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Business Partnerships with Non-Profits for Environmental and Social Impact

The Business Guide to Partnering with NGOs and the UN survey results for environmental and social impact

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Partnerships between companies and "social actors" to address humanitarian and development challenges are on the rise. This approach can be one the most promising ways to attack complex problems that call upon the skill, knowledge, and experience of a wide range of stakeholders in order to be successful and sustainable.

"The Business Guide to Partnering with NGOs and the UN", is an innovative product created in partnership between Dalberg, the UN Global Compact, and the Financial Times, that aims to facilitate partnerships between companies and NGOs/UN agencies. This report provides information to assist in the partner selection process and aims to systematically identify the leading non-profit social actors from around the world that have demonstrated skill and excellence in partnering with companies. In essence, the Guide provides a market-based assessment of the competencies of partners from the NGO and UN communities.

Executive Summary: Click here to read the executive summary

The key motives for private-sector engagement in public-benefit partnerships are multiple, including:

  • An acknowledgement that the private sector often has the resources and expertise that are critical in resolving complex challenges;
  • A growing expectation from investors, customers, employees, and other stakeholders that business plays an important role as a corporate citizen in addressing critical societal issues;
  • Companies’ increasing recognition that they have a social responsibility that goes beyond producing services and goods and securing jobs—a responsibility that stems from the realization of the interdependence among their operations and the health, climate, and humanitarian challenges of the markets in which they operate;
  • The insight among companies that making money and doing good are not mutually exclusive; and
  • The notion that social responsibility not only carries business benefits but helps manage risks and foster strong relationships in societies where companies source or sell, and that it provides them with access to knowledge and opportunities they might otherwise not have.

An overwhelming majority of respondents cited successful implementation of effective and relevant CSR programs as the main reason for partnering with NGOs and UN organizations. This reason was closely followed by the desire to build trust with shareholders. Companies were least likely to partner to gain insight from the know-how of social actor partners or to advance core business objectives.

More precisely, 73% of all respondents concluded that corporate partnerships would be important or extremely important for their own company over the next 3 years, and about 61% of respondents indicated that corporate partnership would be "important" or "extremely important" for the market as a whole.

Companies with prior partnership experience were more bullish about the future importance of partnerships, reflecting positively on their experience partnering with social actors.

Core business and advocacy partnerships are perceived to have higher impact than those focused on philanthropy. 26% of partnerships were purely Philanthropic in nature, 21% related only to a company’s Core Business, and 15% focused on Advocacy and Awareness.

Both at the local and global levels, companies are most likely to engage in partnerships on education and environmental protection. Locally, companies were most likely to engage in partnerships in the education sector (39%), and globally, in the area of environmental protection (33%). These are also the two most common areas for partnerships envisioned in the long term. The emphasis on environmental protection is reinforced by the fact that almost a quarter of the 34 leading global NGOs focus on the environment. As one respondent reflected, “I think people are realizing the need for global solutions for global problems rather than national or enterprise solutions.”

Microfinance, rated as one of the most successful areas of partnership, is one of the least pursued areas. The three most pursued areas of partnership were in the spheres of Education, Environmental Protection and Communications. Microfinance represented only 5% of partnerships, but received the highest scores compared to any other area. Microfinance also had one of the highest overall impact scores. Temporary shelter, power generation, and transportation were the lowest scoring partnership areas.

More information

Download the Executive Summary: Click here to read the executive summary
For more information, please contact:
Sonila Cook: +1(212)338-4102,
Shervin Setareh: +1(212)338-4114:

If you would like to purchase a copy of the guide, please contact

Edited by Carolyn Allen
| corporate social responsibility | nonprofits | leadership | environmental |


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