From Rivals to Revolutionaries: How Collaboration Breeds Circular Economy Ecosystems

Hira Wajahat Malik, Junior Research Fellow at EBS in the Green Economy & CSR Research Department, wrote in the January issue of Postimees "Tähenduse Teejuhid" about the potential hidden in evolving and changing ecosystems and the business opportunities offered by the collaboration of various companies in this field.

"For decades, businesses have viewed competition as a zero-sum game, where one company's gain is another's loss. But in the face of growing environmental pressures and resource scarcity, a shift is critical. A fascinating solution, that has still not been explored completely is cooperation among competing firms within an industry to establish circular economy ecosystems. This collaborative approach not only benefits the planet but also unlocks a treasure trove of business opportunities for new ventures.


Imagine an industry where waste doesn't exist. Materials flow in a continuous loop, from pre-production to post-consumption, through cycles of reuse, repair, and recycling. This is the essence of a circular economy, a model that mimics nature's closed-loop systems. But transitioning to this ideal requires significant infrastructure, expertise, and investment. Here's where collaboration becomes the game-changer.


Competing firms within an industry possess a unique advantage: complementary resources and skills. Think of a fashion industry scenario. Clothing brands could team up with textile manufacturers to develop efficient recycling technologies. Logistics companies could join forces to create a shared network for collecting used garments. Sharing resources and expertise not only reduces individual burdens but also accelerates the development of a robust circular economy infrastructure.


As these ecosystems evolve, gaps inevitably emerge. This is where new ventures thrive. Imagine a software platform connecting consumers to repair services for their "pre-loved" clothes. Or a company specializing in upcycling discarded fabrics into trendy accessories. Each gap represents a potential goldmine for innovative startups equipped to cater to the specific needs of a circular economy.


The benefits of collaboration extend beyond environmental gains. By working together, companies can reduce cost, innovate faster, enhance their brand reputation and access new markets. The idea of fierce rivals joining hands might seem counterintuitive, but the potential rewards are too large to ignore. By embracing collaboration, competing firms can unlock a world of sustainable solutions, new business opportunities, and a future where prosperity coexists with environmental responsibility. It's time for a paradigm shift, where rivals become revolutionaries, redefining competition as co-creation for a sustainable future."