Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Images and cartoons to reflect on in 2015

I just opened an email from a LinkedIn contact Maneesh Puranik <> and discovered a collection of thought provoking images and cartoons.

Thank you Maneesh.  Exactly what I needed to see and think on as 2014 winds down.

I thought others may find them interesting so am sharing them here

Monday, 29 December 2014

CSR Metrics: You can’t measure temperature with a speedometer

CSR Metrics and management frameworks must meet project and corporate needs

You can’t manage what you can’t measure.

But, you can’t measure temperature with a speedometer either!

Metrics are key pieces of the puzzle for maximizing value from CSR investments

The key to using metrics and measurement to unlock value is having project-appropriate metrics and measurement.

The metrics and measurement should drive from the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ of the CSR project itself and not from some preconceived corporate or external framework.

Corporate wide frameworks are good, invaluable even in managing a corporation across multiple projects and operations.  Modern management requires them.

But, they only work well if they support both the corporate and the project level.  Frameworks and systems that provide corporate data and only add burden to front line operations should be looked at carefully, on CSR projects and corporate-wide.

CSR is an emerging and evolving area and it isn’t always easy to identify and accumulate appropriate metrics.  This is true at the project site and especially true when trying to create corporate-wide metrics and frameworks.

We’ve all heard that you can’t manage what you can’t measure.  In CSR especially there is another cliché every bit as true.

You can’t measure what you can’t measure!

Metrics need to fit the project and be as simple as possible.  
If they don’t, they cost money, cause frustration and accomplish little

Metrics and measurement are important for sure but sometimes corporate reporting frameworks, or directives to adhere to this or that global norm, standard or protocol, end up with the CSR frontline teams trying to measure the wrong things in the wrong ways.

This causes frustration, tension and does little to add value at either the corporate or the project level.

Don’t get me wrong.  Every CSR project should rigorously and systematically measure progress and key indicators and have appropriate frameworks for recording and analyzing the data. 

At the beginning of every project, or right now for those that started without metrics, there should be a thorough analysis of the ‘why’ and the ‘how’.

Why is the company investing time and money into this particular project and not another? 

‘How’ can it track progress towards the ‘why’.  This should provide the insights to help identify what metrics need to be tracked and measured.

The ‘how’ and ‘why’ answers will be generally be specific to each project so it stands to reason that the metrics that are tracked and managed would be project specific as well. 

Once you have settled on metrics at a project level you need to set up a systematic process for acquiring them on a regular basis.  And for analyzing them and using them to enable better management of the project.

You also need to regularly review the metrics themselves.  It is not uncommon that a few months into a project it becomes evident that some new metrics need to be tracked and/or that some of the existing ones aren’t helpful to track, or need to be analyzed in different ways.

CSR metrics is about more than measuring spending.  
It is about supporting more efficient value creation

What is key is to find the metrics and the data collection and analysis protocols that allow the project to efficiently track progress and use that information to constantly improve project management and implementation.

This isn’t to say that all corporate CSR frameworks should be ignored or abandoned, or that compliance with global norms and protocols is unimportant.  Far from it.

It is to say that project specific metrics that help you to do a better job of managing and implementing a particular project are as important.  Sometimes even more important.

Good corporate frameworks should have the flexibility to accommodate and support project specific metrics and management.

Get the metrics right and new value can emerge

Compliance with global norms, protocols and standards should be considered carefully and where/if they create too much added burden on CSR project management they may need to be reconsidered.

CSR metrics should, for the most part, be project specific and support the management needs and value creation goals of the project

But, they can often provide the foundation for corporate-wide metrics and frameworks.  The trick is to let project specific metrics provide guidance and direction to the creation and even revision of corporate-wide metrics and CSR management frameworks.

CSR Metrics and management frameworks must meet project and corporate needs

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

CSR in Budget Crunch Times: 12 strategies for success

With plummeting oil prices, the mining industry facing sustained low prices, high costs and economic turmoil and the world economy looking scary, many firms are taking close looks at budgets and cutting far and wide.

When budgets get tight CSR is often at the top of the list for cuts.

Sometimes this makes strategic business sense.  Sometimes not. 

When CSR is at the top of the cutting list it may be because that makes the most sense, given all of the other constraints and issues the company is facing. 

After all, the business does need to survive financially if it is to be able to produce value for society.  A bankrupt or shuttered business produces few benefits for society or shareholders.

Sometimes CSR is at the top of the budget cut list for the wrong reasons.  This isn’t good for shareholders or society.

I’ve found two main reasons that CSR can be wrongly placed at the top of the budget crunch cut list.   After this I’ll list twelve strategies for addressing CSR when budgets are getting cut.  They are mostly about CSR and value so are good practice at any time..

1.       Company CSR leaders were not effective at internal communications and helping internal stakeholders understand the strategic and shareholder value of CSR (see Seven proven ways to engage internal CSR stakeholders for more discussion on how to do this).

Internal communications is critical

2.       Not enough was done to capture all available shareholder value from CSR projects, investments and activities (For more discussion on this see Smarter CSR Budgets: Connection budget to value and Eight self-interested steps to a CSR Plan

Of course, there are exceptions and sometimes it is just a bad decision to cut CSR first.

Or, sometimes budget crunch times help CSR to be smarter, more streamlined and more efficient at delivering social and shareholder value.

Over a lot of years, a lot of projects and working with a lot of smart and experienced people I’ve come up with twelve strategies for CSR in budget crunch times.

There are no magic bullets in this list.  Budget crunch time is not easy, for anyone.  Hopefully you might find one or two things in this list that can be helpful.

And, remember, many of them are good to do on an ongoing basis – you don’t have to wait for budget crunch time.

Here’s the list.

1.       Know the link to shareholder value
This shouldn't wait for budget crunch time.  The link between a CSR project/budget item and shareholder value (and societal value) is absolutely key.  Always.

Why else would you want to do a CSR project if it didn’t create value?  It doesn’t make sense.

Of course, you may not have a directly quantifiable relationship between a specific project and value.  It isn’t likely you can say something like ‘if you invest in this CSR initiative share price is projected to go up by X% next quarter’. 

But, there should at least be logical and anecdotal connections to shareholder value.  Find it.  Build on it and know how and when to communicate it.

2.       Check how your budget lines are positioned
Sometimes CSR budgets and departments end up with projects that are much more properly in another area of operations.

A colleague was recently telling me about a supply chain project she was working on.  She discovered that basic things to bring workplace health and safety in-line with regulations was budgeted and done through a Foundation the firm had set up. 

Meeting workplace health and safety was booked as CSR in the budget.

Nobody can question the importance of this work but it certainly shouldn’t be seen as part of a CSR budget. 

3.       Don't leave money on the table
Look for ways to enhance shareholder value
Shareholder value doesn't happen by accident – at least not very often.

With CSR projects initial work on aligning interests can go a long way towards optimizing shareholder and stakeholder value.

And to keeping CSR budgets from the top of the cut list

But, there is often a lot more that can be done to increase shareholder and/or societal value.  Partnering and communications are two prime areas to look.  Strategic initiatives in these areas can often create additional value at little or no cost.

Too often CSR projects leave all kinds of shareholder value on the table.  This makes CSR more vulnerable when Budget Crunch time happens and cuts are being made

4.       Internal communications
There will be some in your company who think that $0.00 CSR budget is probably about right. 

Sometimes you can get through to them and sometimes you can’t.  But, you can limit their influence on your work and your budget.

Be sure that you are communicating effectively about the value the company is getting from your CSR projects.   Give your internal allies information and motivation to advocate for CSR.

Helping people to understand the value that CSR work brings to the company and to their work can help to bring them onside and neutralize those who might like to totally eliminate CSR.
You can’t get everyone onside but effective internal communications 
can mitigate their impact on your budget and work

5.       Be proactive
Budget crunches seldom sneak up unannounced.  You can see and feel them coming. 

Know where you can cut and get by with less budget (and if you don’t need to drop it for a budget cut, then look to repurpose that spending to something with more value). 

Always be looking for how your CSR budget can create more value, for shareholders and society.

CSR projects and activities shouldn’t be designed to go on forever.  Periodically, and at least once a year, take a look at your CSR budget and make sure that you are getting the best value from all of your spending.

Identify projects and line items that can be phased out with the budget repurposed to other CSR areas or offered up for cutting in budget crunch times.

Saying everything is critical and can’t be cut likely won’t work!  If it does you either don't have a real budget crunch or there are some questionable decisions being made. 

6.       Be open with stakeholders and partners
If your company, your industry or the whole economy is in trouble your stakeholders and partners likely know about it.  If not, they should.

If you are hitting budget crunch time be open with them.  Bring them inside your thinking.  Tap into their thinking, networks and resources.

You’d be surprised at how often out of the box solutions can emerge that can end up actually being better than the starting point.

In one case budget cuts were about to eliminate two company positions that were supporting a community/NGO/company partnership. 

The CSR leader looked at this with project partners and then went back to the company with a proposal to move the positions to the NGO where they would be cost-shared for two years and then the NGO would take them over totally.

This eliminated operating budget for the company, reduced overall cost and helped to grow the capacity of the NGO.  Much better than just cutting the two positions

7.       Can partnering help reduce your direct cost
Always worth taking a look at this.  Sometimes natural partnerships were somehow overlooked, or failed to start at the beginning of a project.   (See 13 Common mistakes that prevent and destroy multi-sector CSR partnerships for more on this)

Or perhaps the motivation on the part of the company or partner wasn’t all it could have been at the time.

When budget crunch happens motivations can change and/or new synergies can be found.  Definitely worthwhile to take a close look before axing people, projects and programs.

8.       Be ready to fight.  But, stay rational.
Sometimes you just have to fight!  Seriously.  There will be times when you are asked/ordered to make cuts to staff, programs and activities that just don’t make sense.

Cutting them will clearly destroy shareholder and societal value all out of proportion to the budget that is saved.  It may cause long term damage to the company and brand.

When this happens be ready to fight for your budget.  But, fight rationally.  Fight with logical and rational arguments, tied to value and the interests of the company.

Use your communication skills to help key decision makers and influencers understand how the company’s interests are harmed if they go ahead with the cut.

But, before doing any of this, make sure that you are not simply looking at things too subjectively.  Make sure that an objective, rational person can understand your argument and justification. 

Don’t let emotions drive your decisions and actions.  It’s OK to be emotional about your projects and work, but don’t lead with that. 

Let your emotions drive you to develop and deliver strong rational arguments in a way that can be heard and accepted.

Sometimes you have to step up and battle hard for budget that you know is critical for the 
company's success.   Base your battle on rational arguments and value centered reasoning, 
not on emotions

9.       But, be part of the team.  Or leave.
When budgets get slashed it can get emotional.  You will lose battles that you fervently believe you should win.  That’s life.

You will lose staff, budget and programs while others that you think less deserving remain.  This can be incredibly frustrating.  Especially when you feel like you may have let down fellow workers, communities or project partners.

At the end of the day the company needs to survive if it is to be able to continue producing value for shareholders and stakeholders.  Decisions have to be made and some of them will be tough to accept.

Sometimes you will find, even after trying to create some emotional distance you can’t support the decision or let go of it. 

If you can’t agree to disagree maybe you owe it to yourself and your company to resign.  Take time, make sure it is the right decision for you.  Hopefully it doesn’t come to that and you will continue on but sometimes it does.

If you can’t be a fully engaged and contributing part of the go-forward team do yourself, your stakeholders and the company a favour and find another place where you can be fully engaged and contributing.

Good teams are diverse.  They don't have to all think alike, look alike or even like the same things.  Diversity brings strength.  But, you need to be able to fully engage with the team.

10.   Find the why.
Every CSR program started because it filled a need and provided value to society and shareholders (or at least that should be why it started!).

If you don’t know why a particular program started (and you should know that) then find out.  It may be that the underlying why that prompted the creation of the program is gone and the program is no longer crucial.

Or, it may be that it is there stronger than ever and what seemed like an inconsequential program is really quite strategically important.

At any rate, find out the why of your CSR programs, especially before cutting them.  Finding the why also helps you to focus your value creation thinking, arguments and strategies.

11.   Can you second staff to your partners?
Is it possible to move staff to partner organizations?  Maybe this is good long term strategy anyway.

Sometimes budget cuts will have the capital to cover the costs of transferring a positon but not to retain a position.  This won’t work for all situations, but there are some where it might work nicely.

12.   Look for the value connection again
This really is worth doing twice.  Identify all the ways in which each CSR project or budget line is creating value for society and for shareholders.

Look hard to make the connections to value. They aren’t always obvious.  Missing them can be costly


Budget crunch time is difficult and nothing on this or any list is going to erase that difficulty.

What is important to remember is that achieving success is like solving a puzzle.  It takes many players, many pieces of the puzzle and different perspectives. 

Nobody has all the answers. 

None of us is as smart as all of us.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

NHL Sustainability Report: Good but incomplete.

NHL Sustainability Report: Good but incomplete.
It is missing the good works by teams and players. Why?
The NHL’s recently released Sustainability 2014 report was interesting, for what it contained, and for what it didn’t.
For all you readers from around the world, I’m Canadian and love hockey – ice hockey – so you will see occasional topics like this. For my Field Hockey friends - Ice Hockey is Hockey Proper! :)
Seriously though, the NHL Sustainability Report is good. It does what it says it will do, discuss the effort and results the league and various teams are achieving as they work to reduce their environmental footprint.
They are clear that is what the report aims to do, Commissioner Bettman's letter states "The purpose of the 2014 NHL SUSTAINABILITY REPORT is to address our recent efforts and the challenges we face from an environmental perspective."

The Sustainability Report contained a lot of good efforts and good information. But, there was a lot of good work and valuable impact that wasn’t included. I’m not sure why they didn't include the great work that players, teams and even the league are doing to support people, communities and important social causes. I think it should have been, especially when they went so far as to mention players on the contents.
But, I’ve seen other major players and great communicators make similar mistakes that ended up leaving a lot of value on the table for good works that they are already doing.
NHL teams support and sponsor all kinds of outreach and support in the community, touching hundreds of worthwhile charities and efforts and raising many millions of dollars for them.
They also spend time and money supporting and engaging with minor hockey. And, each team has many other things that they do to help make the community a better place.
Sure, this is all part of their marketing but so what. The best and most sustainable CSR happens when there is an alignment between community interests and business interests.
Nearly all players also give back to the community in some way, with some of them making major efforts. They are supporting a range of projects and causes and having real positive impacts on programs, people and communities.
Many players reach far beyond hockey and use their profile and personal wealth to help make a difference in the world.
Some players take their efforts international. And, I suspect if there was some organized support you would find more players making efforts to support people and projects in remote areas and emerging economies.
I live on Southern Vancouver Island in Canada, home to some great players and our local boys truly do us proud with the work they do in the off-season to support local causes and help local kids. They set a great example for my son and the thousands of other young players who see these NHL players coming home and giving back.

Ryan O'Byrne's camp, which has many local NHL players donating time and helping out, has helped over 200 Greater Victoria, BC to get into sport.

Nashville Predators' Mike Fisher, Chris Neil of the Ottawa Senators and Kevin Bieksa of the Vancouver Canucks helped World Vision to create awareness on the food crisis int eh Sahel 

There are other examples of players working with development organizations, or sometimes even on their own, to help address international development issues. 

I believe there could be a lot more if more was done to support and encourage it (and to communicate it in reports like the NHL Sustainability Report).
All of that good work is happening every day. By the teams and the players. I don’t understand why that was left out of the NHL’s Sustainability Report. The league, the players, the teams and owners and society itself would have benefited from telling that story.
The 2014 NHL Sustainability Report tells a great environmental story, about important environmental efforts being made by teams and the league itself.
It could have told a bigger story and shared about the wonderful work the teams and players are doing in society. It would have been valuable for the league, the teams, the players and society.
Strategic application of CSR communications principles could have created more value for all stakeholders, at virtually no cost.
Maybe they had a reason not to mention the social and charitable work of teams and player? If so, I’d love to find out. Because it doesn't make sense to me that they didn't.
I’d love to hear from anyone with insight into this.  You can reach me at

Friday, 28 November 2014

Eight more common mistakes in multi-sector CSR partnerships

Eight more common mistakes in multi-sector CSR partnerships

Natural Partnerships – Unnatural partners.  Last week I did a short piece on five common mistakes in multi-sector CSR partnerships.   This week I’m going to finish the list.

The numbering won't continue from last week because I don't know how to do that in Blogger!

If you haven’t read the last article you may want to go and read the opening paragraphs and the five mistakes.  You can find it here

1.      Not enough entrepreneurship and innovation
There is generally a high level of entrepreneurial energy and innovation amongst the partners at the beginning of a partnership.  In many cases they would not have gotten together to launch the partnership without the innovation and entrepreneurship of at least one of them.

As time goes by the partnership activities can become routine and the workers and leaders stop looking for ways to do things better and/or new areas that they might collaborate on that would be mutually beneficial.

Over time a stagnation can develop and energy drains from the partnership.  This can end up killing the partnership itself but more often it simply makes the partnership much more vulnerable to the impacts of other mistakes.

Diverse and committed partners collaborating and innovating together can solve complex puzzles

2.      Didn’t get to know each other deep enough and broad enough
Often partnerships will form quickly around a specific opportunity.  Partners will see that by collaborating they can advance their interests and objectives further than they could by working individually.

This can create a euphoria that tends to generate a forward momentum and the partners don’t take time to get to know each other well enough or deep enough.  This happens at the individual and the organizational level.

Then when issues arise and differences emerge they are often seen as surprises and somehow a betrayal of what was represented at the onset.  This can put a lot of strain on the relationships.

3.      Organizational stakeholders didn’t support it
Every organization has a range of internal and external stakeholders, many of which have significant influence and impact.  Sometimes a partnership will develop and create conflict with key stakeholders.

For example, many NGOs rely on individual and organizational donors for financing and for general support.  In some cases the same individuals and organizations are also writing checks to support advocacy NGOs that are in direct opposition to either the industry sector, or in some cases the actual partner (this can often happen where an industry partner has multiple projects, some of which are actively opposed by advocacy organizations)

This places leadership in uncomfortable positions and may result in the need to make hard choices if agreeing to disagree isn’t a viable option.

Similar situations can occur when development agencies begin to develop mechanisms that either enable direct funding of industry led CSR projects or that will facilitate or partner with such projects.

These development agencies often have key stakeholders that may be generally opposed to certain industries like extractives, or have unrealistic social performance expectations.  In many cases the development agency will also be providing direct or indirect support to the opposing organization.

Internal support and understanding is critical if an organization wants to be a strong partner
(see Seven proven strategies for getting colleagues onboard with CSR

4.      NGOs look at company as just a set of deep-pockets
A deep and nuanced understanding of the other partners is so critical.  Too often as the euphoria of the early days wears off deep seated, underlying assumptions and perspectives emerge that can be poisonous.

Partners (individuals and the institutions) forget that all partners are in the project because there is something in it for them. 

NGOs can start to perceive corporate partners as just a set of deep pockets, of money that should just be allocated in support of community and NGO priorities, without a thought for what’s in it for the company and how to optimize value across all partners and stakeholders.

5.      Company looks at NGO as just a do-gooder
In the same was as NGOs can see companies as just deep pockets, companies can often develop a perspective that NGO partners are only interested in doing good works and not understand the many other interests and realities of a modern NGO

6.      Project solitudes. 
No real collaboration between partners.  If not nurtured project partners can end up withdrawing, or being relegated to project silos.  This can result in each contributing individually, but can lose all of the potential synergy from the diversity of experience, perspectives and insights that each bring.

When this happens it can suck the energy out of a project and be the start of a downward spiral.

It may seem easier to carve things into discreet silos and minimize collaborative interactions, and the disagreements, stresses and tensions that can come with them.  In the long run it is far better to work together and get stronger by working through the differences, and staying open to the synergy that can be found in diversity.

As the African proverb says. 

If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.

Good partnerships go far.

7.     7. Unrealistic cost expectations
Cost expectations can be unrealistic.  Companies will sometimes think that NGOs will almost work for free, forgetting that they too have organizational and institutional overhead that needs to be covered.

NGOs will sometimes think that companies have tons of money and shouldn’t be concerned about cost.

8.      Different standards around quality, flexibility / adaptability and reporting
This can be especially true when small, nimble companies partner with development agencies that have seemingly incomprehensible sets of reporting and operational requirements. 

This can be especially true in partnerships where one partner comes with compliance requirements and obligations that are foreign to the other.

Multi-sector CSR partners can bring unique pieces of the puzzle to the table. They can create value and mitigate risk for all partners, and benefit society in the process.

Often they can be difficult to create and even more difficult to maintain, but the effort can be worth it.

I will be posting more thoughts on this topic in the coming weeks.  If you are interested, we are offering a certified executive training forum in Ottawa, Canada in March see below.

One week Certified Executive Training Forum:  How to create & manage CSR/development partnerships between industry, NGOs, development agencies and governments.   March 9-13, Ottawa, Canada   USD$3,495 / $3,195 before Dec 31   

This five-day hands-on Certified Executive Training Forum will leave you ready to develop and implement multi-sector CSR and development partnerships that will help drive your organization’s success.  The program brings together a global group of executives and managers from industry, NGOs, development agencies and international organizations to learn with and from each other.

Whether you work with industry, NGOs, development agencies, international organizations, communities or other group involved in CSR and develop this program will help you and your organization to succeed

Led by an experienced global faculty with decades of strategic and ‘in the trenches’ experience in CSR and development partnerships the program will leave you with the tools and knowledge to be successful in negotiating and managing multi-sector CSR partnerships.  It is based on a pragmatic blend of lectures, case studies, group work, strategic simulations and facilitated and spontaneous group experiences that bridge theory and practice in a pragmatic and effective way. 

Register here: or contact CSR Training Institute for more information here

For more information on How to create & manage CSR/development partnerships between industry, NGOs, development agencies and governments click here  

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Five Common mistakes that destroy multi-sector CSR partnerships

Five Common mistakes that prevent and destroy multi-sector CSR partnerships

The private sector is playing an increasingly important role in development.  Companies from all sectors, including especially the extractive and fast moving consumer goods sectors, are investing in development initiatives in areas such as education, health, poverty alleviation and livelihoods, environment and gender equality.

The impact areas of these private sector social responsibility investments closely maps the impact areas outlined in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and anticipated impact areas of the soon to be adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The MDGs and SDGs serve to guide the development activities of the member countries of the United Nations and the vast majority of development NGOs and organizations.  Official Development Agencies, national governments, multi-lateral and international organizations and NGOs focus development efforts on areas such as education, health, poverty alleviation and livelihoods, environment and gender equality

While the various private, public and civil society organizations noted above approach development with a focus on common areas, they often bring unique skills, experience and capacities to the work. 

In many cases these are complimentary and synergistic, at first glance, would seem to naturally invite partnerships and collaboration and the various sectors (e.g., ODA agencies, private sector, NGOs, etc.) even have stated goals of collaborating with each other in support of their development efforts. 

Simple logic would suggest that collaboration would result in efficiencies and more and better development impact per dollar spent or effort expended.

Value is lost for all partners and for society when 
multi-sector partnership opportunities fail to start or start and fail

Yet, the reality is that, while there are notable exceptions, this collaboration is not easy to achieve.  Whether on an individual project level or a strategic organizational level these natural partnership opportunities too often do not result in effective partnerships. 

Value is lost for the organizations involved but the real price is paid by their community partners who do not receive the full impact that they could have received had these natural partners found an effective way to collaborate.

Here are 5 common reasons why they start and fail, or even fail to start.

1.     Egos of main actors
This is common to the destruction of many different sorts of partnerships.  What makes multi-sector CSR partnerships more prone to ego related challenges is that, in many cases, the partnering organizations will have a general history of opposition or antagonism towards each other.

For industry to embrace and support the role that NGOs and development agencies can play in the success of a business or project is relatively new.  Similarly for NGOs and development agencies to acknowledge the important role of the private sector in development projects.  In many cases the sectors, or at least many organizations within them, have been actively opposed to each other.

These means that in some instances a 180 degree about face is necessary along with an acknowledgement that previous perspectives were flawed.  This can often be overlooked during the giddy early days of a partnership but will often come back in a destructive way as the partnership plays out over time

2.     Didn’t hang in through the tough stuff
Every partnership is bound to run into difficult challenges over time.  Project issues arise, personnel changes, partners have strong opposing views on external issues, finances come under pressure, etc.   Sometimes these come out of the blue and sometimes there is a slow build up over time.

In many instances if the partners can hang in there the issues will either resolve themselves, or they will find a mutually acceptable way to work through them.

However, for reasons discussed above, there are latent pressures in the partnership that can surface when other issues emerge.  This can make it more difficult to work through the inevitable issues and challenges that always show up.

Those partnerships that survive over time will find ways to hang in and work through the rough spots and will also actively seek to reduce the latent pressures.

Conflict and differences of opinion happen in every partnership.  All the time.  There are ways to systematically prevent conflict and disagreement from destroying partnerships

3.     Internal buy-in wasn’t there
Multi-sector CSR partnerships are often developed and negotiated by front line personnel with some level of support or acquiescence from corporate and NGO head offices.  They frequently end up in place and operating without ever really getting the attention of key senior stakeholders.

In many cases the partnerships bring both an expanded and enhanced ability to achieve some of an organization’s objectives and, along with that, constraints in other areas. 

As partnership and relations issues arise, as they always will, there is sometimes a sudden realization in the leadership ranks that the partnership has taken away degrees of freedom to act.  This can be exacerbated by historical organizational opposition as noted above.

When this happens you can have key internal stakeholders, who hadn’t really paid attention to the creation of the partnership and don’t have any ‘ownership’ in it, start to question both the partnership itself and the general principle of multi-sector CSR partnerships.

Keeping everyone pulling in the same direction takes ongoing effort.  Just because everyone pulls together at the start doesn’t meant that they will keep pulling in the same direction.  
Many things can happen to change aligned interests to opposing forces

4.     Only business is efficient mentality
Historically there has been a strong theme in many business sectors that business is inherently more efficient.  The theme maintains that because it more directly subjected to the demands of the marketplace, business is somehow more efficient than NGOs and governments.

Dig deep enough and you will find that perspective exists somewhere in most businesses and sometimes can permeate individual businesses and even large swaths of industry sectors.

This mentality can surface when problems arise and present barriers that prevent the challenges from being worked through objectively or prevent constructive solutions from emerging. 

Too often you will see much effort being put into finding confirming evidence of inefficiency, rather than a balanced analysis looking for examples of efficiency and inefficiency and their underlying causes. 

This can create a dangerous spiral that can undermine even the best partnerships.

5.     Business is too greedy mentality
The NGO equivalent of the Only business is efficient mentality is the Business is too greedy perspective

NGO partners that fall into this perspective are prone to examining business decisions only from this vantage point and not taking a more balance and objective approach to understand the ‘why’ of business decisions.

Confirming evidence is sought and focused on and more and more partnership and operational decisions of the business are seen as being based, at least partly on greed

There is another discussion on the relationship between greed and shareholder interest, which are often quite different.  Greed based decisions tend to be short-term and with narrowly defined interests.  Longer-term strategic shareholder interests are broader and provide much more scope for interest alignment.

As with the only business is efficient mentality the business is greedy perspective can create a partnership killing spiral of unbalanced confirming evidence.

These are some of the reasons that multi-sector partnerships, that start off with enthusiasm, potential and goodwill, can fall off the rails and turn aligned interest into lose-lose situations

Strategy and insight can turn opposing forces into aligned interests
Avoid the temptation to pull apart.  Find a way to win together

I will be posting more thoughts on this topic in the coming weeks.  If you are interested, we are offering a training forum on the subject in Ottawa, Canada in March see below.

One week Certified Executive Training Forum:  How to create & manage CSR/development partnerships between industry, NGOs, development agencies and governments.   March 9-13, Ottawa, Canada   USD$3,495 / $3,195 before Dec 31   

This five-day hands-on Certified Executive Training Forum will leave you ready to develop and implement multi-sector CSR and development partnerships that will help drive your organization’s success.  The program brings together a global group of executives and managers from industry, NGOs, development agencies and international organizations to learn with and from each other.

Whether you work with industry, NGOs, development agencies, international organizations, communities or other group involved in CSR and develop this program will help you and your organization to succeed

Led by an experienced global faculty with decades of strategic and ‘in the trenches’ experience in CSR and development partnerships the program will leave you with the tools and knowledge to be successful in negotiating and managing multi-sector CSR partnerships.  It is based on a pragmatic blend of lectures, case studies, group work, strategic simulations and facilitated and spontaneous group experiences that bridge theory and practice in a pragmatic and effective way. 

Register here: or contact CSR Training Institute for more information here