Developing strategic CSR partnerships

Developing strategic CSR partnerships

“The real realisation is there is a limit to what a single company can do. We are going to see more and more partnerships forming between companies, industries and government, which will really be driving the big changes.” Len Sauers, Global Head of Sustainability, Proctor and Gamble.

We all know that some of the issues we’re facing as a global community are so challenging that they can’t be solved alone. Global poverty, water and food scarcity, inequality. These are all big issues that need NGO’s, Governments, business and civil societies to come together to partner for real solutions. The Sustainable Development agenda has a dedicated goal articulating the need for partnerships.

But how do we come together to maximise our strengths? How do we make a partnership strategic? I often see organisations with good intentions simply find the charity they think staff will like and throw a bit of money at it. But is that really going to maximise the impact that you are ultimately trying to have?

There are three key questions I like to ask.

  • The first is “What business, societal or environmental problem are you trying to solve?” Is it a short term or long term problem? This will ensure you focus on the right issue and give you a sense of the investment of time required.
  • The second question is “What type of partnership are you looking for?”. This could be between a business and NGO, Business and the community, Business and government or a combination of NGO, Government and business. You also need to consider if you want a philanthropic relationship, a policy dialogue, changes in your supply chain.
  • The final questions is “What characteristics are you looking for in a partnership?”. These could be cultural fit, partner experience, cooperative, credibility and reputation and more. Consider the power dynamics and what each partner brings to the relationship. Each partner may bring experience but, for example, an NGO will have subject matter knowledge and experience, where business may have a different range of skills to enhance the program.

The key is collaboration. You need to negotiate and build consensus, using shared rules and norms; you need to set simple and credible goals but be flexible in defining success; accept trade-offs to produce joint gains and assume joint risks and responsibility for outcomes.

If you need help to develop your CSR approach or to facilitate strategic partnership discussions with NGOs, please contact us.

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