Evolving CSR: Connecting competencies through partnerships

How can the private sector be leveraged to offer expertise and innovation, and not just philanthropy, to solve problems in global development? Screengrab from YouTube.

The world is ever changing, and so too is the landscape of corporate social responsibility. The partnership of public, private and governmental entities to focus on a specific issue area is nothing new, but over the past few years the approach partners have taken to face an issue has shifted. Now more than ever, partners are leaning on their expertise and innovation, and not just philanthropy, to solve problems.

These partnerships are more than a “name only” association between organizations; there has to be a 100 percent trusted and transparent relationship between the people in those organizations. So what are some of the key lessons for building a robust partnership?

Mutual respect

Nongovernmental organizations have long been known for their expertise in local implementation, while those in the private sector have championed their marketing prowess. The key is to blend these core competencies, melding the community relationships of one with the “go to market” strategy and product expertise of the other.

Each partner has to come to the table and frankly realize that one partner can’t solve the problem by themselves. You have to find a partner that helps fill the gaps in your organization.

Personal investment

Trust is built from the beginning, and given current job turnover in all sectors, relationship building is a constant and ongoing process. It’s an investment — not just investing in what you want to accomplish, but investing in each other to make each other stronger. You have to be willing to learn from each other.

In this day and age, we can’t afford to waste time, energy and resources fighting between sectors. We all need to be at the table. The private sector has the “know-how” to develop innovative products and services, build and leverage markets, and the ability to move commodities and influence customer behaviors. When we can bring that expertise and work with other organizations that are trying to address some of the most critical issues facing the world, that’s the only way we will develop sustainable solutions.

Clearly define your objective

Addressing the issue 

Children are most vulnerable to malnutrition. If they don’t receive essential nutrients in their first 1,000 days and ultimately five years of life, survival may be a struggle and certainly healthy development can be compromised and the opportunity for that development can be lost for their lifetime.

Bringing in more than 80 years of nutrition expertise, Amway scientists developed Nutrilite Little Bits, a micronutrient powder, to give undernourished children the essential nutrients they need to grow and develop a healthier brain and body. We used ingredients grown from our organic farms in Brazil to develop the product, specifically to address chronic malnutrition.

Each 1-gram packet of Nutrilite Little Bits includes 15 vitamins and minerals, including acerola cherry concentrate, one of nature’s most concentrated sources of natural vitamin C. When mixed with food once a day, the powder gives a malnourished child under the age of 5 the nutrients to survive, thrive and grow.

Our goal is work with established nutrition or health-focused programs with NGOs to provide to 500,000 malnourished children in 20 countries with the nutrients they need through Nutrilite Little Bits by the end of 2019. Currently, we are working with partners in 15 countries. For more information visit the website.

In September 2015, countries convened at a historic United Nations General Assembly to launch the 2030 Agenda for International and Sustainable Development. Over the next 14 years, these 17 goals (encompassing 169 targets) will mobilize efforts to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change, while ensuring that no one is left behind.

For these goals to be reached, everyone needs to do their part: governments, private sector, NGOs and civil society.

The objectives of each goal were clearly defined to create a road map that would be easy to follow and replicate. Fortunately, we had voice in helping to shape the goal and targets for ending hunger and eliminating malnutrition in all its forms, but that was the simple step. A voice was possible because of years of actions in using our core competencies in nutrition science (understanding and providing solutions to micronutrient deficiencies) and nutrition (importance of healthy, nutrient-rich foods) to address a critical issue like childhood malnutrition.

Finding true partners

Nutrilite Little Bits is one example of a tool for local NGOs to address the issue of childhood malnutrition in their local communities. Through partnership with CARE and local NGOs, Amway makes this micronutrient powder a daily part of children’s diets, along with providing education, food provisions, and health assessments over an extended period to time to prevent the onset of chronic malnutrition or to help bring a malnourished child up to healthy growth levels.

Our NGO partners know the communities they serve. They’ve built critical “on-the-ground” relationships with government, health and local officials and most importantly the families they support and serve. Over the course of this effort, we’ve learned that it’s easier to leverage existing programs rather than try to build them from scratch. One of our partners, the NGO CARE International, acts as a strategic advisor for us, helping share best practices with other partner NGOs around the globe.

All in all, partners are an avenue to address critical issues around the globe. True partnership occurs when you fully leverage the expertise and innovation of one partner with the relationship of the other. It’s no longer about giving things away — it’s about building up people, who in turn build up their community.

Power of 5 is a global campaign in partnership with Amway, focused on raising awareness of the issue of childhood malnutrition, and the critical role nutrition plays in early childhood development. Learn more about the work of our partner and its micronutrient powder Nutrilite Little Bits here and join the conversation online using #powerof5.

About the author

  • Jeff Terry

    Jeff Terry is the global head of corporate social responsibility at Amway Corporation. Jeff develops and guides the implementation of the company’s enterprisewide CSR strategy, aligning the organization's competencies to effectively implement its social investment and innovation efforts around nutrition, entrepreneurialism and overall stakeholder and community engagement. Jeff developed and directs the Nutrilite Power of 5 campaign which is designed to help reduce rates of childhood malnutrition around the world. Jeff has been with Amway since 2011 and has 20-plus years’ experience working in international development and health across multiple sectors.