World Wildlife Fund Sustainability Works

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Finding Common Ground: Lessons Learned from Precompetitive and Multistakeholder Platforms

  • Date: 26 June 2024
  • Author: Katherine Devine, Director, Business Case Development

Conservation efforts often face complex challenges that a single organization can't tackle alone. When a group of several major hotel chains wanted to drive measurable reduction of food waste in the hospitality sector in the U.S., for example, several companies created a pre-competitive pilot, called Hotel Kitchen, focused on food waste prevention, donation, and diversion from landfills. These types of groups, highlighted in a new WWF report, bring together diverse players in supply or value chains, from companies to NGOs and producers to researchers, to work on shared goals, which often include environmental impacts or, more directly, conservation objectives.

WWF's experience in launching and participating in such platforms suggests that no one-size-fits-all model dictates success of a precompetitive or multistakeholder group. But successful ones share some key characteristics. And there are lessons to be learned as well from initiatives that have run into roadblocks. Here are some characteristics that make them successful, illustrate pitfalls to avoid, and demonstrate how to maximize their impact.

Keys to Success

Effective platforms share some key characteristics:

  • Shared Vision and Commitment: Members agree on guiding principles and ambitious goals. They demonstrate this commitment by adapting the platform's focus as needed and incorporating stakeholder input.
  • Clear Focus: Platforms with a well-defined purpose are more likely to succeed. While priorities can evolve, trying to do too much at once dilutes efforts.
  • Neutral Leadership and Transparency: Fair leadership and clear processes foster trust and collaboration, allowing the group to navigate towards its goals.
  • Data-Driven Approach: Setting ambitious targets and using common metrics to track progress is crucial. Sharing data, both successes and failures, builds trust and informs solutions.
  • Unified Voice and Communication: Platforms that advocate with a united voice and maintain open communication channels among members are more effective.

Challenges and Solutions

While these platforms offer immense potential, there are hurdles to overcome:

  • Membership: Multistakeholder group platforms can struggle with reaching consensus due to the variety of member interests. Including producers directly, not just a token few, is critical for effective solutions.
  • Prescriptive Approaches: Relying on rigid solutions without considering market realities can hinder progress. Platforms should focus on desired outcomes, allowing members to develop tailored solutions.
  • Accountability: Lack of clear accountability mechanisms can hinder progress. Effective platforms establish consequences for non-participation or failure to meet commitments.
  • Meaningful Commitments: Vague or poorly defined commitments lack impact. Time-bound results-oriented goals with clear reporting requirements and implementation plans are essential.
  • Data Sharing: Platforms that don't share data on strategies, resource allocation, or best practices hinder progress. Standardization of data collection and reporting strengthens collaboration.
  • Antitrust Concerns: Legal concerns about information sharing can arise. Platforms should design solutions that navigate competition laws while achieving shared goals.

Collaboration through platforms is not just an optimistic endeavor – the belief that diverse entities can achieve what none could alone — it is one of survival as well. Effective platforms enable the development and implementation of solutions at a scale and speed that individual organizations cannot match. Platforms need to be adaptable, continuously learning and evolving to address new issues and market realities. Those that are will be more resilient in the face of climate change. And governments can play a crucial role by enacting policies that reinforce the overarching goals of such groups. By working together, precompetitive and multistakeholder platforms can drive meaningful change and build a more resilient food system.