Headland unveils the power of the ‘Collaborative Corporate’

  • In an era of rapid and fundamental transition, new research from Headland and leading systems specialist Dr. Ben Shenoy shows how business that partner with peers and third parties can unlock financial, social and environmental value
  • Tackling systemic challenges like the climate crisis, rise of AI and social polarisation in partnership with others can lead to improved relationships, reputations and, ultimately, revenue
  • FTSE 100 CEOs and CFOs are already engaging with three or four system issues each, according to an analysis of recent earnings calls – but 74% of citizens and 79% of opinion formers think businesses fail to put societal issues alongside or ahead of their own profits
  • More positively, most (60%) of citizens think businesses are more effective at solving challenges when working together
  • Corporate Affairs is therefore fundamental to the success of the Collaborative Corporate – but must combine its existing reputational toolkit with new techniques to engage its wider ecosystem

London 23rd November 2023: Businesses that collaborate with a wide pool of external stakeholders and third parties to tackle system challenges can unlock financial, social and environmental value, according to new research from Headland, in partnership with Dr. Ben Shenoy, visiting Professor at the London School of Economics.

In a period of rapid and fundamental economic transition, when technology is changing the way we interact and work at a pace not seen before, business has no choice but to adapt. By reimagining its relationships, reputation and revenue, the Collaborative Corporate is emerging as the method through which business can improve not only its wider ecosystem, but also the bottom line.

Public and opinion formers back better business collaboration

Headland’s analysis of the most recent earnings calls of each of the FTSE100 businesses suggests that CEOs and CFOs are already proactively engaging with, on average, between three and four different systemic challenges – from supply chain shortages to the need for electrification and everything in between. However, the wider public and opinion formers continue to see businesses as predominately self-serving entities. Greater collaboration could help solve these challenges and reap reputational rewards.

Polling commissioned by Headland and conducted by YouGov* found that 74% of citizens think businesses fail to put societal issues alongside or ahead of their own profits, a number that rises to 79% for opinion formers. And nearly half (48%) of people think businesses perform ‘badly’ when it comes to collaborating with outside organisations (this figure is 63% among opinion formers).

There is a clear upside for corporates that partner up: the public is enthusiastic about the prospects of collaboration to help tackle systemic challenges: 60% think businesses are effective when working together; 60% when working with their consumers; 61% when working with local communities; and 51% when working with government.

Corporate Affairs leaders gather to discuss collaborating to solve challenges

The research is being launched today at an event for Corporate Affairs leaders at The Brewery in East London, featuring a panel discussion chaired by Dan Smith, Managing Director of Headland and featuring Patrick Jenkins, Deputy Editor of the Financial Times; Emma Howard Boyd CBE, Chair of the London Climate Review; Jill Easterbrook, Non-Exec Chair at Headland and FTSE 100 NED.

Speaking at the event:  

Dr. Ben Shenoy said: “Wake up today anywhere in the world and chances are you’ll be confronted with the symptoms of some of the complex, interlinked challenges that are disrupting life for all of us, whether you’re a CEO or a citizen. Some businesses are ahead of the curve and are ready for what comes next. The vast majority are in the process of either adapting or rethinking. Others remain tied to what has previously worked and driven performance.

The Collaborative Corporate explores the opportunities that exist in the space where ecosystems meet and overlap, within the wider system in which all businesses operate. Here is where business models can be reimagined, new partnerships built and fresh revenue streams created.”

Dan Smith, Managing Director of Headland, said: “Corporate Affairs and Communications teams are fundamental to creating outward-facing businesses that can adapt and thrive for the changes to come. But they can only do so if they reimagine the toolkit that has served them well for so many years.

“It is longer enough to see third parties as ‘stakeholders’ to be ‘managed’ – we need to embrace techniques geared towards interacting with the external world in a deeper, more open manner. The Collaborative Corporate is a contemporary, optimistic and realistic approach to building reputation and value in the face of all the challenges of today.”

You can download the full report here.


About the polling

All figures relating to the general public, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2,000 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 3rd – 4th October 2023.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

All figures relating the “Catalysts”, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 504 Catalysts (drawn from civil society, business, politics, the media, third sector and beyond). Fieldwork was undertaken between 4th – 10th October 2023. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of YouGov’s Catalyst audience.