Sustainability & impact: buzz words or competitive edge?

We are becoming aware of our actions, and those of our predecessors. Better late than never! And this awareness leads to a natural desire to make a small change or contribution towards the environment and/or people from a less privileged society (arising out of guilt or of true consciousness to better the planet, adherence to faith, or community).

Making a global impact: paying it forward…

Damage done over the years can’t be undone. However, it can be compensated ever so slightly. Amends can be made to a small extent. But it begins with creating awareness of the impact.

You can't change what you can't measure. You also can't monetise what you can't measure...

Getting smart about sustainability

Businesses and business houses recognize this trait and use sustainability as an opportunity to attract responsible consumers. This helps drive up margins and create a stronger network effect among conscious consumers. Whether it is genuine concern from knowing the drawbacks of current solutions and unsustainable activities, or for tax-saving purposes and goodwill generation; the corporate sector, too, is opening up to more social responsibility roles and modifying or adding policies. These changes are introduced within commercial business houses as part of the Corporate Social Responsibility divisions and investments. Or by initiating corporate strategies that play up the sustainability aspect with the intent to increase brand value, making their business more attractive to the conscious and conscientious consumers.

Time to get creative to reflect positive impact aligned with the “give back to the planet” aspect.

Today’s consumers also want to be part of impact in their decisions. And therein lies the opportunity for businesses.
Photo by Daniel Öberg on Unsplash

The initiators and propagators of sustainability:  the third market

Non-government and non-profit organizations often get their mandates from larger local or global entities.  Institutional and/or private donors contribute financially (after due diligence of the project, or in good faith, or backed by a trust-based relationship). This contribution is used to help implement projects on the ground in countries or regions impacted by exploitation of men, women, and children, disasters – both natural and man-made.

The areas of work of the third sector are varied and vast, spanning gender inequalities and discrepancies to education to the provision of safe water and basic amenities, and much more.

Some of these organisations move slowly but steadily – at times burdened by bureaucracy and others are agile and transparent – but often with lower funding.

The aim is straightforward: to align donor expectations with mandates and create the desired impact.

Wealthy families play a key role

In Switzerland, a largely donations-orientated society, family businesses and UHNWI/HNWI play a key role in direct or indirect financial engagements with the NGOs through direct donations and sometimes, by forming their own ‘Stiftungs’ or Foundations that support a cause of an organization or multiple organizations. Primarily, this is because family offices have a long-term view driven by multi-generation sustainability. Their intent, more often than not, is to give back to society. Some prefer a cause close to the heart, others a region. Some people want to adhere to societal rules and gain peer recognition, others want to garner goodwill and a positive reputation. Still others want to experience the deep satisfaction that comes with the idea of a pay-back or a pay-forward so as to support the continuation of good work. Then there are those who want to share the feeling of affinity with a chosen group of the privileged; still others want to do it for philanthropy and stay behind the scenes and often prefer to remain unnamed.

To get stakeholders onboard, get them to own your cause/desired impact

Bringing together the purpose, impact, and finance

For an NGO, work and sustenance are based on gaining adequate funds. It’s not about a quick-fix solution and short-term relationships, but about establishing long-term partnerships, establishing an equation, building a mutual relationship of trust and faith. It is essential for NGOs to partner with those who have the same or similar goals and are willing to go a step further into supporting a holistic approach towards the betterment of society, using a market inclusive development approach that holds in good stead over generations to come. And although it’s the money the NGO is after – if accessed accurately – it is your cause the organizations are rooting for, ensuring long-term and sustainable impact. Perhaps it’s time that more individuals put an NGO into their testament…

For wealthy families and family-owned businesses, it’s about the impact on the cause they most closely relate to or strongly support. This comes naturally to them, since even in business, they strive for sustainability across generations, rather than quarterly numbers. It’s also about whether the fund providing partners are aligned to the “why” of the NGO.

Funding NGOs is a matter of emotions, along with a strong sense of leaving a legacy or making an impact. Fundraising for NGOs is the subtle art of reflecting potential impact to the UHNI/HNWI or Family business offices and foundations in a sustainable way, encompassing the organization and the donor as a united front with a common cause.

For business houses, it’s a matter of supporting a cause and being seen to be doing so, – a straightforward and less emotional approach as compared to family offices.

For individuals – it’s about a donation that contributes to a cause.

 So, as an individual or a corporate –  how are you paying it forward?


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