Cor­po­rate Social Respon­si­bil­i­ty: 5 tips for com­pa­nies & NGOs

What are the real ben­e­fits of coop­er­a­tions between envi­ron­men­tal­ists and cor­po­ra­tions? What actu­al­ly char­ac­ter­izes a suc­cess­ful, authen­tic Cor­po­rate Cit­i­zen­ship in a part­ner­ship? We give 5 tips from our expe­ri­ence in the field.

First of all, there is no blue­print for ide­al coop­er­a­tions and part­ner­ships between com­pa­nies and NGOs. Nev­er­the­less, there are fac­tors that con­tribute sig­nif­i­cant­ly to the suc­cess of the cooperation.

Def­i­n­i­tion of CSR and CC

Cor­po­rate Social Respon­si­bil­i­ty”, also referred to as CSR, is the respon­si­bil­i­ty of com­pa­nies for their impact on soci­ety. While most areas of CSR con­cern the core busi­ness, the term Cor­po­rate Cit­i­zen­ship”, referred to as CC, is about the social com­mit­ment of com­pa­nies beyond their core busi­ness. How­ev­er, not every com­pa­ny that engages in Cor­po­rate Cit­i­zen­ship is a good” cor­po­rate cit­i­zen. Green­wash­ing is the term when griev­ances in the core busi­ness are cov­ered up by CC activities.

1. The choice of the strate­gic part­ner is crucial

Care­ful­ly weigh up the risks and oppor­tu­ni­ties asso­ci­at­ed with a part­ner­ship. Are SDGs (Social Devel­op­ment Goals) and CSR buzz­words used by the com­pa­ny only in its com­mu­ni­ca­tion, or are the efforts to achieve a pos­i­tive social/​ecological foot­print also vis­i­ble in the cor­po­rate strat­e­gy and the core business?

How is the non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tion posi­tioned? Does it have a clear vision and strat­e­gy? Can it demon­strate the impacts of its work to date in a con­vinc­ing way? It also helps to include the per­spec­tives of third par­ties, e.g. for­mer coop­er­a­tion partners.

2. The com­pa­ny and NGOs are tug­ging at the same rope

Empha­size open com­mu­ni­ca­tion and devel­op a com­mon under­stand­ing of where the jour­ney is head­ed: What will the world look like if the coop­er­a­tion was suc­cess­ful? What are the spe­cif­ic results for the respec­tive part­ners? Only if both part­ners fol­low a com­mon under­stand­ing, the coop­er­a­tion can be successful. 

3. Cor­po­rate Cit­i­zen­ship needs mea­sur­able objectives

Always set your­self spe­cif­ic tar­gets and suc­cess indi­ca­tors: How can you tell that the coop­er­a­tion is (still) suc­cess­ful? Who needs to be involved in order to be able to make a state­ment about it? Reg­u­lar meet­ings to exchange ideas and infor­ma­tion help to stay on the right track.

4 Cor­po­rate Cit­i­zen­ship coop­er­a­tions at eye level

Meet your part­ner at eye lev­el. Clar­i­fy the divi­sion of roles and deci­sion-mak­ing process­es at the begin­ning. Rec­og­nize the dif­fer­ent cul­tures, com­pe­ten­cies and needs and learn from each oth­er. A part­ner­ship can only be suc­cess­ful if both sides ben­e­fit from it.

5. Sus­tain­abil­i­ty requires perseverance

Think and act for the long run. The longer you work with a part­ner, the more impact you will achieve. Look for part­ners who also focus on a long-term commitment.

Gen­uine part­ner­ships require an open mind towards the oth­er part­ners per­spec­tives and an under­stand­ing of their point of view. This may slow down the process, but leads to more con­sis­tent solu­tions. Or as an African say­ing goes: If you want to go fast, walk alone; if you want to go far, walk together.

In this video, Andreas Rick­ert, CEO of PHI­NEO, explains the advan­tages of social engage­ment for com­pa­nies and soci­ety and how coop­er­a­tions between com­pa­nies and NGOs can succeed.

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Juliane Hagedorn

Head of Consulting
+49 30 520 065 315
juliane.hagedorn@phineo.org