Turning the Tide: DuPont, Sustainable Seaweed and Pre-Competitive Collaboration

by: Andrew Hoffman

Publication Date: June 11, 2020
Length: 20 pages
Product ID#: 4-095-267

Core Disciplines: Entrepreneurship & Innovation, Strategy & Management, Sustainability

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Teaching Note

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This case describes DuPont’s sustainable seaweed program, in partnership with the New England Aquarium, and discusses the changing market landscape for seaweed: an undervalued ingredient widely used in much of the world’s food supplies, fertilizers, industrial gums, pharmaceuticals, biofuels, plastic, and more. Seaweed production is rapidly expanding around the globe and is projected to generate 500 million tons of dry weight by 2050, accounting for approximately 10% of the world’s supply of food. Conflict over marine resources is also increasing, as multiple users and maritime industries vie for space, including offshore renewable energy, aquaculture, tourism, transportation, and shipping.

After DuPont developed the first sustainable seaweed standards in 2018, the company announced its efforts to move toward a circular economic business model. The case challenges students to determine whether DuPont should lead a pre-competitive collaborative initiative to refine and share its sustainability standards with other seaweed companies. But would this threaten Dupont’s competitive advantage?

Teaching Objectives

After reading and discussing the material, students should:

  • Apply the concepts of product volatility, uncertainty, and risk to assess how companies should develop sustainability plans for threatened raw materials in their supply chains.
  • Examine and discuss the business rationale for DuPont to develop sustainability standards for seaweed mariculture.
  • Evaluate the merits of pre-competitive collaboration and the prerequisites for successful collaboration to ensure positive sustainability outcomes.
  • Articulate the weaknesses inherent in a decentralized sourcing strategy and identify corporate responses to sourcing uncertainty.