Ethical Performance
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Hunt for value in recession drives NGO partnerships

December 2012

The recession has boosted partnership deals between corporates and NGOs, reports the annual survey from C&E, the UK consultancy specialising in business-society links.

The links were highly valued by 77% of business respondents in C&E’s Corporate-NGO Partnerships Barometer 2012. Of these, a third rated the partnerships as ‘very important’ to their core agenda, 19% more than last year, and 40% rated them as ‘important’, representing a 10% increase.

Most of the companies said they formed partnerships because the link-ups enhanced brand reputation and credibility, while nearly all the NGOs gave opportunity to access and generate resources, including funding, as their reason.

However, more NGOs appear to be seeing the arrangements as important to their mission-delivery agenda, not just money-raising. For example, the number that partnered to find new ways of tackling old issues rose by 15%, and those seeking greater efficiency increased by 12%.

Nearly all the corporates found the partnerships improved their understanding of social and environmental issues, and more than half say they were helped to change their business practices. Fewer NGOs reported the same experience, though the researchers thought the two sectors might have applied different criteria.

The report said both sectors, but particularly the NGOs, placed a new emphasis on the partnerships as an efficient way to ‘drive value’ in a tough business climate. It recorded a 14% increase in marketing-led partnerships, concentrating on objectives that were cause-related.

The top place in C&E’s ‘most admired’ league was taken by the partnership between Marks & Spencer and Oxfam. M&S also gained the title of ‘most admired partnering company 2011’ and Oxfam took the equivalent NGO title.  

The second place in the league was shared. One partnership was between Procter & Gamble and Unicef, under which the company donates the cost of one vaccine for every Pampers pack sold. In the other second-placed partnership, the Boots group works with the Macmillan Cancer Support charity.

The researchers predict that, on the evidence, 82% of businesses and 85% of NGOs expect partnerships to become more important to them during the next three years and that this growth will be promoted by pressure on companies to be socially responsible and by both parties’ reliance on each other.

Only 2% of respondents in the two sectors suggested their investment in partnerships will decrease in the 2012-15 period.

The NGOs in the 2012 survey included Amnesty International UK, the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK and Friends of the Earth. The corporate participants, mainly FTSE 100 companies, included Allianz Insurance, HSBC, Nestlé and Warner Bros.

C&E | UK & NI Ireland | Partnerships

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