Ethical Performance
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Partnering with NGOs boosts corporate reputation, finds C&E report

October 2013

Businesses see the enhancing of brand, reputation and credibility as the most important reason for partnering with NGOs, reports the 2013 Corporate-NGO Partnerships Barometer. This benefit topped the list for 91% of corporate respondents.

It was followed by innovations in tackling old issues and complicated challenges, top-rated by 67% of corporates, up by 20 percentage points since last year’s survey.

The report is produced annually by C&E Advisory, a London-based business and society consultancy, whose clients include the steel group ArcelorMittal, Barclays Bank, the media company Sky, Greenpeace and Unicef.
All the NGO respondents said the opportunities to access and generate resources, including funds, were their main reason for forming partnerships.

The second most common incentive, given by 83% of NGO respondents, was access to people offering technical expertise, skills, labour and networks. Two-thirds listed reputation and credibility and 52% the new approaches by business to old problems.

Four in 10 in both sets of respondents said they invested or secured more than £5m ($7.9m, €5.9m) in partnering every year.

Altogether, 23% of NGOs estimated they gained £5m in financial and non-financial value, but 56% of companies said they invested more than £5m in partnerships and 37% calculated their investment at more than £10m.
A new aspect of the year’s survey was the strategic importance of partnerships – this consists of relationships specific to core business.

Manny Amadi, C&E Advisory’s chief executive, explained: “We examined the extent to which companies and NGOs measure, evaluate and communicate the impact of their strategic partnerships. The results of this self-analysis are revealing and raise issues for both sectors.”

The findings showed more businesses now regard their partnerships as strategic.

C&E says: “This implies that the corporate sector is significantly ahead of NGOs in undertaking the more efficient strategic partnerships that are commonly held to yield greater value for stakeholders.

“NGOs may need to think more carefully about their partnership portfolio design and management, as well as the efficiencies in resource use that can derive from having a more strategic approach.”

Both sectors emphasised the partnerships enhanced their understanding of social and environmental issues, and the corporates said they improved business practices.

Yet NGOs, said the report, still appeared to undervalue the help partnerships gave in this area. The researchers thought this could be due to the NGOs’ “scepticism or lack of confidence”.

C&E adds, however: “It may also result from the fact that corporates are closer to the evidence of changes enabled by partnerships with NGOs but are not being effective in communicating these impacts to the latter.”
About a third of executives interviewed believed company skills and non-cash resources would help NGOs more effectively than money.

By contrast, 81% of NGOs measured the value of partnerships by corporates’ “contribution to the bottom line” through, for example, income generation, cost reductions and efficiency gains. Brand and reputation enhancement followed close behind.

The performance self-assessments paint “a revealing picture”, says the report. Only 39% of the NGOs considered they communicated the partnership benefits well externally, and just 33% thought they did it well internally.

Companies were similarly self-critical – 27% believed they were good at communicating with customers and 48% rated themselves average at internal communication, leaving “much room for improvement”.

The Marks and Spencer collaboration with Oxfam was again the most admired partnership, the Boots link-up with the Macmillan cancer support charity was the second, and the GSK-Save the Children partnership jumped into third place.

C&E reported that 84% of businesses and 96% of NGOs expect the partnerships to become more important to them during the next three years and optimistically predicted that the investment of time, commitment and resources in partnering will grow.

The survey involved 120 participants, including AstraZeneca, British Airways, Crédit Suisse, Nestlé, Vodafone, Cancer Research UK, the National Trust, Oxfam and Save the Children.

UK & NI Ireland | Collaboration

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