Are you looking for eco-friendly and socially responsible products and services? In Victoria, the Green Collective, an affiliation of Victoria shops, utilizing the philosophy of “co-opetition”, makes it easier for you to make ethical, purchasing decisions.
A group of small, locally owned and operated green business, the Green Collective helps consumers align their spending with their values, and foster a greener, more sustainable economy. By pooling advertising funds, conducting joint promotions, and offering referrals between members (even to direct competitors), the Green Collective is a collaborative model of cooperation and competition, of co-opetition.
Recently I connected with Bill Finley, owner of Hemp & Company, and one of the founding members of the Collective, at his store in the heart of downtown Victoria, and learnt a bit more about the Collective. In this video, Bill talks a bit about the Collective’s approach to business. (can’t see it? click here)
And here’s more details I’ve pulled together, from our conversation, about the Collective…
The Early Days
The genesis of the Green Collective dates back to 2005. Four businesses, with similar vision and values around sustainable business, got together to increase value for each of the members, and the consumer. Consumers increasingly look to shop with their environmental conscience, and the Collective sought to provide those consumers with the information they needed, to make ethical purchases.
Some of the key structural elements of the Collective include:
- Twelve full members
- Selected restaurants, associate members, who are mentioned on the Collective brochure, in return for stocking brochures on their premises
- A joint bank account; each member making an equal contribution, e.g., towards joint marketing costs
- A website (rather rudimentary at this point); identifying and connecting each of the members
- Members meet 3-4 times per year
- A part-time coordinator; e.g., for marketing materials creation
Criteria for membership in the Green Collective include
- Locally-owned business
- Downtown business (in walking distance, or close proximity)
- At least 1 year in business
- Independent business
- Eco-friendly values (what the business sells/serves is not so important)
Note: Usually businesses ask to join the Collective, versus being solicited. Criteria is not fixed in stone. Each business interested in joining the Collective is individually assessed.
- Joint promotions
- Brochure; 5000+/yr printed/distributed
- Member referrals
- Sponsorship of arts, environmental communities; e.g., major events such as this year’s Organic Islands Festival (Canada’s largest outdoor green festival) July 10 & 11, Roxy Theatre (between film showings)
- Past sponsorships include the Victoria International Jazz Festival, major fashion shows, Conservatory of Music fundraiser
- Local print media
Seeing the Collective model adopted by other locales is of course rewarding, to Collective members. Bill related how tourists from Brisbane (Australia) were so impressed by the Green Collective concept, they implemented their own version, in Brisbane.
- Moving members from culture of competition to one co-opetition (especially a challenge where stores are have similar products/services).
- Not all members buy in to the concept, and as a result, may choose not to remain with the Collective.
- As Collective membership grows, so does management complexity of the Collective
- Resources; especially time
Running a profitable business that is also environmentally and socially responsive can be a balancing act. What do you see as a key to the Green Collective’s future success?