. After widespread recognition of the steep environmental cost of beef cultivation, invested parties created a set of shared agreements to reduce the environmental impact of their practices.  

The consulting firm Coro Strandberg names the many benefits to sustainability partnerships, including sharing risks, influencing larger policy, attracting funds, demonstrating leadership, and accelerating innovation. Indeed, many large corporations are hesitant or slow to change to sustainable practices because of the cost and risk involved, and the lack of large-scale innovation – finding a cost-effective and mass-produced source of sustainable packaging, for example, can be difficult and resource-intensive.  

Another benefit of such partnerships is the opportunity to reduce greenwashing, which is when corporations overstate, exaggerate, or make false claims about their environmental actions. When a partnership involves multiple stakeholders, there are more audiences to be accountable to, and more layers of expertise at play. Of course, greenwashing can still be present, but when standards are agreed on, it’s less likely that the change will just be a flash in the pan. With the sharing of risks and assets, there’s more chance for it to last.  

The benefit of having widespread industry standards also can’t be overlooked. Many corporations are multinational and have stakes, relationships and activities in multiple countries, so having a clear set of sustainability guidelines can have a global impact.  

Right now, sustainable/ESG partnerships are still in their infancy, but they are growing in popularity. The MaRS Discovery District, a group in Canada focused on innovation and sustainability, details the many global partnerships currently at work, like the Marine Stewardship Council Certification for sustainable seafood, or the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. These partnerships, and many others, leave the door open for concrete action that will make sustainability an achievable goal.  

At 5REDO, helping innovators meet their sustainability goals is one of our core activities. We are always open to partnering with companies and organizations to craft and execute sustainability initiatives. Together, we can work to discover solutions, build innovations, and move toward a more sustainable future.