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Stellar Partnerships

A drop in the ocean

A drop in the ocean

It’s 12C and raining in Melbourne and I’m feeling smug about having booked my first holiday to QLD in years. I know that mentioning my holiday will test the business partnership as Sharon holds the fort in her thermal onesie. But staring out from the beach has reminded me of Blue Ocean Strategy.

Blue ocean strategy is a planning model that encourages corporates to create and capture uncontested market space rather than try to compete in the cutthroat and bloody price wars of the crowded market- the ‘red oceans’. Examples of companies using the blue ocean strategy successfully include Netflix, overcoming the dominance of Blockbuster in the DVD market by creating a mail subscription service. In a different sector Cirque du Soleil reduced operating costs by removing live animals in performances and created an innovative approach to circus experiences that attracted new audiences.

With the advent of ESG and the urgency for large companies to report on their ESG performance, corporates now need to create space in a ‘Green Ocean’ approach to social responsibility and sustainability. They need to find differentiation and authenticity in ESG categories. That’s an opportunity for you to exploit.

Identify their strengths and weaknesses

We encourage non-profits to do thorough research when prospecting for new corporate partners and conduct in-depth discovery sessions to understand the corporate’s strengths, weaknesses and pain points. Often it takes more than one session to get to the kernel of what’s really going on. The common problem with ESG is that everyone is struggling with it. ESG reporting is currently voluntary, but worldwide trends are leaning towards reporting becoming mandatory. You need to extend your research into a corporate’s ESG reporting and identify what’s missing. Often what they don’t report is stuff they’re not doing or haven’t figured out yet. For example, look at John Holland, the engineering and construction company. Their sustainability report talks about their ambition to lift women’s participation in key roles from 13.6% to 18.6%. Given that the VIC government has mandated a 50% gender equity target for construction companies by 2030, they’re a long way from where they need to be. Are you a non-profit working in gender equity or providing access to a more diverse workforce? You could be a solution to their problems. Similarly in the John Holland example, they talk about ‘enhancing community value’ but have no measures or specific goals around it. Use your research and discovery sessions to find areas where you can contribute.

Find the competitive gaps

We think the best information on a corporate prospect often comes from their competitors. They’re usually willing to dish the dirt and tell you what’s really going on, as there’s no cost to them. If you’re trying to identify gaps in ESG for a corporate prospect, take a look at others in their industry and how your prospect is performing. For example, Aussie Broadband have been vocal in their support for inclusion and LGBTIQ+ rights. Whilst other tech and communication companies have talked about connecting communities more generally, how are they performing against inclusion metrics? Equally, Aussie Broadband have talked a big game around inclusions but seem to be doing little in the area of gender equity in a male dominated industry. Looking over the fence at a corporate prospect’s competitors can help you direct some more targeted questions that unpack opportunities and gaps for your corporate partner to fill or exploit.

Tell them something they don’t know

Corporates are all feeling vulnerable about ESG reporting. It’s not an exact science and everyone is doing it a bit differently. If you have a solid portfolio of corporate partners, are you asking them about their ESG initiatives? Can you use those insights to tell a corporate prospect something they don’t know about their sector or geography? We’ve talked previously about being a disrupter and changing the status quo. You can do that by harvesting the information you’re gathering from your networks and existing partners and turning that into useful guidance for corporates struggling with similar issues. Event better, can you create forums to bring your partners together and help them learn from each other?

Blue oceans are spaces where corporates create competitive differentiation and reduce costs at the same time. Green oceans are untapped spaces where corporates can build reputations for authentic social responsibility and set themselves up for stronger performance. If your non-profit can help them navigate the oceans, then you’ll be riding the waves with them for a long time to come.