"We need to collaborate in a better way! This is the most generic advice applicable to every organisation. Yet, also when it comes to re-engineering supply chains to tackle sustainability challenges, this advice is relevant. Only: how do you put that in practice? Because that wonderful concept of 'working together' all too often causes annoyance and misunderstandings.
Collaboration between organisations with different (business) cultures is a challenge by itself. In international supply chains, the frame of reference of, let’s say, farmers in Congo is also very different from that of employees of a retailer. Not to mention the at times conflicting interests and practical problems arising from the distance between continents.
It sounds like a recipe for failure... Unless you find ways to make the collaboration work. The experiences in our chain projects show the whole spectrum of what can go right and wrong in chain collaboration.
The success of a sustainable, inclusive chain depends on the level of trust you build up. Once the initial trust is there, it has to be maintained through regular, structured consultation. In the beginning, the organisation with local representation (Rikolto, Solid, Efico,...) is best placed to "pull the strings" of this consultation. Once the chain runs smoothly, we feel it’s most efficient to let the "final buyer" (e.g. Colruyt Group) pull the strings.
So much for the short version. Below, we look at concrete experiences in more detail. From this we learned that a successful collaboration between actors in the chain is only possible if you have a sound answer to 3 questions: is there a common goal and a shared interest? Is there ongoing consultation? And do partners take risks together by investing together?