As a totally self-financing, multi-tiered membership organisation, the Institute provides practical guidance from extensive experience gained from working across relationships within the commercial, government and academic arenas. The Institute was established in 1990 by the then Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). The Institute's role is to establish collaborative working as a professional business discipline and help organisations, large and small, in both the public and private sectors, to build and develop effective competitive business relationships based on collaborative working good practice.

The Institute is focused on knowledge transfer through a broad range of training and development offerings supported by academic research and a portfolio of thought leadership reports. The Institute was the thought leader and driving force behind the development of BS 11000 Collaborative Business Relationship Framework, the world's first standard in relationship management, published by the British Standards Institution in 2010, and its evolution in 2017 to ISO 44001, the International Standard for collaborative business relationship management.