Collaboration with Competition: Peer Partnerships for Society

SAC and BIER: showing the value of collaboration with peers
Peer partnerships for circular economy business models Collaboration with Competition: Peer Partnerships for Society
Publ. date 20 Mar 2017
Traditionally, value chain partnerships are set up between companies with complementary capabilities, resources, products and services. To increase the impact of their sustainability efforts, companies increasingly find that collaboration with competitors can be a useful approach. These partnerships typically lead to synergies for all parties involved, including an increased scalability of their sustainability efforts, cost savings and improved performance. In addition, peer partnerships can fuel new business models and, thus, new revenue streams.

Improving impacts along the supply chain

The  Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) is probably the most well-known partnership between peers to address sustainability in the apparel, footwear and home textiles industry. To ensure suppliers do not cause any unnecessary environmental harm and positively impact the people and communities involved along the supply chain, the world’s largest apparel brands have combined forces to positively change existing paradigms in the industry. The SAC has developed the Higg Index, a tool that measures impacts in the area of environmental, social and labor practices. The index aims to raise the bar of sustainability performance of the whole industry by setting standards and providing insights to the industry’s players for room of improvement of their sustainability practices.

In the drinks industry, the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable (BIER), is a welcomed initiative in which global beverage companies such as Heineken, AB InBev, Diageo, The Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo, together aim to advance environmental sustainability in the global beverage industry. The main focus areas of the roundtable are on environmental issues such as water, energy & carbon, beverage container recycling, sustainable agriculture and eco-system services.

Within these dimensions, the coalition intends to set standards and share data and best practices to accelerate improvements towards a more sustainable supply chain for the beverage industry. Looking at the annual benchmarking studies of beverage manufacturing facilities, 64% of the facilities have reported a drop in energy use and more than 70% a decrease in water use. The BIER initiative therefore proves its success by guiding beverage companies to improve business practices and reduce environmental impacts.

Peer partnerships for circular economy business models

Not only do the aforementioned examples show improvements in the business practices of companies, including costs savings, increased efficiencies and new revenue streams, setting industry standards by partnering can also be an initial step towards circular economy developments. Beer giant Heineken intensified its partnerships with packaging suppliers and waste processing companies for a circular economy. These partners aim to close loops in the fields of returnable packaging and the reuse of lost resources in the production process, such as spent grain.

The European Commission has set clear targets for waste reduction, including targets to recycle 65% of municipal waste and 75% of packaging waste by 2030. Industry partnerships can move the industry and value chain towards acceleration to meet these targets. Industry platforms provide a way to come together, learn from each other, share knowledge and collaborate for a circular economy.

For example, pressure can be exerted on suppliers to comply with standards to move towards a circular economy. The SAC is one of the coalitions that operates this way. The CE100 programme of the Ellen Macarthur Foundation is another example of a platform where competitors are brought together with other stakeholders such as governments and academic institutions to develop new opportunities and move towards a circular economy. Peer partnerships are therefore becoming increasingly popular to realize ambitions towards a circular economy faster.

Looking for new ways to address sustainability issues for your company?

Finch & Beak recognizes the importance of partnering to increase the impact of sustainability practices and as a way to innovate to find new business models. At Finch & Beak, we can help companies address sustainability issues and integrate practices in your business. If you are looking for more information, please contact Jan van der Kaaij at or call +31 6 28 02 18 80.

Image source: Ajuntament de Vilanova i la Geltrú, Flickr

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