While the world is changing at a rapid pace, partnerships are here to stay. According to a recent survey of companies who are members of the UN’s Global Compact, 78% of companies that are taking action to advance sustainability goals are doing so through partnerships – more so than any other method.[i]
Similarly, multi-sector partnerships and citizen-led grass roots organizations are believed to be best poised to lead efforts to address sustainable development challenges.[ii]
While the continued need for partnerships is clear, many companies have significantly increased their internal capabilities related to sustainability over the past ten to fifteen years. Thus, the types and structure of partnerships needed are evolving.
Given this, it is not surprising that companies are evaluating their partnerships and seeking to identify how they can maximize business value and societal impact through partnerships.
For organizations seeking to optimize partnership strategy, here are some considerations:
A Defined Strategy and Goals is the Key to Identifying the Right Partners
Often what is underlying questions about partnerships is the need for a more clearly defined sustainability strategy and goals. Once goals and strategy are defined and are integrated into the business, identifying the right partners becomes a much simpler evaluation. The company or employee will be in a better position to define which partnerships are valuable to the business and provide meaningful benefit to society, or shared value.[iii]
Both Large and Small NGOs Drive Change and Can Be Important Partners
It is estimated that over one billion organizations are working on issues related to ecological sustainability and social justice.[iv] The size, scope and organic nature of this movement is unlike any the world has ever seen. [v] It is an eco-system of organizations that are driving change rather than two to three large organizations or thought leaders. There are significant partnerships and exchange of ideas amongst small and large organizations. Small NGOs and grass-roots organizations play an important role in innovation and advocacy. Given this, smaller NGO’s and grass roots organizations may be important partners for a company for specific issues or regions.
Partnerships as a Source of Competitive Advantage
Partnerships facilitate issue identification, research, entering new markets, new product development, and greater understanding of the needs of customers and communities.
The rapid pace of change and the organic nature and size of the environmental and social justice movement means that strategic partnerships only will grow in importance.
Given their value, a company’s ability to successfully execute and internalize the benefits of partnerships is a source of considerable competitive advantage.
Resource Strategies can guide your organization in defining its sustainability strategy and goals, identifying business areas where partners are needed, and in developing partnering strategies to help your business realize this competitive advantage.
[i] United Nations Global Compact. 2013. Global Corporate Sustainability Report 2013. http://www.unglobalcompact.org/docs/about_the_gc/Global_Corporate_Sustainability_Report2013.pdf
[ii] Multi-sector partners and citizen-led grass roots organizations are best poised to affect change with respect to sustainable development, according to a Sustainability and Globe Scan’s 2012 analysis of its survey of 1,6oo sustainability experts from around world. The survey is based on ratings of the sector performance on sustainable development since 1992 and leadership potential. Sustainability and Globe Scan. June 15, 2012. Global Expert Perspectives on the State of Sustainable Development. A Report of the Regeneration Roadmap Project. http://theregenerationroadmap.com/reports.html#/global-expert-opinion-report.html
[iii] Porter, M, and Kramer, M. Strategy and Society: The Link Between Competitive Advantage and Corporate Social Responsibility. Dec. 2006. Harvard Business Review Magazine. http://hbr.org/2006/12/strategy-and-society-the-link-between-competitive-advantage-and-corporate-social-responsibility
[iv] Hawken, Paul. Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw it Coming. New York: Penguin Publishing Group, 2007. Print.
[v] Hawken, Paul. Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw it Coming. New York: Penguin Publishing Group, 2007. Print.