The Green Collective: Using co-opetition to promote local businesses

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.

Marketing Approach

  • 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


The Rewards

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.

Some Challenges

  • 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

What’s Next?

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?

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to my blog. Thanks, Ben.


  1. It is admirable and difficult to form and keep a collective going and your thorough post alludes to them. From my experience the more explicit the group is at the beginning about their top goal, the things they agree to do collectively – and the way by which they agree to add or remove members – all seem to help along the way.

    That specificity sets the groundwork for expectations – including how they agree to change them.

    When any 2 businesses have overlapping products there are difficulties unless there is a larger opportunity they can see, upfront – such as collectively serving a large client or special niche – which they can do better together than alone.

    I continue to be impressed by the news-you-can-use value of this blog. Kudos to you!

  2. Great advice Kare… about getting it right, up front, and setting the groundwork (e.g., protocols) for dealing with the different situations (like member changes) that inevitably arise. And I agree with your point about 2 businesses in same business/product line… good things can happen if the 2 biz TRULY believe they can expand the value/opportunity pie by working together. As usual… thanks for your excellent comments.

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