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Strengthening Corporate-NGO Partnerships for achieving SDGs

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have helped streamline the global developmental agenda by identifying 17 clear and quantifiable goals for the world to work towards.
The quantum of finance required to achieve them, however, poses a huge challenge. SDGs require an annual investment of USD 5-7 trillion, with India alone needing USD 8.9 trillion by 2030. The private sector will have to step-up and shoulder a lion’s share of this cost, if these global goals are to be achieved.
The emergence of the CSR law in India has been a welcome development in this scenario.  According to a study by PRIME Database, CSR spends by 1,080 companies listed on the National Stock Exchange (NSE), increased by 11% to INR 10,030 crore in FY17-18. With CSR increasingly emerging as a strategic tool for the private sector to drive much needed finance towards SDGs, there is a heightened need to strengthen CSR implementation frameworks and ensure measurable impact and outcomes.
Implementing unique, scalable and sustainable CSR projects calls for a robust alliance between corporates and NGOs. Each entity has a critical role to play. While the corporate sector brings managerial expertise, efficiency & organizational capabilities, the development sector augments them with local reach, passion and know-how. Bolstering this collaborative relationship will be crucial for deepening the impact of CSR efforts on ground, and calls for advancements in four key areas.
Firstly, corporates and NGOs need a mindset change to move beyond the transactional.  Instead of just a tick-box exercise, companies should approach CSR as a means to create long-term value, and an opportunity to add purpose to their profits.
NGOs should cease being perceived as vendors, but instead be treated as partners for change. On their part, NGOs must work towards identifying and strengthening their core abilities with a focus on building competitive advantages.
A stronger thrust on performance management and reporting can foster a culture of outcome-based partnerships between the corporate and development sectors. Corporations are already mandated by the Companies Act to monitor and report their CSR activities and expenditure in a statutory manner. Adopting similar systems of controls, compliance, governance, risk and performance management can not only help NGOs expand their impact, but also enable corporates to evaluate the efficacy of NGO partners in addressing specific societal challenges.
Attracting and retaining a pool of skilled development professionals, will be the third challenge that corporates and NGOs will have to jointly address. The wide gap in remuneration between the corporate and development sector is one of the key roadblocks preventing NGOs from becoming a natural career choice for many. Companies could assist NGOs in strategic planning and in devising career growth charts aimed at retaining talent.
Lastly, with the CSR landscape growing by leaps and bounds in terms of funding and impact, there is an urgent need for building common platforms where NGOs, corporates, philanthropists, development agencies and international donors could come together to explore outcome-oriented partnerships and share best practices. In order to further standardize systems and processes, there is also a need to develop comprehensive rating mechanisms for evaluating NGOs on key risk parameters.
Corporate-NGO partnerships could make significant contributions to SDGs. With CSR spends in India increasing every year since 2015, stronger collaboration, convergence and co-creation between Corporates and NGOs, will enable them to play a more effective role in accelerating the developmental agenda of the country.

Namita VikasNamita Vikas is Group President & Global Head, Climate Strategy & Responsible Banking at YES BANK. She was recently voted amongst Asia’s 26 Top Sustainability Superwomen. As the Chief Sustainability Officer of the Bank, she spearheads Sustainable Development and CSR, thus driving sustainability principles within its core operations and its value chain towards creating stakeholder value. Namita has an Advanced Management Degree in CSR and Leadership from the Swenska Institute, Sweden.

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The CSR Journal Team