By: Sarah Zitin

Collaborative Partnerships

The past 15 years or so have seen a consistent rise in business-to-business collaboration away from broad-based sustainability coalitions, towards issue-specific collaboration. Business-to-business collaboration around new products and services may be the logical third wave of this collaboration evolution, as they are the bottom line of business.

David Grayson, professor of corporate responsibility and co-author of a new book Corporate Responsibility Coalitions: The Past, Present and Future of Alliances for Sustainable Capitalism, says:

“One of the reasons that we’re seeing more specialization in these types of business-to-business collaborations is that the issues are becoming much more business-critical,” says Grayson. “It’s natural for a business to look at better ways to solve these issues.”

These kinds of collaborations make companies more comfortable engaging and sharing information with their competitors, as they’re all working towards sustainable goals. They’re supplying business managers with the skills and confidence required to navigate boundaries and competition-related legal and other challenges.

Once the partners become comfortable that competition laws are not being broken, and they see the value in the collaboration, they become more willing to collaborate and more confident in the process.

Collaboration is one of the keys for furthering sustainability, with leaders from all areas of society agreeing that solving environmental and social challenges requires unilateral cooperation. 


What is Collaboration in Business?

Collaboration is based on interactions between people. Each interaction has its own pace and viability. The success lies in the ability to sustain the interaction over time as long as it is creating more productivity and sustainability.

These partnerships involve two or more businesses teaming up with each other for mutual benefits related to sustainability goals. Often, particularly lately, a corporate brand and a nonprofit in the same industry will partner, and, in addition, entities from multiple sectors get together and pool their resources.

Environmental Collaboration and Conflict Resolution (ECCR) is a process whereby neutral, third-party facilitators work with agencies and stakeholders using collaboration, negotiation, structured specific dialogue, mediation, and other approaches to prevent, manage, and resolve environmental conflicts.


Rules of Engagement

  1. Strategy First: Partnerships must have a strategic mission.
  2. Align Partner Interests: A true partnership must be mutually beneficial.
  3. Create a Shared Vision. 
  4. Set clear expectations. 
  5. Consider your partner a part of your team.
  6. Allow the partnership room to expand.
  7. Make integrity and transparency your watchwords.
  8. Collaboration in which everyone wins.


Businesses know they’re on the right track when corporations choose to collaborate with large and small businesses, alike. Corporate power is now humbly accepting these kinds of affiliations because they know it’s what consumers want, and it encourages them to make purchases. More strength in numbers goes a long way in collaborative relationships. These collaborations are crucial to the future of sustainability and the triple bottom line: Social, Environmental, and Economic.