Moving the World - Looking for a Partner

A company's commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) gave birth to the Moving the World program. A partnership was forged between TPG, the Dutch mail, express and logistics multinational company, looking for a humanitarian partner and the World Food Program (WFP). In this EFMD award-winning case study, INSEAD's Professor Luk Van Wassenhove and Roland Tomasini narrate the process of choosing a cause, selecting a partner, creating the work plan, and finally, getting executive board buy-in.

by Luk Van Wassenhove, Rolando Tomasini
Last Updated: 23 Jul 2013

In the light of globalisation, leaders at TPG were asking themselves what they could do as a large wealthy company to increase their social participation. This demand for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) direction led to TPG's strategic decision to act on the humanitarian plan. Following a thorough selection process, 'Moving the World', a partnership with the UN World Food Program (WFP) came into being. This case study, The TPG-WFP Partnership: Learning How to Dance is written through TPG's perspective and INSEAD authors, Luk Van Wassenhove, the Henry Ford Chaired Professor of Manufacturing and Rolando Tomasini, Research Associate, takes us though the process of choosing a CSR initiative that best serves organisational needs of the organization.

Of major interest, is the selection process and screening to find the right partner; one who is aligned with the organisation's objectives and capabilities. And also the issue of convincing the management board of management that the decision, although risky and costly, is the right one to embark on, is valuable learning material.

TPG operated two brands and three divisions. CSR, which in TPG's case would come to mean world hunger, was a way of bringing everyone together internally. The partnership would make employees feel proud and useful as they applied their job skills to tackling a humanitarian problem. The issue here was the importance of getting this initiative going from the very top of the organisation to then filter down through the different business units.

Once the candidate was selected according to varied criteria, the search had three well-defined stages. Firstly, since the humanitarian field was totally unknown to TPG, a lot of desk research had to be done ensure reputation and neutrality. Secondly, TPG requested applications in order to estimate engagement readiness for such a partnership. And finally, there was a face-to-face meeting to assess motivation and commitment.

The Word Food Program, well known for its sophisticated large-scale emergency relief operations, was chosen as the partner. Time was then dedicated to identifying areas where WFP needed support and TPG could contribute. Logistic focused initiatives were drawn up from there: Joint Supply Chain and Emergency Response.

In brief, aside from choosing the right partner, building the business case for the management was the most challenging part of the process. It was vital to ensure the organisational commitment with all the inherent risks. The problem was; what did top managers need to hear to be convinced that this CSR initiative was a good investment for the company?

The first of a two-part EFMD case award winning series, Looking for a Partner provides useful lessons in deciding and building strategic private sector and humanitarian agency partnerships.


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