Corporates can help amplify your social impact, but forming an impactful corporate partnership takes more than you sharing the same social mission. In this blog, we will share the 3 basic steps that can help you form an effective corporate engagement strategy to help you land a successful corporate partnership.
Step 1: Develop a clear Theory of Change (ToC) – why do you need corporate engagement?
Your ToC is your mission and strategy to address the identified social and environmental issues. Following the ToC, the startups can ultimately be impactful and financially sustainable at the same time. (Ref: Dream Impact’s ToC)
Once the ToC is clear, startups can start to identify possible corporate partners. Do their ToC align with your startup? You will need to go through a thorough assessment of the corporate’s activities in every area of business operation to determine this. Worth noting is that corporates come in various shapes and sizes, so startups should just aim at aligning ToC as closely as possible.
Step 2: Build a track record – start small with CSR projects
We recommend that you start small with CSR projects, and then build up to ESG engagements and eventually a CSV partnership. Partnering with corporates for their CSR activities can lay the foundation for future partnerships with other corporates. A straightforward example would be for a circular economy startup to partner with a coffee brand, collect their coffee waste and upcycle it into valuable products.
This simple CSR project may well be the company’s attempt to demonstrate corporate citizenship, but this may also lead to a positive impact on the company’s business performance. Think higher level of staff engagement, and a better corporate image. The data from these positive outcomes can help you present a business case to other similar companies to create longer-term operational changes, such as establishing used-coffee-capsule collection points.
Step 3: Demonstrate measurable impact
Creating visible impact is important, but demonstrating measurable impact is another work of art. If you’re struggling with this last step, rest assured that you’re not alone.
We have a tip for you: look for ESG data, not CSR. While corporates’ CSR activity data may only be available internally and is likely to have no key performance indicators (KPIs) for reference, their ESG activity data must be disclosed according to the relevant regulatory framework. Understanding the ESG disclosure requirements and their KPIs can put you in a stronger position to forge longer term corporate partnerships.
Final thoughts in corporate engagement
Like minds attract. It’s important to get the first step right when landing a corporate partnership. You should make sure your startups and the potential corporate partners have similar visions. Aim for the moon, and shoot for the stars – start with a small CSR activity and this will open many doors for you. If you could demonstrate measurable impact, establishing a CSV partnership would then be within reach.
Ready to land a corporate partnership?
Dream Impact is a driving force in building and growing Hong Kong’s impact ecosystem. As the largest network of social enterprise and impact ventures in Hong Kong, we bridge resources for social startups to accelerate growth in both business and social impact. With our experienced and passionate team, we can help you find the right partner for your social projects. Book a free 15-minute chat with us here.