BSR Review: Innovative Partnerships: Overcoming Separation Mentality

A Collection of What BSR Is Saying on Today’s Pressing Issues


Editor's Note

Unlikely Partnerships for Lasting Change

By Cammie Erickson, Manager, Partnership Development and Research

In her opening remarks last month at the Global Impact Economy Forum in Washington, D.C., U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talked about the importance of “innovative alliances,” which she said inspired her to establish the Office of Global Partnerships. “We needed to tear down the silos that prevented us from working creatively and smartly together,” she said. “We needed to facilitate and scale up the impact economy. And we needed to make it clear that we were over the separation mentality that for too long has guided our efforts.”

BSR’s longstanding approach of working across sectors also combats this “separation mentality.” As we approach our 20th anniversary, it’s clearer than ever before that cross-sector partnerships are required to address social and environmental global challenges and achieve long-lasting, systemic change.

In the past year, BSR has continued to build partnerships that promote the future of resource management, create an inclusive economy, and develop sustainable growth models in emerging markets. Our signature Partnership Development initiatives, including HERproject and CiYuan, prove that the most powerful collaborations leverage the unique assets of each partner, effectively measure and report on impact, and establish sustainability strategies to ensure continued and locally driven improvements. They also remind us that we need to constantly adapt our approaches to ensure that new partnerships address changing global conditions. Indeed, some of the most successful collaborations develop between unlikely partners with complementary strengths.

In this edition of the BSR Review, we present a collection of our recent articles, blogs, and Conference sessions on the following topics:

  • The importance of cross-sector partnerships: Why are partnerships among companies, NGOs, and governments crucial, and what makes a truly powerful collaboration?
  • Addressing global issues: How are signature BSR initiatives tackling sustainability challenges through innovative partnerships? What are we learning about how to build and sustain partnerships and measure impact?
  • Anticipating future challenges: What new themes are emerging, and what should companies, NGOs, and governments keep in mind as they build partnerships and select new partners?

For more information about BSR’s Partnership Development work, please contact Cammie Erickson at

The Importance of Cross-Sector Partnerships

How Partnerships Give Business Power, Prescience, and Potential (March 13, 2012)

BSR Insight article: Looking over two decades of impactful work at BSR, it is apparent that sustainability challenges require systemic solutions that draw on multiple institutions—and the individual leaders within them—working together. Read more

Cross-Sector Partnership and Impact Measurement (October 1, 2011)

BSR Conference session: Partnerships can be complex, but it is important to remain true to their original vision and values and stay focused on the primary customer. Furthermore, the development of metrics that provide evidence of impact is challenging to implement but also essential to success. Read more

Partnership Innovation: It Takes a Supply Chain to Improve Women’s Health (May 31, 2011)

By Chad Bolick, former Partnership Director, BSR
BSR Insight article: Companies that are looking to expand their CSR programs have an opportunity to make a bigger impact by adopting innovative partnerships. Successful collaborations require outside-the-box thinking on how to engage with a wide variety of stakeholders, form partnerships that are not solely reliant on financial resources, and focus on needs rather than headlines. Read more

Access to Medicine: From Philanthropy to Marketplace (September 14, 2011)

BSR Insight article: Access to medicine is a challenge for poor populations in both developed and less developed countries, but the issue is most severe across sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and China. Along with actions by pharmaceutical companies to counter mounting pressure for not doing enough to make drugs cheap and available in these regions, cross-sector partnerships have played a key role in increasing access. Read more

Addressing Global Issues

Guiding Social Investment in China (February 27, 2012)
By Brooke Avory, Manager, Partnership Development and Research, BSR

BSR blog: The Chinese government is encouraging corporate giving through tax relief for donations, as well as award programs to recognize business efforts in corporate responsibility. To build a robust social investment structure in China, however, corporate participation needs to extend beyond traditional giving programs. Read more →

HERproject: Three-Part Blog Series

By Racheal Yeager, Manager, HERproject, BSR; Libby Annat, Senior Ethical Trade Manager, Primark; and Amaya Gorostiaga, Manager, Advisory Services, BSR
BSR blog series: This three-part series highlights the impact of HERproject in Bangladesh. The first blog explores impacts within and beyond factory walls through the stories of HERproject peer educators. The second shares a participating company’s perspective on health and business impacts, and the third profiles one of our NGO partners.

Catalyzing Social Investment in China (November 1, 2011)
By Brooke Avory, Manager, Partnership Development and Research, BSR

BSR Report: As China rapidly changes, the expectations for and implementation of social investment programs are changing as well. A shared vision and commitment are necessary to boldly address the tremendous social, environmental, and economic challenges facing the country. Undoubtedly, progress will be defined by how successfully cross-sector partnerships use each player’s resources. Read more →

An Alliance to Support DRC Conflict-Free (October 12, 2011)
By Marshall Chase, Associate Director, Advisory Services, BSR

BSR blog: The U.S. State Department has created a Public-Private Alliance for Responsible Minerals Trade to support conflict-free mineral supply chain efforts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Leading companies and civil society organizations have joined the alliance, which works to become a platform to coordinate those companies who seek conflict-free sourcing. Read more →

HERproject: Health Enables Returns | The Business Returns from Women’s Health Programs (August 12, 2011)
By Racheal Meiers (née Yeager), Director, HERproject, BSR

BSR Report: HERproject health needs assessments have demonstrated that women’s health remains a critical area of investment for international companies and their supplier partners. This study seeks to provide a clear business case for such investments. Read more →

Anticipating Future Challenges

Women’s Empowerment and HIV/AIDS: A Call to Action on World AIDS (December 1, 2011)
By Racheal Meiers (née Yeager), Director, HERproject, BSR

BSR blog: The business case for preventing HIV/AIDS for employee wellness and retention has been made, which has led companies to make significant investments in HIV prevention and treatment around the world. However, we will not make meaningful progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS unless gender inequity and women’s empowerment are also addressed. Read more →

Embedding the Millennium Development Goals into Business Strategy: the World’s Women Can Help (August 26, 2011)
By Racheal Meiers (née Yeager), Director, HERproject, BSR

BSR blog: Having a meaningful impact on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as an apparel company might be easier than one might expect, mainly because the industry has demographics on their side. Levi Strauss became the first apparel company to require its supplier factories to implement investments and impact measurements that are in line with the MDGs. Read more →

Future of Business-NGO Relationships (August 23, 2011)

By Ayesha Barenblat, former Director of Stakeholder Collaboration, BSR
BSR Insight article: BSR highlights five trends shaping the NGO sector and analyzes what these trends will mean for business and NGO engagement over the next 10 years. Read more →

How to Pick a Local Partner (August 18, 2011)

BSR blog: While the benefits of partnering with a local civil society organization may be widely recognized, finding a local partner can be a challenging and daunting task for any business. In this post, six tips for picking local partners. Read more →

For Financial Services Companies, Women Represent an Enormous (Missed) Opportunity (August 9, 2011)
By Chhavi Ghuliani, Manager, Partnership Development and Research, BSR

BSR blog: Financial services companies must innovate and target their products and services at those that are currently using them the least—women. They are the next billion. Read more →

Women and Sustainability (March 11, 2011)

BSR Report: In this research series, BSR identifies trends and provides recommendations to help companies invest in women as consumers, employees, community members, and partners. Read more →

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