BM.13 Generate ideas for the key partnership block



This activity aims to generate ideas for how to address hotspots or strategic changes related to the key activities block.


Hotspots or strategic changes related to the customer segments block from the activities ST.7 Do a SWOT Analysis, BM.2 Gather additional data on the business model, and BM.3 Gather additional data on operational performance.


Specific ideas for how to change the Customer Segments block to address the hotspots or strategic changes, used in the activities BM.4 Generate business model concepts at the big picture level – if taking a ‘Bottom-up’ approach, BM.15 Evaluate the benefits, and BM.16 Evaluate the costs and BM.17 Evaluate the risks.



Initial engagement


The first challenge is to identify potentially relevant partners, decide which organisations to target first, and make initial contact with a suitable person within that organisation. Strategies to help with this include:

  • Perform a stakeholder mapping and develop an engagement strategy for the different types of partner.
  • Begin by engaging large companies that may have more influence over the supply chain.
  • Identify the partners that are already pro-actively addressing sustainability issues.
  • Work with trade associations, small business associations, free economic zones or eco-industrial parks that can help you to engage large groups of companies that are facing a common sustainability challenge. Where trade associations do not exist, encourage the formation of ad-hoc consortia or business clubs to tackle specific issues.
  • Dedicate time and effort to developing your personal network of contacts in the industry.

Developing the collaboration


Next you need to convince the potential partner of the business case for proceeding with the partnership by talking to their Senior Management Team. Strategies to help with this include:

  • Take time to think about and clearly articulate the business case for collaboration from the perspective of the partner.
    • Build up a collection of successful case studies of value chain collaboration that demonstrate the business benefits.
    • Try to understand the sustainability threats faced by your partners and generate ideas for solutions that create a win-win scenario.
  • Organize a seminar where companies facing a common challenge can discuss ideas how to overcome those threats.
    • Start with small-scale, low investment collaborations with a new partner. Success on small projects can lead to the trust and confidence required for larger projects.
    •  Make sure intellectual property is protected on all sides by signing a mutual non-disclosure agreement.
    •  Offer training to buyers throughout the value chain to help them understand the importance and benefits of engaging in sustainability initiatives and making sustainability issues part of their buying criteria.


3. Finally, you need to support the implementation of the partnership and help overcome challenges such as: differences in priorities; lack of trust and transparency; different ways of working; and cultural differences. Strategies to help with this include:

 Make sure that the aims and objectives of the collaboration from all sides are clearly expressed from the start. This will help to ensure alignment of priorities.

 Take time to learn more about the organizations you collaborate with and the key personnel you are working with to help build a better understanding of their viewpoint, culture, ways of working etc.

Make sure that key technical details of a proposed solution are clearly captured using a ‘requirements specification’. Guidance on how to write an effective requirements specification
is provided in the activity BR.3 Define and prioritise the requirements of the first project.

Sources of further information on supplier engagement and managing raw materials supply risks are provided in the Background Information section of this activity.

Tips & Tricks


Further advice on how to engage value chain partners in eco-innovation activities that have a strong technology focus is provided in the publication ‘Technologies for Eco-innovation’ (UN Environment, 2016).


Discussions with suppliers about eco-innovation can be a great opportunity to discuss ways in which social sustainability performance can be improved across the value chain, including improving gender equality in the value chain (i.e. women are dramatically underrepresented in technology value chains).

— Success story from Vietnam

An Ecological Catalyst for Vietnam’s Guava Farms

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