Collaboration – what does it take for it to be sustained and how can retail organisations get started?

Collaboration_in_Industry_blog_July_2017With one-third of food made for human consumption being wasted, everything points to the need for all the actors to take actions to reduce food waste. There is much that each actor can do within their own four walls, however many believe that it is how they collaborate across the entire supply chain that will deliver the biggest impact.

Collaboration though is easier said than done, some of barriers include: a lack of evidence that collaboration ‘works’, competing incentives across silos and organisations, a lack of trust between buyers and the sellers, a lack of data on where waste occurs across the entire supply chain, and insufficient capacity to invest time in collaborative projects. Currently, each organisation shapes their own response to the opportunity to collaborate and how they work together based on their own business context, values and priorities. By way of example, earlier this year, and due to an unseasonably warm winter, UK farmers had a bumper crop of cauliflowers which far exceeded the quantities ordered by their retailer buyers. Thus, farmers were faced with the prospect of having to throw away large quantities of perfectly edible but surplus to requirements cauliflowers.

However, judging by the press coverage at the time, there were two UK retailers who very publicly declared their intention to work with their farm suppliers to increase demand (lower prices, bigger displays, the promotion of cauliflower-based recipes, etc.) so that excess supply could be sold and consumed and hence fewer cauliflowers wasted. It would be fair to say, based on the response from these two retailers, that they very clearly understood the value of working together with their supplier partners and the benefits of reducing food waste. However, if you then research these retailers further, the additional evidence suggests that how they managed this excess production of cauliflowers was not a one-off incident, in fact it would seem that collaboration is embedded into their business and part of the way they work across the whole supply chain to reduce food waste. What this research intends to discover is what it takes to be great at collaboration, with food waste being the initial focus.

This piece of research will be undertaken in partnership with the global food waste practice leaders at Oliver Wyman, with academic support from Cardiff Business School and the Kuehne Logistics University.

The deliverables will be a maturity model that will unbundle the multi-dimensions and aspects that need to be in place for great collaboration to happen, evidencing them with real world examples of each dimension and any benefits that can be attributed to their adoption. In addition, a simple collaborative assessment tool will be created that will allow retailers and manufacturers to self-assess their current collaboration state.

The final report and self-assessment tool will be shared with the members of the ECR Community Shrink and OSA Group in February 2018.

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