Tag Archives: sustainability

Building Private Sector Partnerships in 2017: Five things to know

change ahead

The U.S. has always provided significant leadership for how the world works together to transform issues of disease, poverty, disaster and pursue balanced economic progress.   On both sides of the political divide, Presidents have left their mark. From President Bush’s legacy of PEPFAR to Obama’s White House Office of Social Innovation, the U.S. has acted as a role model and provided much needed guidance on working together to progress a healthier socioeconomic environment for all to prosper in.

This has changed with the new administration and if you’re in charge of seeking funds from the private sector to fuel your international non-profit’s growth, there are five things you need to know that will impact your strategy and revenue projections over the coming years.

The U.S. global agenda is changing, nationalism is settling in.

The new U.S. Administration has very explicitly put forward a message of America First in both rhetoric and in activation of new policies that very clearly indicate we will no longer work WITH other nations on issues

The private sector understands that global business necessitates a more cooperative view but with the U.S. administration engaging in unpredictable and retaliatory behavior, only the very bravest of the private sector will choose to instigate new partnerships under these circumstances.

Assess first and then openly discuss with prospects where their needs and comfort level is in building public private partnerships at this time. Structure your proposals to follow their lead in building an investment strategy that works with their goals and concerns.

Issues around human rights on just about every level are now taking center stage as conservative politics dismantles social services and set up an environment of fear.

Look to conversation and programming inroads that address gender or racial inclusivity, access to healthcare, immigration or the refugee crisis. These issues cross international boundaries and will likely hold new opportunities for your organization to build into current programming.

Conversations will simply take longer.

The Fortune 500 are savvy and have been the first to create sophisticated CSR strategies, many using the concepts in Michael Porter’s Shared Value and over fifty  are following the lead set forth by the UN’s 2016 Sustainable Development Goals. However big investments are press worthy and companies invest at least in part for the publicity.

As companies think about what kind of reputation and favor they want to curry with both their customers and politicians (in charge of regulation), they will likely proceed with caution. Factor this into your cycle of development.

There will be breakout stars.

There are companies run by very smart and very outspoken individuals who may see this new shift in attitude as an opportunity to take a stand. Some, like Howard Schultz of Starbucks, have already shifted their own work policies impacting their funding efforts and others like Lyft, have contributed in the millions in direct response to the administration’s new policies.

Re-strategizing about the your organization’s message and POV in the face of such significant social change could create new conversation starters and funding opportunities.

Multi-nationals with multi-continent customer bases will continue giving at least at the same levels, outside of the U.S.

Some private sector companies choose to diversify their portfolio of giving and have significant funds set aside in other countries. It’s too soon to tell if this will shift giving on a macro-scale but it does suggest that in-country programs may experience opportunistic boosts in funding as overarching philanthropic strategy is re-evaluated.

This seismic shift was not foreseen nor is it necessarily welcome, but ignoring it will have long term financial consequences for those involved in international development.

are sustainability marketers stuck?

stop lightDay 2 of the Sustainable Brands conference down in Monterey and there is relatively little new news.  Well, at least no new revelational news.   I don’t know if this is a bad thing or just the status of an industry going through natural growing pains, but I am disappointed by the lack of provocative discussions (perhaps its the format?).  We are still trying to figure out how to simplify the consumer message of what is inherently an incredibly complex thing and still acting as if transparency and accountability were new concepts (Enron  anyone?).

Perhaps what I’m reacting to is our inability to recognize that we are stuck and that we need to flip our perspectives, re-frame the questions and acknowledge that what we haven’t figured out is a serious barrier to adoption.  Aren’t we supposed to be ingenious, inspired innovators down at this conference?   Admittedly,  we come to this conference for the comfort and inspiration that comes from working with others of like-mindedness.  But perhaps we are guilty of being lazy, expecting each other to do the heavy brain work instead of basquing in our vacuum of do-gooder intent.  But thus far we haven’t admitted to ourselves that we’re stuck and there has been no frank “panel discussions” that confront us on this issue.

It is not all terribly mediocre.  There have been a few interesting conversations and themes in the conference which does mean that some progress is getting made.    There were a few, just a few, who touched on the field of legal and financial mechanisms as a means of regulatory approaches to governing market-based solutions – thank you Jay Coen Gilbert of B Lab and Hazel Henderson, author of Ethical Markets. And the theme of low impact via local consumption (CSA’s) and local investment (Slow Money) came up as more evolved mechanisms for engagement.

I guess the good news is that despite the fact that 52% of all “green” special issue magazines sell less than their standard counterparts, there are no indicators, as presented by Chris Coulter of Globescan,  that  we are reverting back to pre-sustainability mindsets.  In fact, perhaps despite our marketing attempts, there is very strong evidence that sustainable operating practices are in fact driving brand equity which means the market is responding, if only subtly.

But the blush of romance feels like its dwindling and perhaps this emerging trend is hitting its difficult teen years.  Like the .com era did.   Which is not bad news it just means that we’re in the throes of the reality of hard work which never feels very sexy or warm.