Sustainable collaborations: Tips and ideas

The meaning of sustainable partnerships can be viewed in two different ways. So you can aim at maintaining a healthy and long-lasting (business) relationship. You can also think of it as working together towards a better, greener and fairer world with others. Of course, the two often go hand in hand. At Ecoteers, we actively and intensively cooperate with other parties through good contact and clear and transparent planning so that we are always on the same page. Read more about tips and ideas for future sustainable collaborations here.

Working together locally

Start-up entrepreneurs often dream of lasting collaborations with large international companies in order to promote awareness and growth. In addition, major steps can be taken with regard to climate and equality. However, it can also be very interesting and socially responsible to see what is possible at the local level and grow from there. Think of the local organic and fair-trade coffee vendor, the local library, or another start-up that is in the same boat. Be open and orientate with each other how your businesses can complement each other and discuss possible projects. Even though the collaborations are often not internationally groundbreaking, there are often great benefits. After all, local partnerships can initiate major changes on a small scale. Think improved conservation, a greener environment and more sustainable homes. In addition, you can easily meet up with your partner(s) for personal contact. There are also many interfaces regarding work schemes, subsidies and the general environment and you will easily come into contact with other local companies. Ultimately, this path can lead to an extensive network and a reputable name in the region. After this, further growth is favourable and you will have a good basis for it in any case.

Networking at the Social Impact Factory

The Social Impact Factory (SIF) is located in Amsterdam and Utrecht and is the ideal example of a local network that easily connects Dutch companies with other partners. The Global Goals are central to these collaborations. The Global Goals consist of seventeen goals set up by the UN to tackle contemporary problems such as poverty and climate change. In this way, the SIF promotes sustainable and socially responsible partnerships that will ultimately lead to a better world. Read more about the concept of the Social Impact Factory, the partners and the possibilities here.

Sustainable partnerships with municipalities

Sustainable partnerships do not have to be limited to companies. Governmental organisations such as municipalities can also often benefit from sustainable partnerships with companies. Municipalities are reliable and have clear goals, with their own town or village as the centre of attention. This makes it easy to come up with concrete plans. In addition, the limits of the playing field of the cooperation are fixed and there can be little confusion about this. Entrepreneurs can, for example, partner with a municipality to provide advice on sustainability. Or they can help think about the future of a neighbourhood. In 2020 the Municipality of Utrecht started a sustainable cooperation, the Solar Pact, with various entrepreneurs. This pact makes the installation of solar panels more accessible for companies and organisations. More than ten entrepreneurs are working together with the municipality to get the logistics, marketing and management of this in order. This clearly shows that sustainable partnerships with municipalities are often a targeted and reliable option. In addition, it can promote the growth of your company and, as a start-up, you will benefit from the reputation of the municipality.

Stay critical in the search for sustainable partnerships

It is important to ask yourself whether certain partnerships with other parties fit the philosophy of your sustainable business. It could be that the cooperation has the potential to be successful but does not fit your company. Or that the partner company has the same philosophy as your company but the partnership project is in opposition to it. Therefore, always think critically about the consequences of the collaboration for both the image of your company and the overall impact on the market, the environment and society. Discuss the specific goals of the cooperation with the partners and make sure everyone is on the same page. It is very important to put these things down on paper to avoid confusion and unpleasant situations.

If the cooperation and the partner companies are a good fit for your work philosophy, this does not mean a green light. Also analyse the role(s) that your company will take within the sustainable cooperation. Are they prominent and indispensable? It often goes wrong when it eventually turns out that parties are cooperating unnecessarily. Often in these cases there are too few tasks or the other party decides to take on tasks that were actually not intended for them but are easy to perform.

Cooperation, but sometimes also giving

Collaboration, of course, is all about making money and growing the business network. There’s more to it than that, though. It may be that you, as a sustainable entrepreneur, are impressed by a start-up that acts with ‘the heart in the right place’. Perhaps this company presents sustainable products or services that are inspiring and innovative. Nevertheless, some start-ups are not strong enough to invest enough money or manpower to facilitate the collaboration. In cases like this, it can be valuable to take a step in their direction. This can be done, for example, by giving a discount, but there are many more ways that go beyond financial compromises. That way, you can end up going into business together. These kinds of initiatives show that sustainability is central to your business. In addition, it is often very interesting financially. Because you are helping the startup grow, in most cases you will also benefit from its success. So look around for startups and get inspired to build a lasting partnership. When there is potential in a start-up, it will come out in the short or long term.

For examples of sustainable businesses, most of which have grown using sustainable partnerships, click here.

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