Partnerships between corporate and charity organisations are becoming more important and strategic in nature as companies come under further pressure to demonstrate sustainable and ethical business practices, according to the second annual C&E Corporate NGO Partnerships Barometer.

The report found that the majority of businesses (88%) and NGOs (93%) believe that partnerships are becoming more important to their organisations and more than three quarters (78%) plan to increase their investment in the area in the next three years.

The number of organisations looking to engage in more strategic partnerships has increased by 14% from 2010, with 57% of corporate respondents describing their partnerships as strategic as both sectors look to leverage each other’s skills and assets.

Despite the increasing importance of cross-sector partnerships, corporate businesses and NGO’s have raised doubts over the ability of the Government’s Big Society to influence the corporate responsibility agenda.

Almost half (44%) say the Big Society is “unlikely to have any influence whatsoever” on their plans. A similar proportion say that the Big Society agenda will have only a “moderate influence”.

The report says that M&S and Oxfam’s partnership, which also won a Marketing Week Engage Award earlier this year, “sets the benchmark to which other organisations aspire” and delivers the “corporate mission” for both parties through effective communication.

Procter & Gamble’s Pampers brand’s partnership with Unicef and Sainsbury’s Comic Relief tie up were also recognised for their “ambition, scale, and ability to innovate and communicate”.

Manny Amadi, CEO of C&E Advisory, says: “The most successful partnerships blend corporate, brand and commercial objectives, with a clear focus on benefit for society. The prominence of major consumer-facing retail companies and brands reflects not only their focused approach, but also their preparedness and ability to invest in strategic partnerships, including in their promotion and marketing”

C&E surveyed corporate responsibility professionals from more than 150 leading companies and NGOs in the UK.