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Collaborating with the competition: Surprising new solutions to sustainability challenges

September 09, 2016


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In an ever-changing business environment, hot-button issues like safety, supplier compliance, and product stewardship create another level of complexity for firms. These challenges involve many actors and significant business investment. How can businesses and industries overcome such challenges?

Collaborate with the competition. A radical solution to shared problems has already emerged, finding success in the extractives sector, retail, and banking. Competitor collaborations are a growing trend - and they are working.

Whether a collaboration is structured as an industry association, roundtable, or non-profit, the early stages of a new relationship can provide more questions than answers: how much information should we share with our competitors? How do we implement collective decisions within each of our organizations? What’s more, facilitating organizations (like industry associations) face challenges related to sustaining member engagement and achieving collective goals without sacrificing individual goals.

In this forum, Professor Lori DiVito shares insights from her new NBS study of eight competitor collaborations in Europe and Canada, providing guidance for firms considering new forms of collaboration — or those seeking to do it better, with less risk and improved outcomes.

Event Details

Sept. 9, 2016

7:30-8 a.m. – Breakfast and registration

8-8:30 a.m. – Presentation by Professor Lori DiVito

Professor DiVito will share:

  • The types of competitor collaboration;
  • The process and challenges of collaborating with competitors;
  • Best practices for effective collaboration; and,
  • Collaboration Map tool (for those already undertaking collaborations).

8:30-9:20 a.m. – Panel discussion and Audience Q & A: An expert panel of Ivey researchers and managers will discuss the research findings and answer audience questions. Panelists include John Coyne (VP, Legal & External Affairs and General Counsel, Unilever Canada Inc.), Luc Robitaille (VP, Responsible Care, CIAC), and Gord Lambert (President and Chief Collaboration Officer, GRL Collaboration for Sustainability).

9:20-9:30 a.m. – Closing

9:45-10:45 a.m. – Workshop (optional): For those wanting a deeper dive into the ‘how’ of competitor collaborations, join Professor DiVito as she walks through a draft assessment tool. Share your feedback on using and improving the tool and help NBS have more impact with this new research.

Location: Ivey's Tangerine Leadership Centre, King & York St., Toronto

Tickets: $30 (non-alumni), $25 (alumni), $20 (current students) 

Note: This workshop is most relevant for those who are or have been involved in a competitor collaboration.


  • Managers seeking to understand the benefits and challenges of collaborating with competitors; to make the case for competitor collaborations to colleagues or leaders; or, to raise the bar on current collaborations;
  • Industry association staff seeking to support member firms with resources and training for effective industry collaborations; and,
  • NGO staff seeking to initiate industry-wide changes.

Topics You Will Explore

You will gain:

  • An understanding of ‘why and how’ to participate in a competitor collaboration;
  • Best practices from across eight leading collaborations to avoid pitfalls and overcome the challenges; and,
  • Access to a tool that helps them create an action plan for effective collaborations. 

About the Speakers

Lori DiVito

Lori DiVito is an Associate Professor at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Amsterdam School of International Business. She is also affiliated with the Utrecht School of Economics, Utrecht University and the Amsterdam Business School, University of Amsterdam. In addition, she holds a Teaching Fellow position at the Alliance Manchester Business School, University of Manchester. She received her PhD in Organisational Studies from Alliance Manchester Business School, University of Manchester.  Her research interests focus on understanding the dynamics of knowledge-intensive firms, including their formation, internationalisation and innovation strategies. Lori has published in international peer-reviewed journals like Research Policy and Long Range Planning. Prior to her academic work, Lori worked as a marketing strategist for high-tech multinationals and advertising agencies.

Tima Bansal

Tima Bansal is the Canada Research Chair in Business Sustainability at the Ivey Business School at Western University (Ontario). She directs Ivey's research centre for Building Sustainable Value, and founded and directs the Network for Business Sustainability ( Both these organizations aim to strengthen the ties between research and practice. In 2008, she was awarded the Aspen’s Institute title of Faculty Pioneer for Academic Leadership — and remains the only Canadian to receive this title. In 2011, she was appointed to the inaugural Clean50 with 49 other Canadians for the significant contributions they have made to advance the cause of sustainability and clean capitalism. In 2013, she was awarded a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Business Sustainability for her research contributions to the field. Dr. Sandra Waddock lists Professor Bansal among the 28 people she calls "intellectual shamans" for their contribution to management thought.

About the Panellists

John Coyne

John is the Vice President, Legal & External Affairs and General Counsel at Unilever Canada Inc. He has been with Unilever Canada since 1992. He is a member of Unilever Canada’s board of directors as well as the Canadian Leadership Team, and is also chair of the company’s Pension Committee.

John is well known for his leadership in corporate sustainability.  He is a passionate activator of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, designed to help Unilever deliver its objective of growing the business while reducing its environmental footprint and increasing its positive contribution to society.  John is Executive Chair of the Board of Canadian Stewardship Services Alliance, Inc. and is a director of Evergreen.  In addition, John is co-chair of the Partners in Project Green steering committee, a major environmental initiative of the Toronto Region Conservation Authority.  He is also director and past Chair of Stewardship Ontario. In 2013 John was recognized for his leadership in corporate sustainability by being named by Clean 50 as one of Canada’s top sustainability leaders.  Last year, John was appointed as a member of the Ontario Government’s Climate Action Group advising the Ontario Minister of the Environment on effective climate change actions that will help Ontario meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals and transition to a prosperous, low-carbon economy.

John also works closely with industry groups and other organizations.  He is Chair of the board of Canadian Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association Foundation and is director and past Chair of the Association.

Gord Lambert

Gord Lambert is the president and chief collaboration officer of GRL Collaboration for Sustainability Incorporated. After a 17-year career at Suncor, Lambert recently retired from his role as executive advisor, Sustainability and Innovation. Gord is also the Sustainability Executive-in-Residence (EIR), at Ivey Business School, Western University. He has 36 years of experience in the oil and gas sector and sustainable development strategy. He is widely known from his days at Suncor for his efforts to bring collaboration and a collective approach to the development of Canada’s resource sector, which resulted in the advancement of sustainability in the oil sands. He recently served as a member of the Alberta Climate Leadership Expert Panel that reported to the Premier and Environment Minister.

Luc Robitaille

Luc Robitaille joined the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada (CIAC) in October 2015 as Vice President of Responsible Care.  The CIAC represents companies that manufacture chemicals in Canada, companies that provide services and technology related to chemical manufacturing and multinational chemical companies that re-sell chemistry products in Canada.CIAC was, 30 years ago, the first association in the world to adopt Responsible Care, recognized as the global gold-standard of industry-wide sustainability initiatives.

Previously Luc worked for more than 10 years as corporate director of environment for Holcim and as an environmental consultant working throughout Canada and the US Northeast. He holds a Masters degree in contaminant hydrogeology from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio and a BScA degree in geological engineering from Laval University in beautiful Quebec City.


$30 (non-alumni), $25 (alumni), $20 (current students)

  • Tags:
  • Network for Business Sustainability
  • Research
  • Sustainability
  • Tima Bansal
  • Strategy