Going At It Alone
Sometimes boldly going where no brand has gone before can be a lonely voyage.
Three multibillion-dollar companies, that received accolades for taking an early and socially progressive stance on controversial issues, have publicly acknowledged they expected their competitors to follow suit sooner.
“We’re the only big company that’s on the record for mandatory GMO labeling on the label,” Dave Stangis, VP of public affairs and corporate responsibility for Campbell Soup Company,” said during an Ethical Corporation event in New York City. “We thought we’d have some followers.”
Campbell, known best for its soup but more recently expanding into the organic and fresh foods sector, was well positioned when Vermont legislators passed a law requiring GMO labeling, effective July 1st. In recent months, other major food manufacturers have announced compliance plans that allow them to continue selling their products in Vermont.
CVS Health also placed a bold bet when it banned the sale of tobacco products from its 9,600 retail pharmacies in October 2014. Its competitors have yet to snuff out smoking.
“Candidly, the expectation was that others in the industry would drop out as well. That didn’t really happen,” said Eileen Howard Boone, senior vice president of corporate social responsibility and philanthropy.
Despite being the solo national retailer sacrificing tobacco-related revenue, Boone said the brand is now associated with a broad range of healthcare services and called the episode “a clarifying moment of who we wanted to be.”
Timberland, which launched a brand of automotive tires designed to be recycled into soles for boots, is actively soliciting other footwear manufactures to buy recycled rubber from the company’s new supply chain partner.
“We are not proprietary. We are not competitive when it comes to sustainability,” said Colleen Vien, director of sustainability for Timberland.
Financial services is one sector where co-opetition seems to be benefitting brands that are fierce rivals in much of the world.
Douglas Sabo, vice president and head of corporate responsibility and philanthropy at VISA, referenced the Better Than Cash Alliance, a UN-based group with a charter to “transition from cash to digital payments in order to reduce poverty and drive inclusive growth.”
Both VISA and Mastercard are members of the coalition, said Sabo, adding, “A rising tide can lift all boats.”