How to Best Align Business Interests with Community Growth.

MA students Salomey Ali and Killa Zadva have been doing an internship with Business Plan for Peace. Together they blog about the potential for business partnerships in the peacebuilding space.

‘Businesses and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have a significant impact on society. ​​ A partnership between these two types of organisations can go a long way to benefit community growth. 

The benefit of a business-NGO partnership. 

Speaking recently with organisations working to promote social cohesion in conflict-ridden communities in the United Kingdom, Plan for Peace found that local organisations often lack funding due to lack of council support, competition over scarce funding, and of a strong communication and connection network. In a 2018 report, accounting organisation KPMG pointed out that philanthropic agencies receive limited funding, and when they do, their projects are often dependent on investors’ interests. 

But what if businesses could help fill the funding gap?

This is where a partnership between NGOs and businesses can come in handy. In a 2019 Endeva UG report Bart Romijn, director of PARTOS, suggested businesses can act smarter to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG): “this means moving from opportunistic projects to strategic (i.e. pursuing long-term impact) opportunities. It also entails a shift away from articulating differences and towards bridging barriers.” The United Nations’ 16th SDG goal, peace and justice, is the least funded initiative out of the 17. NGOs have the necessary skills to transform aid into a force for growth. Businesses on the other hand bring in technical know-how, as well as extensive marketing, distribution and logistical support. This complementary partnership can have a powerful positive impact on society.  

Businesses looking to engage in social responsibility should consider investing in NGOs with already existing projects that align with their interests. McKinsey’s 2022 quarterly report encourages businesses to align their environmental, social and governance (ESG) investment with their interests. “Purpose is an enabler; it is much easier for a company to operationalize ESG when it has a clearly articulated corporate purpose, moored into the business model,” it said. Aligning ESG investment with business interests allows a smooth blending of operations and social responsibility. 

An example of a business and NGO making an impact together

The United Nations lists Burkina Faso as a state facing a humanitarian crisis. The challenges facing local communities involve health care, low access to food and water, and limited access to family farms. Internal displacement caused by the country’s long-running violent conflict with the Sahel is the culprit. 

Women and girls are the primary victims of this security crisis. L’Occitaine, the French beauty brand, partnered up with Entrepreneurs du Monde, a global NGO to empower women in the community.

Since 2009, L’Occitane Foundation provides internally displaced women with access to shea trees for the brand’s shea butter production in order to create income. During the off-season, Entrepreneurs du Monde’s Solidarity Credit Union (MuSo) offers savings and credit training to diversify the women’s income-generating activities

By the end of 2022, the project is expected to impact the lives of approximately 27,000 women. Assetou, who runs a cake business and is acting secretary of MuSo said “I joined a MuSo union, which has been a great help. I’ve been able to take out two loans to buy flour. I more than doubled my income and savings. I reinvested those savings, buying equipment for my business or clothes for the family. Another thing I enjoy is being able to give something back”. Due to its’ success, the partnership between the business and NGO has been renewed. 

Businesses are the forgotten community and economic builders. Their ability to support communities not only furthers what organisations can do, but also their general impact can be downplayed in conversations around peace building. 

Development initiatives implemented with a consideration of the societal realities within communities promote success, not only for social cohesion efforts but business endeavours as well. A study mentioned in McKinsey’s report found purpose-driven brands achieve more than twice the brand-value growth of brands that focus purely on profit generation. 

Through the Mighty Heart, Business Plan for Peace supports businesses through a process of deep internal reflection to identify their interests, and to align employee and organisational purpose with impact in the world; it focuses on the inner-work as a tool for effective outer-work. Effective community engagement becomes possible when businesses identify their interests with those of the community.’

Salomey Ali has been with the Business Plan for Peace since July as an Intern in Project Support. She earned her bachelor’s degree in law with international relations from Middlesex University, Mauritius. She hopes to complete her Joint-Degree Masters in Peace and Conflict from the University of Kent and Philipps-Universität Marburg in 2023.

Killa Zadva is working towards completing a Joint-Degree Masters in Peace and Conflict Studies from the University of Kent and Philipps-Universität Marburg (expected graduate of 2023). She received her undergraduate degree in International Affairs with a minor in Business French from the University of Mary Washington. She has worked as a fellow with the Business Plan for Peace since July 2022. 

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