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Solving some of the world’s most pressing problems will require new approaches to partnership.

By James Bernard – Director, Corporate Sustainability

 

Mother Teresa famously said: “I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.” A great parable for the power of partnerships.

Over the last several years, business leaders have increasingly realized that shared value—where business growth and social/environmental outcomes are intertwined—can be achieved. Customers today expect that companies are practicing sustainable sourcing, not using forced labor, and maintaining facilities with smaller carbon footprints. Using social media and other means, investors and activists are pressuring companies to address these social and environmental risks.

Many companies such as Microsoft, PepsiCo, and Cargill are strengthening their businesses by making sustainability a key part of their operations. Some companies, like Annie’s Organic, Whole Foods, and Starbucks have even made social impact a fundamental part of their corporate strategy and product development. Patagonia has gone so far as to make saving the planet the core mission of their business.

Companies that are buying goods from or moving into emerging markets often encounter new kinds of partners, including international development organizations such as international donors (such as The United States Agency for International Development, or USAID), development banks (such as World Bank), multi-lateral organizations (such as the UN), and impact investors (such as Village Capital). Billions of dollars of funding each year helps governments, non-governmental organizations, community-based organizations, and others implement programs on the ground that are designed to address poverty and environmental issues. Aid organizations increasingly recognize the important role that the private sector can play in to achieving positive social, environmental, and economic outcomes.

“I believe the purpose for foreign assistance is ending the need for its existence. What we have to do is work with countries that are willing and ready to take on tough challenges.”

– USAID Administrator Mark Green

USAID, which has a long history of working with the private sector, is now deepening its approach to partnerships through the Agency’s Private Sector Engagement (PSE) policy. Under Administrator Mark Green’s leadership, the agency is undertaking a major transformation to improve humanitarian and development outcomes through stronger collaboration with businesses at the local, regional, and global level.

“I believe the purpose for foreign assistance is ending the need for its existence. What we have to do is work with countries that are willing and ready to take on tough challenges,” said Administrator Green in a recent press release. “Self-reliance means that private, enterprise-driven, vibrant economic future. The best way to get there is to tap into private enterprise to create those opportunities.”

Many companies have been asking Resonance how to partner with USAID given the launch of the new policy. Some want to buy more goods from farmers in emerging markets, while others want to understand how to leverage the assets that they can bring to the table—networks of suppliers and distributors, purchasing power, technical expertise, and scale—into new market opportunities. Resonance works closely with multinational companies and USAID to implement public-private partnerships that address these and many other key sustainability issues. With more than 15 years of experience working at this intersection, we bring a unique perspective on how these organizations can work together. Here are a few tips:

1. Identify your account manager

USAID is improving the way it manages relationships by assigning account managers who are responsible for developing long-term partnership strategies with multinational companies and identifying opportunities for the agency to provide support on social and environmental goals.

How we can help: Resonance can identify the right person at USAID, helping streamline the amount of time it takes to find the right person.

2. Determine where your interests overlap with USAID

USAID is actively seeking corporate partners who can co-create projects where interests are aligned. These projects can take many different forms, but allow for flexibility in design, identifying your role as a partner, and specifying on-the-ground implementation. One example is a partnership that Resonance developed with Microsoft to bring last-mile access to fishing communities in the Philippines. The project provided fishing communities up-to-date information on weather, tides, regulations, and market prices, and Microsoft a new market opportunity.

How we can help: Because Resonance works closely with USAID offices in the U.S. and abroad, we can help you determine where the agency may have overlapping interests with your key markets. We can then work with you to build a concept note highlighting key project ideas, corporate assets that you can bring to the table, and expected outcomes. Additionally, we can work with all parties to structure a partnership, build implementation plans, and develop impact measurement strategies. We can also help you manage communications and awareness among internal headquarters and field teams.

3. Partner with other companies to develop joint solutions

When it comes to driving social and environmental impact—especially in emerging markets—many companies are already collaborating with competitors or peer companies that are facing the same challenges. For instance, the Circulate Capital initiative has received over $100 million in commitments to prevent ocean plastic, from leading consumer packaged goods companies including The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo, Danone, and Unilever. By engaging other companies to develop a joint project proposal, you can proactively approach USAID with a powerful project idea that can drive impact, leverage resources, and mitigate growth or sourcing roadblocks.

How we can help: Resonance can develop multi-stakeholder partnerships between peer or competitor companies that can be become part of a joint program with USAID or other donors. Our deep experience in partnerships enables us to develop ideas, build a plan, and establish funding.

4. Invest in long-term solutions

Solutions to issues like hunger, poverty, access to water, or deforestation are inherently complex and require a long-term approach to move the needle. International development organizations are willing to make long-term investments to address these issues, and can provide deep perspectives on the dynamics of emerging markets, leverage long-term relationships with governments and communities, and provide credibility.

How we can help: Resonance can help navigate and manage the complexities of this process by using our experience to build a fundable approach, manage the procurement process, and ensure that you can achieve the results you want.

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Many of Resonance’s 75+ staff have lived and worked in emerging markets, and we’re passionate about helping organizations navigate the complexity required to solve some of the most difficult challenges in the world. As a consulting firm with more than 15 years of experience working on more than 300 partnerships in 60+ emerging markets, we’ve learned that the most sustainable results are achieved when organizations work together.

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