The FINANCIAL — Most people agree that partnerships will play a vital role in achieving the SDGs. In fact, partnerships are so important that they are a goal in themselves. According to Unilever, business has an opportunity to help in delivering them – for example by drawing on consumer insights, using distribution networks to bring training and resources to the hard-to-reach, or tapping into business strengths such as innovation, entrepreneurial spirit, and financial management. But what do we mean by partnerships in this context? What do successful partnerships involving businesses like ours look like – and how can we build more of them? Some key elements are identified by over 300 guests and expert contributors who took part in a GlobeScan Leadership Forum on the topic that we co-hosted in 2018. Build a shared vision The first is that to achieve transformational change, we need transformational partnerships. That means bringing together a group of partners who share the same collective, long-term vision, aligned with one or more SDGs – and the passion and drive to accomplish it. Face up to the financial challenges While innovative partnerships are already flourishing around the world, there is no doubt that there are challenges to overcome before they have the collective impact needed to achieve the SDGs. The public-private finance model is one area where there is clear scope for pioneering new ways of funding partnerships. In 2015, for example, Unilever and DFID founded TRANSFORM, an innovation fund which brings private sector creativity and commercial approaches to solve persistent global development challenges. By aiming to enable 100 million people in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia to gain access to products and services that have been shown to improve health, livelihoods, the environment or wellbeing, it addresses a wide range of SDGs. In 2018 we quadrupled our investment in TRANSFORM to £40 million, which is supporting projects in nine countries. Make the business case for investment Building a case for investments like these is complex, as Gerbrand Haverkamp, Executive Director of the Index Initiative, describes: “If we want companies to invest in a way that helps the SDGs, in many cases this will require investing in public goods. This means making the broader case for long-term value creation – a theme that is developing momentum among investors who are increasingly looking to see profit and purpose being intertwined in businesses. It also means building strong cases for each individual partnership. Find the right partners Identifying the best partners to work with is essential – but also challenging. By definition, partnerships cross sectors and have different cultures, ways of operating, and approaches to measuring success and delivery. At Unilever, for example, we’ve recently formed a partnership with GAVI, the vaccine alliance, which pairs GAVI’s excellence in delivering essential vaccinations with the expertise gained by our Lifebuoy soap brand in behaviour-change programmes that encourage handwashing. There are many other examples of successful partnerships delivering impact. Benchmarking systems and forums for sharing information about partners are under development could provide welcome support in the future. Build trust Partnerships rely on trust – but trust has to be earned, and this can be an issue between sectors. Transparency, openness and accountability are the obvious foundations of trust between partners – and a good track record will build trust over time. Stay focused on effective delivery Like any initiative, a partnership depends on effective execution to succeed: which means defined roles, strong project management and impact measurement. According to Unilever, when talking to our partners and other stakeholders, we often hear that this is about having the right people in place. That means building capabilities among all the organisations involved in a partnership – and cultivating a shared, results-driven mindset. Staying business-like is key, says Rebecca Marmot, Global Vice President Sustainability, Advocacy & Partnerships, Unilever. “Apart from emergency situations, when we’re dealing with an immediate need on the ground, it is vital to build in the same structure of KPIs and deliverables for a partnership as we would for any commercial activity. Measure your impact Measuring and tracking the impact a partnership has is crucial for attracting and retaining funding – it supports the ongoing business case. But this can be a challenge in a number of ways. The sheer range of social, environmental and economic impacts involved in a transformational partnership can be difficult to measure. Social enterprises and non-profits can also find traditional impact measurement too costly.