What matters

There are untapped opportunities for businesses to engage with charities and social enterprises where both parties secure value and which can go beyond improving reputation and credibility, to enhance and enrich the customer experience. In the near future the use of AI will help in exploring those opportunities.

What matters next

There may be a will for businesses to engage but sometimes they just need a way, and listening to how others have collaborated and having the opportunity to begin conversations with likeminded people may be a start.

Despite the risk of ‘greenwashing’ and some calls for business to row back from ‘non-essential’ commitments to focus on the bottom line of shareholder return, surely on a small planet of limited and dwindling resources which is getting ever hotter, a focus on ESG remains the general direction of travel, and Planet and People continue to count, not just Profit.

Collaborative, problem-solving partnerships are required to address core mission-relevant or purpose-led issues in ways that create value for society.

That is the view of almost 50% of the charities and businesses surveyed in the latest C&E Advisory Corporate-NGO Partnerships Barometer for 2023.

While enhancing reputation and credibility is still the highest-ranked reason for corporates engaging in partnership with non-profits, and access to funds the overriding motivation for non-profits in seeking partnerships with business, considerations and aspirations to achieve impact, innovation and long-term stability are increasingly important for both sectors.

This is because a business’s stakeholders – its customers, existing and future workforces - are telling it to lead the way in making a difference, and because positive impact (to achieve its objects) is in the DNA of any charity, an increasing number of which (again nearly half surveyed) have an increasingly holistic approach to their ESG practices than previously.

There are already imaginative, multi-lateral partnerships in place – in particular those of well-known high-street retailers combining with health charities to deliver health insights and interventions and in the process raising millions of pounds for the charities, all with the vision of improving the nation’s health.

But who knows how AI may be used in years to come to tap into the potential for collaboration in ways which haven’t yet been considered? According to the 2023 Barometer the most important area AI is expected to play a role in cross-sector partnerships over the next three years is in research, with 72% of respondents anticipating that AI will play an important or very important role.

Many businesses just want to know where to start, to begin conversations to see how charities or social enterprises can help them to achieve their ESG goals, rather than be only the passive, grateful recipients of their generosity.

One place is Shoosmiths’ London office on the late afternoon of Wednesday 11 October where we will be gathering businesses and charities in a large room to hear how 4 charity leaders are engaging with business for mutual benefit, what Pro Bono Economics has learnt from its extensive work on the Law Family Commission and how the better collection of data will underpin these relationships – as well as to provide an informal forum for conversations to begin.