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ORSE - Strategic Partnerships between NGOs and Businesses

Added on 22-03-2013


ORSE (Observatoire sur la Responsabilité Sociétale des Entreprises)



Business challenge

Relationships between NGOs and business are traditionally seen as rather argumentative, or even hostile. The 1990s were marked by major campaigns of censure that held business responsible for damage to the environment as well as for working conditions in developing countries. However, although close monitoring and argument remain at the heart of the NGO approach, companies and NGOs are searching for new ways of collaboration that move beyond an attitude of criticism.


Strategic partnerships now constitute real alliances between organisations. These partnerships are based on a common interest and include exchanges of information and expertise, joint efforts in one and the same direction, and the building of lasting relationships.

However, companies are still reluctant to implement strategic partnerships for several reasons:

  • They lack the knowledge of major international NGOs’ fields of intervention and expertise
  • They are suspicious of NGOs and thus expect strong transparency
  • They fear they would not be able to ensure the quality of the partnership, which implies the implementation of evaluation tools

A company willing to develop a strategic partnership with a Non-Governmental Organization has to be prepared to answer the right questions. However there is no formal model of partnership agreement, therefore ORSE has developed a checklist to effectively cover the necessary topics. By reviewing the following checklist items, both parties will ensure that they are on the same wavelength, thus preventing potential conflict.


  • In engaging in a partnership with an NGO, a company does not ensure that it is safe against an “attack”. On the contrary, it is all the more exposed now that its barriers are down.
  • If an NGO enters a partnership with a company that does not meet the expectations of its members or colleagues, it puts its reputation at risk. It is also possible for an NGO to be manipulated by an unscrupulous company which might be trying to destabilise a competitor by moving the organisation to an area that might be harmful for the latter.

Challenges/Lessons learned:

  • The pressure the NGO places on the company often leads to active cooperation.
  • It is also more likely the NGO will warn the company of a forthcoming campaign if their relationship is solid in another field.
  • NGOs ensure that their preoccupations are an integral part of the company’s strategy, while companies move away from mere crisis management towards socially responsible commitments. In doing so, they benefit from the specific NGO expertise and improve their image and credibility.

More information

You can download the document clicking here.

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