Everyone know’s collaboration is important. But we are sick of the concept. There are a few key blockers to transforming ‘collaboration’ from concept to action.
We don’t know:
- What to even collaborate on
- How to collaborate with peers without losing competitive advantage
- How to pitch a sustainability collaboration internally
So where to start?
- Find the right partner. Look for people you trust, have synergies with and are as committed to the goals as you are (good indicator here is senior buy in). Collaboration works best when you are coming together to solve a genuine shared problem or to realise an opportunity.
- The best place to look for partners is within your supply chain, and amongst a wide group of different actors (regulators, industry bodies, suppliers, retailers, producers).
Making the internal business case for collaboration:
- Clearly outline the business problem it is set to solve
- Frame it as an opportunity to split the risk and share costs. It is an opportunity to reach the same goal for less expenditure. Equipment, infrastructure and data can be shared.
Key partnership opportunities:
- Long-term supplier relationship - a key element in collaboration is trust, so some of the most successful examples come where trust has been built over a 30+ year relationship. Establishing trust makes it easier to suggest changes to practices whilst creating a greater willingness to accept some failures.
- Landscape approach: Collaborating at Landscape scale involves taking a particular landscape and seeing who has a vested interest. Nestlé has driven this approach by, working with the Landscape Enterprise Network to collaborate across demand actors and supply actors to create a market place for sustainability focused initiatives.
How this looks in practice:
a. Demand actors: Nestlé wants low carbon wheat, East Anglican Water wants to procure clean water, devoid of agriculture chemicals and establish a steady, reliable supply of water.
b. Supply actors: Farmers and landowners who can deliver on these goals
Whilst initiatives might deliver different results, e.g., carbon initiatives will be different from flood resilience initiatives, look for the sweet spots between both. The best way to do this is to speak to the supply actors. Farmers and landowners are best placed to innovate and understand how best to achieve different outcomes.