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Cross-sector dialogue for sustainability: to partner or not to partner?

Celine Louche (Department of Business and Society, Audencia Business School, Nantes, France)
Suzanne Young (La Trobe Business School, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia)
Martin Fougère (Department of Management and Organisation, Hanken School of Economics, Helsinki, Finland)

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal

ISSN: 2040-8021

Article publication date: 5 July 2021

Issue publication date: 7 October 2021




The purpose of this paper is to introduce the topic and review the contributions of the special issue papers on cross-sector dialogue for sustainability. The paper also presents avenues for further research.


The paper is based on a review of the current literature on cross-sector partnership and dialogue. It explores the current issues in cross-sector partnerships through a discussion of the papers accepted for the special issue, their focus, findings and key contributions.


It highlights three main key research themes and learnings from the special issue papers: a high level of “hybridity” of collaboration forms, which involve important tensions; a need to understand partnership in its context and the importance of the individual level in cross-sector collaboration.

Practical implications

The authors call for attention to be paid to two forms of myopia: a tendency to view partnerships primarily from a resource-based view (without much attempt to measure societal impact) and a reluctance to be explicitly critical (despite empirical evidence of some suboptimal aspects of partnerships).

Social implications

The authors call for researchers to move away from a resource-based approach to one that is situated in exploring the value derived from partnerships in the broader societal context. The authors suggest some avenues for further research to move the discussion beyond the partnership imperative.


The paper outlines the need to critically revisit the very essence of what real partnership means and whether dialogue is really taking place.



This special issue arose from the CR3+ Conference “Using Dialogue to build Partnerships for Sustainability” held on 24-25 October 2019 in Melbourne Australia. CR3+ is a collaborative initiative of four PRME champions: Audencia Business School (France), Hanken School of Economics (Finland), ISAE FGV (Brazil) and La Trobe Business School (Australia). These champions have been working together since 2008, with the aim to exchange ideas, pedagogical processes, curriculum and research in the area of corporate responsibility.


Louche, C., Young, S. and Fougère, M. (2021), "Cross-sector dialogue for sustainability: to partner or not to partner?", Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, Vol. 12 No. 6, pp. 1161-1177.



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