Author ~ Ebuka Onunaiwu
Collaboration is the new cool
As the focus of businesses shift to creating shared value from both their direct and indirect activities, companies should be ready to change the status quo with regard to their willingness to collaborate and partner with other companies within and without their sector. This is particularly relevant to companies in the same sector as they often share the same vision and speak one language. The concept of collaboration amongst sector peers is critical to the achievement of sustainable development. Such collaboration among sector peers can lead to sustainable economic, social and environmental solutions needed in all sectors today.
Disruptive innovation is often required in dealing with the complexities of sustainable development. Most times, only collaboration among industry leaders can lead to such innovation. Whether it’s in the area of a developing a sustainable business model, climate change adaptation and mitigation, human rights advocacy, ensuring product responsibility or supply chain sustainability, the needed innovation usually emanates from collaboration among sector peers.
Innovation is the new competition
The competitiveness of businesses in the same sector has taken a new twist, a more responsible one for that matter. Businesses now seek competitive advantage through innovative products and services, and have begun to play down unhealthy competition globally. However, this does not in any way insinuate that companies are no longer competing in the market place. No! What this means is that additional room is being made to accommodate collaboration even amongst rival companies, especially when it comes to solving the problems that affect our common existence. Little wonder the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (UN-SDG) 17 addresses Partnering for the (Global) Goals.
Collaboration can be open – with customers, idea-makers, peers; vertical – with your supply chain and by influencing other organisations to act; or horizontal – to create change that needs cooperation between actors from different sectors who share a common challenge. Whatever type of collaboration is entered, businesses should leverage it by solving bulging industry problems through the creation of shared solutions.
Some homegrown examples
In Nigeria, CSR-in-Action Advocacy and the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) collaborate to push for the adoption of sustainable practices in Nigeria’s extractive sector by annually engaging stakeholders (governments, businesses, civil society organisations (CSOs), multilaterals, host community leaders, academia and media) in the sector and demanding transparency in stakeholder processes.
BudgIT and Oxfam collaborate to research and publish the Nigerian version of the ‘Even It Up’ report on the state of inequality in the country. In another collaborative effort, several businesses in Nigeria contribute to the Nigerian Business Coalition Against AIDS (NiBUCAA), and stand as the voice of the private sector response to HIV and AIDS in Nigeria.
The International Tourism Partnership (ITP), a global industry organisation, which brings together the world’s largest hotel companies responsible for over 25,000 hotels, has made an industry-wide global commitment to sustainability, by focusing on four SDG-aligned goals as the industry reference point to drive progress towards creating a safer, fairer and more sustainable future; bringing global to local.
Towards our common good
Through the combination of talents, resources, finance and infrastructure, collaboration provides a platform for which businesses can use collective action to solve industry and national problems. Like the old adage says, “Two heads are better than one”, and knowing that the scale of change that collaboration can create can be far-reaching, it is vital for businesses, government ministries, departments and agencies, CSOs and associations to begin to think like collaborators for the greater good of man.