Sustainability is network work
A unifying element of our projects is that mostly a network of people and organizations want, should or – sometimes – have to work together. We once tried to peel out repeatedly encountered hurdles from this network-based work:
Sustainability succeeds best when all stakeholders work closely together, as this can create unimagined forces. But when different stakeholders join forces, there can also be challenges in coordinating and implementing the various measures. It is always true that sustainability is networking, which must be long-term and systemic.
The financial success of a project depends on its ability to make sustainable investments and access funding sources. Often there is a disconnect between what funders want and what stakeholders need. Engaging all potential stakeholders, from investors to customers, can level the playing field and identify potential demand, leading to the development of profitable, long-term strategies for finding investment opportunities and funding sources. Complex financing solutions mean extra work for us as project managers, but in the end they map the different interests of projects and usually pay off in the long run.
Stakeholders in a project must believe in the goal and be (emotionally) committed in order to be successful. Each stakeholder has an important role. Good communication, clarity and transparency, and the opportunity to participate in decisions greatly increase stakeholder engagement. In the end, everyone should be rewarded to stay motivated. Disagreement among stakeholders can be significantly avoided by involving all stakeholders in the process from the beginning.
Regulation and political uncertainty
Complicated regulation and political instability (e.g., new appointments) can hinder sustainability (although good regulation can be a strong facilitator). However, network-based approaches are also useful for finding good regulation or soft-law approaches. This is because collaboration makes it easier to share knowledge and information and to find effective solutions to environmental problems or to define appropriate environmental goals. A network is often better able to identify and address risks and opportunities in policies. All stakeholders, including government, business and citizens, can play an important part in networks to drive regulatory/governmental sustainability and initiate change.
Lack of expertise
Networks can help businesses and organizations implement sustainability strategies by building expertise and informing regulatory requirements. Through networking and good knowledge sharing, companies can learn more about new technical solutions, increase their expertise, and collaborate on approaches to sustainable development.
With United Against Waste, we at Foodways serve a network of nearly 200 companies in the Swiss food industry. We face these challenges on a daily basis and continue to learn with each project how we can achieve more sustainability in the network.
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