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CSR Pre-Competitive Collaboration Explained

by Ornella Schillaci

CSR activities are vital both for 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 more space to CSR managers to build a strong awareness of their social impact programs. But since the ecological and societal issues are complex to tackle alone, companies often decide to collaborate to drive systemic change more quickly. It is what we call "pre-competitive collaboration." 

Now, it is a fancy concept. But we should maybe explain it a bit more. Indeed it might be a great strategy to set up for yourself. 

What is it? 

Let's say that your company and your neighbor are both from the same industry. And you're both concerned with a pain point linked to CSR and social impact. However, that doesn't endanger your business. It's not business competition. It's a pain point on something social or environmental and for which you'd like to join efforts. That's pre-competitive collaboration. 

Together with your new CSR and social impact partners, you aim at finding new solutions to overcome your common social and environmental struggle. All in all, you coordinate your CSR efforts to bring more perspective, resources, and solutions to a common problem. Nothing is threatening about it. 

How to do it?

It takes more than just knocking at your soon-to-be business partner's door and asking for it. Like for any other corporate giving plan, there is a structure and best practices to follow.  So here are our 5 best steps to plan the perfect pre-competitive collaboration for your CSR strategy. 

#1 Choose your common fight

When deciding on the common concern, make sure to remain true to yourself. It's not always easy to find the things that matter to all partners. With a bit of discussion, brainstorming, and effort, you might find out that you all want the same thing. With this common concern, draw the goals and results you want to reach: having a common objective also helps get motivated and passionate. It will then facilitate collaboration.

#2 Get everyone involved 

Take into account that this collaboration might appear surprising for your teams. They have to understand the goal and the reasons that motivated this choice. Communicate and make everyone feel involved in the process of this collaboration. Underline the environmental and societal aspects of the project in order for everyone to get that it is not a business-oriented project based on the product or service you're offering. It's more than that: it's a citizen-of-the-world-like project. 

#3 Make sure the collaborative mindset gets to everyone 

If everyone feels involved, that is great. Then you also have to make them understand what the pre-competitive collaboration is and how it works. They might wonder why you turned to this strategy to reach your CSR goal: it might be a good idea to show transparency and honesty towards your own teams, as they will have to get involved and adopt 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 data and information that are relevant  

There is no need to be possessive with the information and data you have on the CSR topic you're working on. If you want this collaboration to work, you need to open up the sources and resources you have and make them accessible to your partner. Remember: it's not a competition towards your product or service, it is a CSR project for which you decided to join the effort. 


#5 Report on your collaboration to improve it and amplify your reach 

Doing good is a long-term job. Don't stop at the end of your goal. Take a closer look at what you have accomplished through this collaboration. Make sure to plan your next move. It doesn't have to end up right away. It is possible to improve and amplify your positive impact by launching other projects. Of course, this also means that you'll have to take a look at a new goal, a new common fight to work on, and make sure that it still fits your values.