Public-Private Partnerships, Tool For Transparency

Public-private partnerships provide a unique opportunity to leverage resources and existing infrastructures for mutual benefit. No single organization or actor is able to solve the problem of forced labor alone, but these partnerships have the potential to drive greater and more meaningful social change.

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August 13, 2015
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Public-private partnerships (P3s) have taken on a new meaning over the past decade. Traditionally focused on hard infrastructure (e.g., bridges, toll roads, sewers), P3s can now be found in soft infrastructure areas like education, health, and financial services. Strong examples of this include Coca-Cola’s partnership with the World Wildlife Fund to conserve the world’s freshwater resources, and USAID’s partnership with Western Union to promote entrepreneurship and sustainable economic growth in Africa. Unlikely bedfellows are realizing that through partnership, they can reach shared goals more effectively and efficiently.

With this year’s Trafficking in Persons Report [TIP] focused on human trafficking in the global marketplace, corporations are being called upon to proactively and creatively address forced labor in their supply chains. With the understanding that no one nation, company, or nonprofit can solve this issue alone, P3s are a useful approach to affect meaningful change.

Supply chains offer a unique opportunity to engage in P3s because the desired outcomes of the public, private, and nonprofit sectors are often aligned. Consider the CocoaLink partnership. Upon recognizing that remote cocoa farmers in its Ghanaian supply chain lacked access to technical training and were therefore less productive than farmers in other areas, the Hershey Company partnered with the Ghanaian government and the World Cocoa Foundation to find a solution.

Capitalizing on the widespread use of cell phones, the entities created a two-way text and voice messaging platform called CocoaLink to educate farmers about improved techniques. The result: The government accessed a previously isolated population, farmers enjoyed increased yields and incomes, and Hershey benefited from higher profits. Without the government and nonprofit partners, Hershey would not have had the reach, technical expertise, or public trust to successfully execute the program.

An effective P3 leverages the strengths of its partners to achieve an outcome that is mutually beneficial. A private sector partner’s strength may be its resources (e.g. funding, expertise, human capital), while a public sector partner’s strength may be its local reach and scalability. Pooling these assets allows the partnership as a whole, as well as each individual entity to derive value. For corporations, value may be in the form of increased profit; for nonprofits and governments, it may be in the form of societal and environmental progress.

Extending supply chain collaboration beyond technical training to address worker well-being increases the potential value of the partnership. Employee engagement programs are ubiquitous, and companies have long acknowledged the correlation between employee well-being and workplace performance. However, well-being efforts have largely focused on direct employees and not on workers in lower tiers of the supply chain. In many cases, improving the well-being of these workers cannot be achieved through increased engagement; it requires substantial effort to protect and ensure their basic human rights. While such an undertaking is significant, so is the potential return. With tens of millions of workers affected by slavery and trafficking, multinational companies with broad and deep supply chains have a tremendous opportunity to improve lives and subsequently reap the benefits of more productive workers.

Companies, governments, and nonprofits all have a stake in combatting slavery and trafficking and should work collaboratively to develop solutions. By understanding challenges that companies face in maintaining slavery-free supply chains, governments can craft better-informed regulations and nonprofits can deploy resources more strategically. Supported, rather than confronted by governments and nonprofits, companies will increasingly view engagement on this issue as an opportunity to improve their bottom line while simultaneously having a positive social impact.

Natalie Pregibon is the director of research at Concordia, a platform that transforms and enhances the way global citizens approach the world’s greatest challenges. www.concordia.net.


This piece appears as part of KnowTheChain’s blog series on a growing trend towards supply chain transparency. Follow the discussion at: http://bit.ly/1HpEEOu

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