Long Read

Perfect Mix

Third Course from our Learning Bites Series

Perfect Mix

Business of Impact in Venice was a smash but the feast is not over! We continue to serve you small portions of great wisdom on the topic of corporate social investing.


Win-Win: Unlock resources and influence business practice

Corporate social investors are increasingly looking for opportunities to scale their social impact. They are willing to take advantage of their unique vantage point between impact and business, and channel more of the vast financial and non-financial corporate resources, such as funding, skills, knowledge, technology and networks, to support not-for-profits and social enterprises. 

To unlock the potential of their unique positioning, strategic alignment between a CSI and its related company has become a key strategy across Europe.

Besides unlocking corporate resources, alignment gives the corporate social investor an emerging importance as a potential catalyst for business reform. Because of the stronger link, CSIs can utilise their expertise on socially relevant issues to help the related company identify and set more ambitious social and environmental impact goals.

4 ways to align effectively 

Nonmaterial Alignment

Strategic Alignment Case Study - The JTI Foundation

Want to focus exclusively on pursuing social impact? Then align the CSIs operations with nonmaterial areas of the business (e.g., geographical presence). In this case, the CSI’s mission and core focus remain enhancing social change – unrelated to the company or industry.

This decision allows the CSI to unrestrictedly pursue the socially relevant issues without considering the business relevance. Nonetheless, the CSI can educate the company about socially relevant issues that may affect the communities in which the company operates.

“In my opinion, transforming the company’s or the industry’s impact on society is not the responsibility of a foundation. This should be done by the business. The foundation’s only responsibility is to support the public good. The company can help us, be proud and communicate about our work, but the foundation is not something that should make direct business sense, otherwise tax benefits are no longer justified.”
– Stefan Rissi, JTI Foundation

Thematic Alignment

Strategic Alignment Case Study - Trafigura Foundation

Want to connect with employees of the company and call attention to social challenges that exist beyond their business perspective? Then align the CSI’s mission and/or core focus areas with social issues (e.g., SDGs or core values) that are materially important to the company. This will create stronger coherence between the CSI’s social impact and the company’s.

This decision increases the scope of the impact and complements the company’s strategy by supporting additional beneficiaries, geographies and issues. Moreover, it allows the CSI to tap into the knowledge and expertise of the company on shared themes.

“I believe it is important to know that strategic alignment should not be the holy grail. Corporate foundations that do not align still have a raison d’être. But when pursuing thematic alignment, two points have been particularly important to us. First, it is important to have an open relationship with our corporate colleagues to leverage all potential benefits of alignment. Second, it is key to have a clear narrative on the strategic alignment choice. This is important to build external credibility toward the general public as well as internal legitimacy for employees.”
– Vincent Faber, Trafigura Foundation

Industry Alignment

Strategic Alignment Case Study - Syngenta Foundation

Want to tackle a social challenge related to an entire industry? Then align the CSI’s mission and/or core focus areas with social issues of special concern in the industry. This will enable the CSI to advance best practices or set new industry-wide standards.

This decision allows the CSI to use the affiliation with the company’s name to mobilise relevant stakeholders for an industry-wide transformation, develop best practices and influence the industry’s inclusive business journey. Also, the CSI can provide information on non- or pre-commercial market segments, customers or innovations.

“For strategic collaborations with Syngenta and other private sector partners, we have established key principles of engagement. These safeguard the independence and credibility of our work and ensure that the objectives and impact of each partnership are always aligned with the foundation’s purpose and mission.”
– Rebecca Hubert-Scherler, Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture

Business Alignment

Strategic Alignment Case Study - Mobilize Invest

Want to aspire to have a direct positive influence on the company’s social and environmental business practices? Then align the CSI’s mission with the company’s purpose or long-term business strategy. The CSI will be able to invest in social innovations that can potentially be scaled through the company’s value chain.

This decision offers the opportunity to scale impact innovations through the company’s value chain, thus stimulating the adoption of novel social innovations and business practices and setting the company apart from its competitors.

“We are 100% aligned and seek synergies with Renault in everything we do. We think that the social activities need to be connected to the core business to inspire the company about what inclusive business solutions can look like. Business alignment allows us to on-board many employees and even high-position executives to mentor our investees and to financially contribute to the employee Mobilize fund. We would not be able to get as many employees involved in our activities if we were not aligned with Renault”
– François Rouvier, formerly Renault Mobilize Invest