Innovative Governance Solutions for Sustainable Business – Collaborative Experiences from the Field

Dr. Elke Fein, Dr. Iris Kunze
Presentation at the 5th World Sustainability Forum, 7-9 September 2015, Basel

This presentation bridges the fields of economics, business, and management with that of sustainability through innovative leadership and governance ideas, and is supported by examples from the field.

Discourses on sustainable business increasingly take into account the role of leadership in creating an awareness for business’s social and ecological impacts (i.e., their ‘footprint’). The need for responsible leadership behaviors and stakeholder engagement practices is stressed, while the overall competitive financial bottom line focus usually remains in place. On the other hand, social initiatives working for sustainability have made considerable progress in developing forms and practices of organization and communication that allow for sustainable outcomes and thereby also create soulful workplaces and meaningful living places. In fact, an increasing number of business innovators has been bridging the two challenges by putting in place ‘next generation’ leadership, governance cultures, and practices.

This contribution presents a number of experiences from case studies on business and social innovators as well as results from years of empirical studies in intentional communities, which share certain elements, assumptions, and forms of organization that transcend the ‘conventional wisdom’ of governance through more collaborative approaches. We analyze the principles and practices of leadership and governance that all of these innovators have in common, and which have successfully been used to create win-win-win solutions. As a key feature of ‘next generation’ governance, these innovators create dynamic environments that are able to: (1) flexibly deal with complex adaptive challenges on a daily basis and (2) at the same time, offer more holistic working and living environments.

This presentation also shows how the aforesaid experiences can be transferred to other contexts. A stakeholder engagement process called the ‘Collaboratory’ combines the essence of those governance innovations. This process has been successfully used in various European countries for joining forces to address burning topics and co-create sustainable solutions based on collective intelligence.

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