Corporate-NGO tie-ups become ‘more strategic’ in face of cost of living crisis

New data suggests the vast majority of corporates and charities believe the cost of living crisis is featuring heavily in their partnerships.

Source: C&E Advisory Corporate-NGO partnerships Barometer 2023

The last two years have seen brands and charities focus on battling the cost of living crisis, after a long period where the pandemic and its subsequent recovery grabbed headlines and attention.

Little surprise, then, that the cost of living crisis is an area of increased focus for corporate-NGO partnerships. Indeed, 90% of all corporates and 98% of non-profits surveyed for C&S Advisory’s 2022 Corporate-NGO Barometer believe the crisis is featuring strongly or moderately in their partnerships.

Breaking this figure down further, there has been a 20% increase in the number of brands saying it features ‘strongly’, suggesting corporates are becoming increasingly aware of the impact the crisis is having on consumers.

Corporate-NGO tie-ups rise in importance as brands seek ‘role in society’But while the current economic climate is far reaching in its impact, only around two thirds (61%) of corporates, and 65% of non-profits, point to the need to access those in harder to reach areas, or those with low incomes who are suffering the most, as key aims of partnerships.

However the role of corporate-NGO tie-ups in engaging with societal issues is growing in importance, claims C&E Advisory CEO Manny Amadi. This is not a “surprising finding” of this year’s report, he adds, but it is a factor which is “strong and growing”.

The majority of respondents across corporates (86%) and charities (84%) believe partnerships will become more, or much more, important in the next three years as companies take action into their own hands. Unsurprisingly, the key factor of non-profits in engaging with corporates is to raise funds during difficult economic times (80%).

For Amadi, brands are changing their engagement with charity partners as a “strategic imperative”. “Because when you engage in those kinds of partnerships, you can solve problems together. It’s an important evolution,” he says.

This year’s most admired partnerships

As the importance of partnerships grows for businesses and consumers alike, the barometer highlights the most admired corporate-NGO partnerships. This year, Tesco’s multi-pronged ‘Helping you to live healthier’ partnership, which it started in 2018, with Cancer Research UK, British Heart Foundation, and Diabetes UK tops the ranking (7.2%).

It is closely followed by Boots’ partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support (6.5%) and Tesco’s WWF partnership (6.5%).

The survey asks respondents, unprompted, which partnerships they admire and why. One respondent described Tesco’s CRUK, BHF and Diabetes UK partnership as a “real attempt to change the habits of shoppers to more healthy choices”, while another says it “drives organisational and consumer behavioural change at a population level”.

Amadi credited Tesco’s huge customer base with helping create an impactful partnership: “They’ve delivered at scale,” he says. “They’ve learned about each other, they’ve taken time to understand and build, in particular, the culture around the partnership while always keeping the mission and goal in mind.”

Other factors which make Tesco’s involvement in charity partnerships stand out is the supermarket’s “level of commitment”. Amadi believes the “scale of ambition and investment” helps it thrive.

Meet the ‘transformative’ brand-NGO partners pushing for systemic changeElsewhere in the most admired partnerships is Network Rail and Samaritans (5.8%), GSK and Save the Children (3.6%), HSBC and Shelter (3.6%) and Greene King and Macmillan Cancer Support (2.9%).

Additionally, Accenture Development Partnerships ranks (2.2%), as does IKEA and Shelter (2.2%), Barclays and Refuge (1.4%) Lloyds Banking Group and Crisis (1.4%) and M&S and Macmillan Cancer Support (1.4%). Also making the list is Pure Gym and BHF (1.4%) and Santander and Macmillan Cancer Support (1.4%).

In fact, Macmillan is the most admired non-profit partner this year (13.1%), while Tesco is the most admired corporate partner (13.8%).

A leading takeaway for Amadi is the role of communications. “It’s really important for people to hear about [what they are doing],” he says. “Externally, it is really important. Tesco’s customers, for example, know about the partnership.”