Thursday, August 14, 2008, 4:48 PM

Giant Food and the value of coalitions

“Do not protect yourself by a fence, but rather by your friends.”
– Czech Proverb

Dutch-owned Giant Food gave a nod to this bit of Czech wisdom recently by announcing it would select its seafood products from environmentally sustainable sources. A worthwhile initiative to be sure, but it didn’t stop there. Giant also announced it had recruited a new partner in this initiative -- the Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions, a conglomerate of respected conservation groups.

The move is well timed. Environmentalists continue sharpening their rhetoric when it comes to corporate sustainability, as Nabisco, Kellogs, and General Mills know all too well.

Giant’s announcement is an excellent lesson in how coalitions can add credibility to a company’s plans and reputation. Giant could have scrapped the “friend” approach and instead built a fence, but the initiative would have lacked credibility without outside expertise. Environmental skeptics could claim that Giant’s new standards lacked independent review, or that the fox was guarding the henhouse. With Conservation Alliance on board, Giant blunted those skeptics and sent a clear message to the public and the press about its commitment to sustainable business practices.

Giant's coalition strategy prompts a question every organization should ask itself: Have we been building a fence or making friends? The answer may say a lot about your reputation.

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