As Fast Company's Ariel Schwartz recently wrote, Nike partnered with the likes of Yahoo, Best Buy, IDEO, Mountain Equipment Co-op and salesforce.com (among others) and launched a collaborative workspace called GreenXchange. Schwartz reports that the idea behind this initiative to join intellectual powers to create sustainable solutions came from Wikinomics author Don Tapscott and Nike's Sustainable Business and Innovation Lab.
Upon visiting GreenXchange, you will notice that it is still a work in progress. But a noble one, indeed. The site states that "transformational change happens when individuals are willing to share ideas, work together, and seek solutions that create more efficient, more profitable and more meaningful business opportunities and models." Visitors can look up abstracts and licenses under various sustainability topics. They can connect to a discussion on a 2degrees network to continue the conversation or go onto the nGenera platform to collaborate.
The brands that participate in this initiative are clearly showing their commitment to innovation and green product development. But they are not just doing this for earning public approval. They are also enhancing their business. Smarter solutions can mean efficient production, shortened time to market, higher consumer demand. It can also mean cross-branding (remember Cole Haan's Nike Air heels?) and broadening target consumer groups.
This is a smart initiative whichever way you look at it. And it stands as a great example of how companies can use social networks in the b-to-b space.