CSR Pre-competitive cooperation explained

CSR activities are important for both employees and customers. It is wrong to assume that CSR and business strategies are two independent corporate strategies. The barriers between the two are falling, giving CSR managers more room to create a strong awareness of their social impact programmes. However, as environmental and social problems cannot be tackled alone, companies often decide to work together to drive systemic change faster. We call this “pre-competitive collaboration”. 

Well, it’s a fancy concept. But we should perhaps explain it a bit more. It might indeed be a great strategy to develop for yourself. 

What is it? 

Let’s say your business and your neighbour are both in the same industry. And you are both struggling with a problem related to CSR and social impact. However, this does not jeopardise your business. It is not a business competition. It is a social or environmental problem for which you want to combine your efforts. It’s a pre-competitive collaboration. 

Together with your new CSR and social impact partners, you try to find new solutions to address your common social and environmental struggle. All in all, you coordinate your CSR efforts to find more perspectives, resources and solutions to a common problem. There is nothing threatening about this. 

How can you do this?

It’s not enough to knock on your prospective business partner’s door and ask. As with any other corporate giving plan, there is a structure and best practice to follow. So here are our top 5 steps to planning the perfect pre-competitive collaboration for your CSR strategy. 

#1 Choose your common cause

When choosing a common cause, be true to yourself. It’s not always easy to find the things that are important to all partners. With a little discussion, brainstorming and effort, you may find that you all want the same thing. Based on this common concern, draw out the goals and outcomes you want to achieve: Having a common goal also helps to motivate and inspire each other. This then makes it easier to work together.

#2 Involve everyone 

Take into account that this collaboration may come as a surprise to your teams. They need to understand the goal and the reasons that led to this decision. Communicate and make sure that everyone feels included in the process of collaboration. Emphasise the environmental and social aspects of the project so that everyone understands that it is not a business-oriented project based on the product or service you provide. It is more than that: it is a project in the spirit of being a global citizen. 

#3 Make sure the collaborative mindset resonates with everyone. 

If everyone feels involved, that’s great. Then you also need to make them understand what pre-competitive collaboration is and how it works. You might ask yourself why you chose this strategy to achieve your CSR goal: It might be a good idea to be transparent and honest with your own teams, as they need to get involved and embrace this collaborative mindset. You need support, not only from your partner but also from your team, so make sure they know what you are doing, why and how.

#4 Share relevant data and information  

There is no reason to be stingy with the information and data you have on the CSR issue you are working on, which can be effectively managed using a CSR digital platform. If you want this collaboration to work, you need to open up your sources and resources and make them available to your partner. Remember, this is not a competition for your product or service, but a CSR project that you have decided to join the effort for. 

#5 Report on your collaboration to improve it and increase your reach. 

Doing good is a long-term task. Don’t stop when you have reached your goal. Take a closer look at what you have achieved through this collaboration. Be sure to plan your next step. It doesn’t have to be the end of everything. It is possible to improve and strengthen your positive impact by taking on more projects. Of course, this also means finding a new goal, a new common struggle to work on and making sure it still fits your values.