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Major Corporations Cooperate For Sustainability

cdp2.jpgCorporations working together? Sounds counterintuitive, but that’s exactly what this vnunet.com article says is happening, especially when it comes to sustainability. According to Paul Simpson of the Carbon Disclosure Project, they’re working together because they know they have a lot to learn regarding sustainability, and many heads are better than one if they are “to avoid the climate change induced depression the Stern Review predicted.”

Companies, therefore, have banded together in such groups as the CDP and Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change. According to the article, though, what’s surprising is how muchinformation the companies are sharing information. For instance, to green up its corporate travel booking service, BT recently borrowed a technique from Cisco.

The benefits of such sharing are offensive and defensive, according to Craig Bennett, facilitator of the CLGCC. “If you develop best practices together,” he said, “when environmental regulations do come in they are more likely to mirror those best practices than make onerous demands on the companies involved.” And for defense, he notes there is less risk for a company moving with a large group, rather than alone, towards greener practices and products.

The article singles out IBM and its EcoPatent program as an unusually extreme example of corporate cooperation. But it also notes that all this sharing has its limits. Much of the collaboration thus far has tended to be between companies from different sectors.

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One thought on “Major Corporations Cooperate For Sustainability

  1. These collaborative and industry-wide responses to the growing sustainability agenda are nothing more than fear-driven and defensive. They seek to maintain the status quo and the predictability stakeholders seek against what otherwise would be a major opportunity for increased competition or externally-driven disruption with new more sustainable business models and practices. The business models and product lines of many industries (think automotive as an example) have long exceeded their ‘sell-by date’ and require massive disruptive innovation in order to meet our future transportation needs in a sustainable fashion. The same is true of almost all other industry business models conceived in the ‘industrial era’, a pre-sustainability era where waste and inefficiency is acceptable because the market can bear it. Just as a rising tide lifts all ships, so these government aided and abetted industry initiatives will only serve to rise and sustain the very business models, thinking and attitudes that have got us into this position in the first place. Even worse, these initiatives will serve to kill, delay and obscure the sort of radical innovations we truly require in order to meet the global challenge of sustainability and ensure it benefits not just developed, but emerging and survival economies as well. Existing corporate leaders fear these fundamental shifts in the competitive landscape more than they fear their existing competitors; they would rather cooperate with the ‘devil they know’ than risk the consequences of termination in what they increasingly recognise as a major challenge to ‘business as usual’.

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