Information-sharing for Social Responsibility in the Electronic Industry: Collaboration in a Competitive Environment

I just heard a talk by someone involved in the Electronic Industry Citizenship Corporation (EICC; detailed project information can be found here), which seeks to develop common standards for corporate citizenship across the electronic industry.  What I found most fascinating were the elaborate procedures for the sharing of supplier audit information across the company-members of the EICC.

Essentially, one EICC member can gain access to a supplier audit commissioned by another EICC member or, alternatively, several EICC members can work share costs for the audit of a supplier that interests all of them.  All of this is done without disclosing the identities of the companies awaiting the audit results.  At the same time, costs are shared and common standards are actualized.

A great deal of legal care is necessary to administer this form of cooperation in an industry that is otherwise, quite naturally, rather competitive, and that needs to avoid (a) the bleeding of competitive advantage through leaked IP and (b) even the appearance of improper collaboration across companies.

Social conscientiousness in a competitive environment requires this sort of thoughtful and intricate approach; competitive pressures and a concern with reducing public relations risk, at the same time, force companies to develop predictable standards across an industry.

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