Pandemic 'a moment of truth' for purpose-led corporate partnerships, says expert

The coronavirus crisis is a “moment of truth” for purpose-led corporate partnerships, an expert has concluded. 

Manny Amadi, chief executive of the business consultancy C&E Advisory, said some companies were stepping up to support charities during the crisis, but others were failing to live up to their professed values.

C&E Advisory compiles an annual survey of the corporate partnerships in the charity sector, the C&E Corporate-NGO Partnerships Barometer, which examines what organisations expect from such partnerships. 

Last week, the company held two virtual meetings with representatives from a wide range of major charities and companies, asking how their partnerships had fared since the lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Over the past few years, Amadi said, the C&E survey had shown a shift in the nature of corporate partnerships, from being purely about giving to a situation in which companies view their contributions as an investment that would yield returns and on to a discussion about shared values. 

He told Third Sector that the pandemic represented “the moment of truth for the whole purpose-led agenda”. 

He said: “For many years companies have increasingly been talking about how they want to be more like charities and NGOs and have a clear mission for serving society, but there’s been a lot of fear of ‘woke-washing’ or ‘greenwashing’.”

Feedback from charities at the virtual meetings had been mixed, he said, and some companies “were really failing the test”, but there had been positive signs from many businesses. 

“Some companies were downgrading the importance of the partnership," he said. "Perhaps there’s a risk that companies think ‘we just don’t have time for this’, particularly when they've been struggling to keep their heads above water.

“But there were others that were doing remarkable things, reinforcing their values and beliefs and confirming that they will maintain the partnerships that they’re in.” 

Amadi said charities that were struggling should not be afraid to ask their corporate partners for purely philanthropic help. 

“Many of those charities we spoke to said they were getting good responses from partners, who were recognising the need to just keep those charities’ programmes going for now,” he said.

“So, yes, there’s a lot to be said for enlightened self-interest and the whole win-win thing, but in this moment be candid with your partners and share your problems to see if they can help. 

“Philanthropy hasn’t gone away. It’s coming more into the frame at this moment.”

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