11/01/2011 12:30 pm ET Updated Jan 01, 2012

It's Not Easy but Businesses Can Benefit From Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs)

PPPs are all the rage these days. And with good reason. Done right, they are probably the best chance we have for tackling some of the toughest societal issues we're facing -- from world hunger to obesity to sustainable agriculture. Why? Because PPPs uniquely combine the power of the public sector, the private sector, and civil society. And if you can get all three of these sectors working together, you can develop market-based solutions that are sustainable, scalable and replicable -- critical if you're seeking lasting solutions to issues of this magnitude and complexity.

But if PPPs can be so powerful, why are companies often reluctant to join? Well, first of all, because they are pretty complicated. Getting these three groups, with very different motivations and operating styles, to work closely together against a common goal is no small feat. And second, because PPPs can take a long time to set up and even longer to execute and deliver results ... hardly ideal given the emphasis on quarterly-results for so many US-based public companies.

Despite the obstacles however, we've found that there are at least seven compelling benefits a company can achieve provided it is willing to do the work to define a societal problem that it can really help solve and to put in the time to find the right partners to join in that effort.

Since we all win when the poorest, most needy among us benefit, we want to help more companies get engaged in meaningful ways. So, I'm sharing my learnings here and encouraging you to share them with others or add more learnings from your own experiences. The more the merrier in this space! So, here they are...

PPPs can benefit business by:
  1. Creating/opening new markets (from new countries to new buyers)
  2. Developing new products
  3. Building consumer engagement and preference (both within and across developed and developing markets through online, on-pack and in-store tools/activities)
  4. Improving employee retention (through everything from communicating about what you're doing to employee volunteering and employee giving)
  5. Boosting recruitment (more than ever people want to work for companies they can feel good about and orgs they feel are doing some good in the world so PPPs make a good recruitment story)
  6. More robust supply chains -- including in our case sustainable sourcing of agricultural commodities
  7. Improved government relations (it doesn't mean you'll get what you're asking for, but, a successful partnership does make it more likely you'll get a fair hearing.)

I've only got a few years experience in this space but this is my current list. Love to hear yours!