Farther, Faster, Together: The Value of Pre-Competitive Collaboration

In the face of resource scarcity, shifting stakeholder expectations and intensifying regulations, sustainability goals are no longer considered a nice-to-have, but rather the cornerstone of resiliency. Stakeholders increasingly expect the corporate sector to join with other organizations to address social and environmental issues. Beyond meeting expectations, embracing a “more the merrier” mentality to pool knowledge, resources and capabilities has its advantages: businesses can create better, more effective solutions faster.

Companies are looking to the future to tackle the most pressing issues in sustainability, such as product and packaging innovation, regenerative agriculture, water stewardship, land-use change, and much more. The Science-Based Targets initiative in particular has emerged as the gold standard in driving meaningful, long-term transformation. The levers of change that these goals embed are getting bigger and bolder every day. The larger impact of individual corporate efforts, however, has its limits on a global scale. The scope and complexity of the challenges business seeks to tackle require a collective, response to maximize impact.

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In collaboration comes the potential for real transformation.

There’s power in numbers

Companies and their needs are as unique as individuals, yet many are facing similar challenges. Pre-competitive consortiums serve as a platform for streamlining the diverse efforts to solve these systemic problems and pushing the needle forward for the industry as whole. What’s more, they provide an opportunity to bring relevant stakeholders to the table.

When we approach a problem from a single perspective, we’re doing so with only half of our toolset. Collaboration accelerates the creation of robust solutions by bringing together stakeholders from across industries and across the value chain. Each brings unique perspectives and experiences to the conversation that can help paint a complete picture of the challenge-solution map.

Pre-competitive consortiums have the added benefit of generating buy-in. Banding together, businesses can accomplish much more and on a larger scale than they could alone — and minimize the cost of doing so. Bringing NGOs and scientific institutions into the fold can also help boost the credibility of the collaboration, which is essential for communications later down the line.

Creating shared value through alignment

Given the shared nature of environmental challenges and the complexity of the supply chains in which they exist, companies are beginning to realize that addressing these issues in isolation is unlikely to drive real progress or produce long-term change. Pre-competitive initiatives, on the other hand, favor a collective, big-picture approach that fosters alignment, enabling stakeholders across the value chain to identify and prioritize the most prevalent pain points and set the stage for meaningful action on a large scale.

As an issue identified as a major risk by 87% of CDP reporting companies across a wide range of industries, deforestation has emerged as a prime candidate for employing a collaborative approach. Leveraging the momentum around deforestation, Quantis assembled a group of 40+ public and private stakeholders from across industries to develop a credible and streamlined approach for calculating emissions from land use and land use change in corporate supply chains.

Through extensive dialogue and collaboration, consortium partners developed the Land Use Change Guidance (LUC), which identifies 14 key recommendations for companies to measure and track progress on reducing or eliminating GHG emissions from land-based supply chains. By creating cross-industry alignment, LUC has the potential to accelerate global efforts to reduce both deforestation and GHG emissions.

The LUC Guidance, which was named Project of the Year by Energy Management Today, is now being piloted to identify potential gaps and refine the methodology. It will be publicly released in 2018. To find out more, you can view our webinar with the Environmental Defense Fund.

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Leapfrogging to actionable solutions

One of the major benefits of pre-competitive initiatives is the opportunity to create harmonized and actionable solutions that can move entire industries and sectors forward. Rather than focus on addressing their own individual needs, organizations band together to overcome common obstacles, creating universal tools, frameworks and methodologies that can be applied widely by a diverse range of stakeholders, effectively leveling the playing field for sustainability action.

Alignment among key industry players also makes it easier for suppliers, manufacturers and producers to engage in sustainability efforts. With the industry working from a common framework, downstream actors can build stronger business cases for investing in the infrastructure, technology or processes needed to drive and respond to collective transformation.

Take packaging for example. In the cosmetics industry alone, packaging is a key focus area with an estimated 120 billion units of packaging produced every year (much of which is not recyclable), according to Zero Waste Europe. While working with long-standing partner L’Oréal to develop the Sustainable Product Optimisation Tool (SPOT), Quantis saw an opportunity to harness a collective approach to overcome the barriers the industry faces in shifting to more sustainable packaging solutions. Further discussions with actors across the beauty industry and growing interest provided the confirmation needed to go from idea to action.

In May 2018, Quantis co-founded the Sustainable Packaging Initiative for CosmEtics (SPICE) with L’Oréal, bringing together beauty brands across the globe for a common goal. Together, SPICE partners will develop and publish business-oriented methodologies, eco-design criteria and data to support resilient decision-making and improve the environmental performance of the entire packaging value chain.

Pre-competitive collaboration has also shown promise for tackling  water risk. In response to questions about how to define and measure the benefits of investments in water stewardship, Quantis teamed up with the World Resources Institute (WRI) and sustainability consultancy Valuing Nature to launch the first publicly available, open source Water Stewardship Benefit Accounting Methodology (WSBAM). Using the methodology, companies can quantify the local benefits of their water stewardship actions, using commonly agreed and science-based metrics. Before publication, corporate partners and the wider business community will have the opportunity to participate in a public, multi-stakeholder consultation. For more information, contact Jean-Baptiste Bayart.

 Filling the data gap

Impactful solutions require robust metrics — and in the case of sustainability data, more is more. Comprehensive data is critical to good decision-making as well as  informing and supporting the development of intelligent sustainability strategies. Without it, businesses are just taking shots in the dark. Pre-competitive collaboration offers an effective way to build sound and reliable databases that can both boost organizations’ own sustainability efforts and open up new pathways for sector-wide engagement.

The World Food LCA Database (WFLDB) arose out of increasing demand from key players in the agro-food sector, such as Nestlé and Mars, for more reliable data on food products and processes to optimize environmental performance. To fill this gap, Quantis brought together experts and stakeholders from across the food value chain to develop comprehensive food Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) databases. The initiative is now entering phase two, during which more data will be developed for a broader set of products as well as for agricultural best practices.

Similarly, Quantis and a consortium of leading organizations from the apparel and footwear sector, including Hugo Boss, founded the World Apparel and Footwear Life Cycle Assessment Database (WALDB) to generate credible data on the environmental impacts of supply chains.

We’re all in this together

Shared environmental risks require a collective response to drive real and meaningful impact, fast. By joining forces with industry peers, businesses can make leaps and bounds towards shaping a sustainable future for all.

With our unique left-brain, right-brain approach to sustainability and experience working with some of the world’s most recognized organizations, Quantis is well-equipped to identify prime opportunities for pre-competitive collaboration and guide sector-wide efforts to develop creative solutions to complex problems.

Talk to us to learn how we can help guide transformative change in your industry — and beyond.