Business Associations as Catalysts for Collective Change: An explorative study of the collaboration potential between WWF-NL and Dutch business associations in contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals
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It is expected that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were adopted by 192 countries, will not be reached by 2030, nor by 2050. The Dutch Government has recommended to better enable business associations (BAs) to facilitate small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to contribute to the SDGs. This research tried to establish what role non-governmental organization WWF-NL could have in this, by investigating how to organize a collaboration between WWF-NL and BAs, in order to create collective change in SMEs. Literature on the nature of BAs is discussed. Moreover, multiple conditions are identified which contribute to successful multi-stakeholder collaborations, and a Theory of Change is created which tries to predict how collaborations should be set up in order to create collective change. This research was conducted using a combination of quantitative and qualitative research, in which eight methodological steps were taken. The quantitative part of the study revealed that many organisations mention sustainability and are somewhat active in sustainability. However, these activities are seldom framed within the SDGs. The qualitative part of this study showed that there are many different topics that the BAs are working on in which a collaboration could be started between the BAs and WWF-NL. A strategic collaboration meeting format was created which incorporates theory from the literature as well as the results from the first part of the study. Then this format was used to set up two pilot-meetings. These pilot-meetings were successful and constituted the start of a collaboration between the BAs and WWF-NL. Overall, the results show that a division exist between BAs with a limited vision on BA activities and BAs with an extended vision on BA activities. The BAs with an extended vision on BA activity have a potential for a collaboration with WWF-NL. Such collaborations could make use of a strategic collaboration format which entails practicalities on how the meeting should be set up and an agenda which ensures room for critical cooperation. Recommendations for further research are made, focussing on the importance of collaborating with BAs and their potential in creating change.