The Business Benefits of Sustainability Partnerships

Business leaders often find themselves in the tricky position of wanting to make their establishments more sustainable, but realizing they don’t possess the knowledge and resources required to successfully do so. In that common case, sustainability partnerships can fill the void.

These partnerships involve two or more businesses teaming up with each other for mutual benefits related to sustainability goals. Sometimes, a corporate brand and a nonprofit from the same industry will pair up, but, otherwise, entities from multiple sectors get together and pool their resources.

The latter situation is called a cross-sector partnership. There have also been instances where multiple companies have gotten together and relied on crowdsourcing to pinpoint needs and figure out how to tackle them.

Benefits Beyond Sustainability

These collaborative efforts don’t only have sustainability-related advantages. For example, the companies involved can learn best practices from each other, highlight inefficiencies and improve them, discover shared skillsets and more.

Also, a recent survey from Ask Your Target Market surveyed 1,000 people and found 59 percent of them will pay more for products they consider to be environmentally friendly, and 70 percent generally try to buy sustainable products whenever possible. If companies can take visible steps toward sustainability with the help of a partner company, they’re serving the planet and boosting profits at the same time.

Furthermore, generation Z, the youngest generation of adult consumers marketers target, is projected to make up 40 percent of all buyers by 2020. Analysts say brands must be active on social media to make a positive impact on this age group.

It’s also important for brands to be transparent about the causes that matter to them. A promoted sustainability partnership could help companies market to people from generation Z with a strong sense of social consciousness.

Engaging in a Partnership With Suppliers

Sometimes, it might be fruitful for a brand to start a partnership with an entire group. Knorr, a German soup company owned by Unilever, did that by appealing to its global suppliers. Once one of its growers designated a monetary amount for sustainable agriculture projects, Knorr would contribute half the total amount on top of a matched amount by the grower.

This team effort makes it easier for farmers to experiment with Earth-friendly practices that might otherwise be unaffordable. Knorr also gives priority to projects that investigate certain pressing matters such as biodiversity projects, efforts to reduce water waste and the phasing out of pesticides.

By getting involved in the farmers’ projects, Knorr shows commitment to progress in an actionable way, and the growers get much-needed funds. Also, Knorr can differentiate its brand from others by promoting this initiative on its consumer-facing materials, such as product packaging.

Helping Employees Understand Why Sustainability Matters

Most business leaders know if their employees don’t care about sustainable practices, it’ll be difficult for the company itself to make a meaningful impact. Microsoft understands that fact well, and that’s one of the primary reasons the tech company teamed up with the Earthwatch Institute, a worldwide environmental charity.

Microsoft employees involved in a leadership training program in Reading, United Kingdom, went into the woods near their workplace, led by Earthwatch Institute representatives. They spent the day collecting data about climate change and how it affects forests. They wanted information that would help them create a team-wide action plan for environmental sustainability at Microsoft and understand why energy-reduction strategies are crucial.

A year before that happened, Microsoft assisted the Earthwatch Institute via a technology grant that allowed the charity to build a customized database and enhance its website user experience, among other things. This case study is a good example of how both the corporation and the nonprofit used their resources for the greater good and offered advantages that made projects possible.

Forming a Strategic Relationship That Puts Competitiveness Aside

Some brands are longtime rivals, but when there’s sustainability at stake, they might put animosity on the back burner and realize they’re both working toward similar goals, and there might be a nonprofit that could help. So, mega-retailers Target and Walmart — along with 16 other merchants — got together to figure out how to bring more sustainable personal care products to store shelves.

This partnership happened with help from Forum for the Future, a British charity focused on Earth-friendly practices. The retailers knew they wanted to make gains in the quest to bring a wider selection of sustainable beauty items to consumers, but couldn’t do that without help.

Together, the participants discovered the lack of a shared vision for sustainable merchandise in the personal-care sector. Furthermore, they are developing criteria all retailers can use to determine whether a product is sustainable or not.

Besides this pioneering group project, Target and Walmart also came together publicly in Chicago, Ill. The brands were co-hosts of the 2014 Beauty and Personal Care Product Sustainability Summit. Forum for the Future used its connections to help organize the event and gave stakeholders an opportunity to officially discuss their current practices, as well as the challenges faced.

Whether for-profit organizations and charities team up for one-off events or ongoing efforts, these case studies clarify why these joined resources can provide so much momentum for sustainability goals. Alternatively, they can give companies the necessary knowledge to emphasize Earth-friendly practices from the ground up.


Image credit: Pixabay

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