Creating Competitive Advantage

The creation of competitive advantage is most likely to accrue to an eco-friendly initiative that is central to the involved firms' mission, visible to stakeholders and provides value beyond those of public good and when the involved firms are able to capitalize on asymmetries in business assessment, stakeholder management and issue management (Figure Variation in such advantage is likely to be observed when one or more of the attributes that make the initiative strategic fail to materialize. Centrality may provide pragmatic and normative legitimacy benefits for the eco-friendly initiative, however its exposure to changing priorities without any clear initiative specific benefits or visibility would diminish its value (Epstein et al., 2003; Epstein 2008).

As specificity provides a good financial reason for the initiative to favor a competitive advantage, it does not preclude imitation, substitution, or outperformance by competitors. Therefore, it is likely that an initiative will only last as long as its specific benefit is convincing (Epstein 2008). Visibility alone could be linked to enhancing the initiative's reputation, a specific, although intangible benefit that must be traded off against the costs of the initiative. By means of intelligent scanning of the business environment, as well as proactive stakeholder and issue management, the initiating firms may detect openings to be able to access strategic attributes to support the desired positioning of the initiative (Sirsly et al., 2008).

The following examples of eco-friendly initiatives are provided to illustrate the former. The first example is the Grandlait milk initiative of Candia. It meets the attributes that make the initiative strategic; however, it faces the challenge to convince stakeholders its specific benefit. The second example is the Norwegian cooperative producer Tine and its organic brand concept initiative. It illustrates how the institutional setting complicates the implementation of the initiative and how a lack of alignment of strategic attributes and capabilities to deal with the business environment and different stakeholders impede the utilization of the initiative's potential.

Factors affecting the benefits of eco-friendly dairy initiatives

Figure Factors affecting the benefits of eco-friendly dairy initiatives.

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