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Last week, a report titled, “What if they mean it?” caught my attention, with the subtitle, “Embracing the opportunity of corporate-social sector partnerships.” A challenging title, in which the undertone of ‘disbelief’ is clearly audible. Collaboration between companies and charities; but are companies really involved in achieving the good cause together? Or are they mainly trying to achieve their own interests and goals? 

Corporate-social sector partnerships

The title also evoked alienation. How so, whether companies are serious about it? How long have charities and companies been working together? Is that cold-heartedness still there today? Is it right to question in advance the motives of companies in a collaboration with charities? 

Perhaps the explanation is that the report comes mainly from the Anglo-Saxon quiver, particularly from America (Russell Reynolds Associates). My observation is that in the Dutch context we have started to experience this cooperation between charities and companies differently. Not least because of the policy objectives from the Dutch government, which has stimulated trade and development cooperation, public-private cooperation, alliance building in all kinds of ways. 

The report does, in my view, quite rightly put its finger on a number of developments. In recent times we have been confronted with far-reaching crises on a global scale. Long-term climate developments, for example, have now become really urgent. COVID, BLM and other phenomena have engaged the general public in – essentially – moral issues. This involvement of the general public means that companies can no longer remain on the sidelines. 

Social responsibility

In other words, companies will have to take on more and more social responsibility. Perhaps because they themselves are part of the problem (e.g. the commotion around TATA Steel in the Netherlands), or because they can contribute to solutions (e.g. Innovative companies in the water sector). From these companies’ point of view, it is also sensible to seek cooperation there themselves. In my observation, this is happening more and more. 

There are wonderful examples of alliances that are working, for example, to improve water management around a river in Africa. Good results are being achieved with all kinds of different stakeholders: NGOs, local governments, companies and knowledge institutes. Why wouldn’t these companies mean it? 

We are curious to hear your observations and opinions! 

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