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Responsibility agenda driving consortia-based alliances

October 2015

Consortia-based partnerships between companies and NGOs are set to become more common, as organisations look for greater impact and reach, according to a report by C&E Advisory.

What’s stood out for Manny Amadi, ceo of C&E, the company behind the annual Barometer report – now in its sixth year - is how relationships between corporates and NGOs are impacting in more substantive ways. For example, collaborative partnerships are helping NGOs achieve their missions. “It’s gone beyond simple advocacy,” Amadi tells Ethical Performance.

A good example is the Boots and Macmillan partnership where prior to the partnership Macmillan was only reaching 1:3 of UK cancer sufferers. To get that much closer to 3:3, Macmillan is now on the British high street through Boots with 2,000 Boots pharmacists trained in cancer care.

NGOs are beginning to understand the true potential of partnerships and their impact, says Amadi: “They are beginning to wake up to what other assets a business can offer.”

The report reveals notable growth in the number of organisations whose partnerships portfolios fall within the £5m-£10m range (10% year on year). Corporates and NGOs continue to better understand the potential to deliver objectives in non-financial ways. Sixty percent of NGO respondents now realise the impact that partnerships can have by harnessing corporates’ competencies (up 12% on the 2014 figure). Seventy-one percent of business respondents are aware of ways in which their businesses may be more effective than through financial support alone.

Amadi believes that the message is getting through as a result of economic necessity where resources are tighter and NGOs are looking to use their resources more effectively. “Another driver is the fact that there are some pretty visible success stories out there (such as Oxfam and M&S),” he says.

Another major theme of this year’s results, emphasizes Amadi, is that more businesses – two thirds in fact – are valuing the partnerships for the NGO’s influence in helping to change its general business practices. They are seeing the material value of the relationship in helping the business’ sustainability goals. “The Oxfam/M&S relationship is another good example of this, in that not only has it helped M&S recycle over 20m garments (through its Schwopping initiative) - so you could see this as part of its waste management strategy - but it has also learned a lot on supply chain management from Oxfam through its work in emerging markets,” Amadi explains.

The third striking element of the Barometer 2015 is the growth in consortia-based partnerships such as This concerns multi-lateral relationships such as the Tesco, British Heart and Diabetes UK partnership. Amadi says they are growing because they have greater scale and greater reach. However, they present inherent challenges such as their complexity and they can be slow to build momentum.

“As the responsible business agenda matures, what’s clear is what makes collaborations work is that the company and the NGO are both focused and strategic,” says Amadi.

Almost two-thirds of all respondents are currently involved in multi-organisational corporate–NGO agreements, and the majority of respondents (77%) see consortia-based partnerships increasing in importance over the next three years.

When asked what factors were most likely to make consortia-based partnerships more important, more than 86% of all corporate respondents and 80% of NGOs point to ‘the greater combined scale and reach all partners can bring to address a common issue’.
Other highly rated factors included value and impact (cited by 78% of corporate and 57% of NGO respondents) along with specialist know-how and networks (stated by 69% of corporate and 61% of NGO respondents).

As part of the Barometer research, corporate and NGO practitioners were invited to vote for the partnerships and partners they most admire. Notably, a consortium-based partnership appeared in the top 3 for the first time: a new entrant on the corporate–NGO partnership scene, the Tesco/ Diabetes UK/ British Heart Foundation consortium.

This multi-lateral collaboration was launched in early 2015 and sees Tesco, Diabetes UK and the British Heart Foundation working together to help prevent Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Jenna Hall, Programme Director at Tesco National Charity Partnership commented: “We are delighted to hear that the National Charity Partnership has been recognised as one of the top three most admired partnerships in the industry, especially as we only launched at the beginning of 2015. The partnership will see all three partners working together to deliver targeted prevention projects across the UK to help prevent Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and aims to raise an ambitious £30 million.

“Diabetes UK and the British Heart Foundation are the leading charities for people with diabetes and cardiovascular disease, so by using our expertise and the reach and scale of Tesco, this collaboration gives us a unique chance to reach out to our target audiences through their touch points to highlight the importance of leading a healthy and active lifestyle.

“It’s great to see that so many well respected organisations have highlighted that our groundbreaking consortium model of working together to inspire change is a model they believe will be the future for corporate partnerships.”

The C&E Corporate–NGO Partnerships Barometer is available for download here.

Europe | Collaboration

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