A Global Win For Sustainability

Collaboration is used to identify and prioritize issues, resulting in a strategy that addresses a global sustainability challenge. The case is an example of combining issues management practices with grand challenge strategy development.

The Challenge

Two trade associations, one in Central America and one in North America, collectively representing an entire supply chain, recognized the importance of identifying and proactively managing issues, with a desire to work collaboratively on a global scale. First, they had to identify and get agreement on the most important priority issue. Next, they had to engage the right thought leaders globally to create an issues management strategy.

Going into the process, they recognized that the stakeholders’ views on priority issues and how to strategically approach any issue may vary significantly, based on their respective level in the supply chain and cultural differences.


Robert Nelson designed a process that incorporated an online brainstorming session using proprietary software and two facilitated issues management strategy development forums. Industry participants worldwide participated in the online brainstorming session, which identified 24 emerging issues.

Nelson devised a matrix to identify a diverse group of industry thought leaders from Asia, Africa, South America, Central America, Europe, United States and Canada. Twenty-eight of these leaders convened on two occasions. Using creative thinking techniques, the original list of 24 emerging issues was expanded to 62. Social intuitive and formal analytical methods were then used to identify the top priority global issue: producer sustainability.

After framing the issue and creating a vision for a desired future state, the group utilized small and large group settings to employ a series of creative and analytical methodologies to develop a producer sustainability issues management strategy.


Collaboratively, the group produced a well-defined global sustainability strategy with six objectives and respective action plans, along with an accountability matrix and timeline.

Equally important, the session created enthusiasm for executing the strategy on a global scale and generated strategy champions spanning five continents.