Competitor Collaboration is More than a Trend

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Network for Business Sustainability research by Dr. Lori DiVito from the Amsterdam University of Applied Science dives into competitor collaboration. In this video, Dr. DiVito illustrates what managers who are considering competitor collaboration need to know.

What do Nike and Adidas have in common? What about BASF and Dow Chemical?

They are competitors. But more importantly they are competitors collaborating to improve sustainability in their industries.

They balance cooperating and competing tensions. They figure out when and how to share knowledge – and when to protect it. And, they navigate both formal and informal agreements.

All things considered, the competitors above believe their collaborative effort is well worth it.

For Nike, collaborating with competitors is nothing new. Nike is a founding member of both the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and the Zero Discharge Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC). In response to the Greenpeace Detox campaign, ZDHC has brought together competing brands such as H&M, Nike and Zara to work on eliminating the use of the 11 most hazardous chemicals in textile production by 2020. ZDHC members compiled a material restricted substance list, initiated supplier training, expanded membership to include suppliers and other stakeholders, and established ZDHC as a separate entity in 2015.

BASF and Dow Chemicals, both long-standing members of the Responsible Care program, know the benefits of working with their competitors too. Responsible Care has been bringing competitors together to solve issues around factory compliance, safety, and product stewardship – and it’s been doing so for thirty years and counting.

So what’s the secret of the program’s success? One of the many secrets is the engagement from top executives of member companies. Executives are required to attend meetings where knowledge sharing is monitored and peers help each other through issues that affect the whole industry.

Each competitor collaboration has different levels of tension and will require different structures.

Only one thing is certain: if you want to solve thorny sustainability issues, collaborating with your competitors is inevitable.

Upcoming Research

The research report, scheduled for release in February 2016, will help managers outline the goals of their competitor collaboration and the most suitable way of organizing the member firms. Tools will help managers assess ongoing competitor collaborations and offer ways to improve the results as the collaboration evolves. Case studies, such as ZDHC and Responsible Care  will help to illustrate the best practices in use.

How to Contribute to the Research

Is your company participating in a competitor collaboration? Are you a member of an industry association? Are you are an NGO mobilizing a competitor collaboration?

If so, we invite you to help us refine the NBS tool on effective competitor collaborations.

To express your interest, please send an email to Dr. Lori DiVito. For general queries about the research and the upcoming tool, write to info@nbs.net.

  • Dieter Wentzel Ⓥ

    Collective responsibility is crucial during our next steps, as we walk into the sixth mass extinction event… thank you for addressing sustainability…