Partnering With Competitors to Boost the Bottom Line

Guest Blog by Jerin Arifa

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - On International Women’s Day, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Center for Corporate Citizenship organized a thought-provoking panel on why and how businesses can increase financial inclusion for women while boosting their profit margins. There were several outstanding examples of how this innovative approach works in actual practice.

Photo: Lipscomb and Marcela Hahn, Executive Director, Strategic Partnerships, CARE 

Exhibit A: As the number one nonfiction media company in the world, Discovery Education has a history of pioneering uncommon alliances with corporations and nonprofits alike. Currently, the organization is helping three competing agriculture associations team up to tackle the threat of serious recruitment challenges from a lack of women in science and engineering careers.

Elizabeth Lipscomb, Vice President, Education Partnerships & Social Responsibility, described her organization’s innovative work translating engineers’ knowledge into a kid-friendly curriculum to make STEM careers accessible and fun to elementary school girls. Discovery Education boosted overall confidence of fourth and fifth-grade girls from low-performing New York City schools by teaching them computer skills through an afterschool program. The online education provider is replicating the successes of the pilot program across the nation, taking into account the unique needs of each school district.

Exhibit B: Bringing together Muslim and Hindu villagers in India for an unlikely common goal – to manufacture luxury fashion goods. Kristy Caylor, the co-founder of Maiyet, challenged cultural divides and gender roles to unite Muslim and Hindu silk weavers from opposite sides of a river. Caylor worked closely with the male artisans from both villages to build and design the sustainable building where they work, and also included their female family members in the factory and the workforce, ensuring payment for their historically unpaid labor. Caylor also helped redefine the notions for sustainable luxury, partnering with her competitors in the fashion industry to ensure the continued livelihood of the Indian artisans.

Exhibit C: “Women cocoa farmers are the future of cocoa,” according to Nicole Robinson, Senior Director, Community Involvement, Mondelēz International. The organization “came to self revelation of the need for women.” Although women farmers perform 50 percent or more of the labor for cocoa production, they earn a fraction of the income since most landowners are men. As the largest buyer of cocoa around the world, Mondelēz International recognized the opportunity to lift women and their communities, partnering with competitors in the World Cocoa Foundation to include female farmers’ voices in leadership circles. The global food manufacturer’s 10-year initiative to invest in cocoa-producing countries to increase both yields and community-centered impacts has resulted in a 37-percent increase in yield and 49-percent increase in income for female farmers across the globe.

Photo: Robinson and Roberta Salvador, Legal and Compliance Director, Natura

As the evidence showed, this trend of innovative companies forming partnerships with unlikely candidates – including competitors – to help the environment, women’s economic empowerment, and their bottom lines is a model on a growth curve.