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If you can’t beat them, join them: Can rival businesses collaborate for sustainability?

Updated: Jun 5, 2019

By Ashley Tan,

They say that teamwork makes the dream work—but when it comes to saving the world, can competing businesses put aside their differences?

Is it possible to run environmental initiatives that involve your competitors?

This was the question posed to speakers at an event on waste management on Thursday. The event, Trash or Treasure: What does a zero waste business look like?, was held at the Singapore Sustainability Academy and brought together industry experts to share how they integrate sustainable waste management into their business models.

Partnerships between players in the private sector, especially competing businesses in the same industry, are uncommon. The development of sustainability metrics has fostered a sense of competition between firms, and green initiatives are often used as a tool for businesses to gain a competitive edge.

However, an increasing number of businesses have been partnering to solve industry-wide sustainability problems. One is consumer goods giant Unilever, which recently forged a partnership with rival Procter & Gamble to tackle ocean plastic pollution.

“Our main strategy to help us reduce waste is called ‘less plastic, better plastic, no plastic,’” said Amita Chaudhury, regional director of sustainable business, Southeast Asia and Australasia, Unilever. “This means we want to reduce the amount of plastic being used in our packaging, ensure all our packaging is recyclable, and go beyond plastic with new distribution and business models.”

The two businesses, along with other consumer goods firms such as Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Danone and Dow, are channeling funds through investment firm Circulate Capital in a collaboration with non-profit Ocean Conservancy to tackle ocean plastic pollution.


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