The building of good working relations between companies, charities and social entrepreneurs was one of the topics covered at the Resourceful Conference on 28th January 2016.
The appetite for enduring partnerships between the two sectors is becoming clearer in the light of declining public sector support and because we are all seeking ways to make the circular economy work in practice.
The panel- led discussion, chaired by Richard Featherstone, benefitted from the experience of two excellent examples of how business/charity partnerships can be sustained bringing real social benefits and positive environmental impacts together.
We heard from Akzo Nobel’s Global Sustainability Manager, David Cornish, Martin Pearse, RePaint’s UK Network Manager and Mark Varney, Director of Food, for FareShare.
The discussion focussed on what makes a good and enduring partnership. The experience of the panel concluded that there were 3 key elements:
- A genuine appreciation of the goals of your partner. The conference heard that it is not enough to simply focus on your own interests as a charity. It’s not about receiving a hand-out but taking a hand up approach where both partners can product a positive outcome for the other.
- Being patient and having tenacity when things don’t work out as you expect. This mean not just focussing on the quick wins but seeing the partnership as having long term achievments. There are going to be cultural differences and the success will come by working them out and finding the common ground first; build up from there.
- An ingredient of success, according to the experience of our panel, is about complimentary personalities. There has to be an element of good chemistry and ‘getting on’ between the main contacts because there has to be good natural communications and an approach to problem solving which is on the premise ‘we are on the same side’.
In conclusion the panel hoped the conference delegates gained some insight and took inspiration from the session and will use it to form their own partnerships in future. The climate for this to happen is clearer than ever in the light of the circular economy debate and Richard reminded everyone of the announcement from the World Economic Forum in January that launched a Commission on business and sustainable development. Businesses which join global efforts to end poverty and protect the planet’s finite natural resources can reap great rewards and protect their long-term performance; this is a proposition that will be tested by the new commission. It will work over the next year to articulate and quantify the compelling economic case for businesses to engage in achieving Sustainable Development Goals
Panel member credentials
Akzo Nobel’s Global Sustainability Manager, David Cornish. Akzo Nobel holds the number one ranking on the 2015 Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) for excellent sustainability performance. The latest DJSI ranking was published last September, when Akzo Nobel was placed top of its sector for the fourth year in a row. Five years ago David was instrumental in creating their partnership with the national Community RePaint.
Martin Pearse, RePaint’s UK Network Manager, was on the panel to relay his experience of the partnership with Akzo Nobel. An estimated 50 million litres are unused, stored in homes or garages or just thrown away. That’s enough paint to fill 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools! In 2014 the Community RePaint national network: saved over 400,000 pots of paint, donated by householders and businesses to 70 repaint schemes who redistributed 300,000 litres of paint. Our LCRN member FRP is one of those making this happen.
Mark Varney, Director of Food, for FareShare. More than 2000 charities received and redistributed nearly 8000 tonnes of food last year in the fight against hunger: this is about vital help such as breakfast clubs for disadvantaged school children, homeless hostels and women’s refuges. Mark is a senior sustainability and corporate social responsibility professional with a strong commercial and not for profit background.
Panel chairperson: Richard Featherstone. Richard has devoted his energy to the community re-use sector for 25 years. He is a lifelong advocate of the principles and benefits of re-use and considered to be one of the leading commentators on the subject. It started when he was the manager of a furniture re-use charity in Leicester city centre for 15 years. Since then he has made an important contribution to the growth of the re-use sector’s infrastructure and the design of new re-use services. He was a founding member of the national FRN back in 1989 and is now the lifetime President.
By Richard Featherstone, 2016.