Over the past year I’ve been talking to a number of companies about how they can achieve maximum positive impact around their social or environmental purpose programmes, whilst gaining better traction both internally with their own staff, as well as with external stakeholders and commentators. A key question which often arises early on in the discussion is whether or not a company should partner with a third-party expert, NGO or charity in order to bolster both credibility as well as increase awareness and reach of their purpose-led activity. And if so, how do they ensure they partner with the right kind of cause related organisation – one that is aligned, competent at delivery and determined to achieve mutually beneficial common goals?
Partnering with independent campaigns or charities in this context may seem like a no-brainer for a busy corporate, whose primary goal is profit-driven delivery of a product or service, rather than affecting social or environmental change. Indeed, as the Harvard Business Review argued earlier this year, private, public and non-profit collaboration is absolutely crucial if we are going to achieve the kind of social change agenda that the world has signed up to with initiatives such as the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
However, for every material issue that a business has identified as key to its purpose, there are probably two score or more cause-related organisations that all claim they are making the biggest impact in that particular area. How do you cut through the noise to identify the right organisations to work that both align with your business culture and will resonate with your employees and customers?
Perhaps you are better off creating a fresh initiative of your own, one you can completely tailor to your specific sustainability goals and aspirations from the outset, and invite partners into that platform? If you choose that approach, how do you avoid being sucked into a vortex of effectively becoming a charity yourself and risk defocusing from your core business goals? Or you may opt to go down the Foundation route, in which case, how do you ensure you maintain sufficient independence and have the correct governance around this?
And finally, there is the issue of mindshare. In today’s more ethically-aware world where brands are crowding in to try and take the moral high-ground around social and environmental issues, if you align with a particular cause – let’s say one of today’s most popular such as ocean plastic pollution for example – how do you make sure there is clear blue water for your brand to stand out from the crowd and make a real, lasting, tangible difference? How do you avoid just becoming one of a long list of corporate supporters on a particular initiative’s website?
Fit for Purpose has spent the last 15 years building relationships, knowledge and partnerships with cause-related organisations, charities, think tanks, policy specialists and campaigning organisations. We have created a comprehensive network of UK and International organisations, the campaigns they run, and we track the live issues they are working to have an impact on. Combined with our expertise in materiality auditing, target setting and purpose identification, we can help you to identify the right approach, find the perfect partners to work with, and ensure you amplify your own activities to achieve the maximum impact with your purpose-led programmes.
So if you are looking to collaborate in order to progress a social, economic or environmental goal that you’ve identified as being important to your business and your stakeholders, and you need help identifying who to partner with, please do get in touch: