Collaborations between nonprofit organizations and corporations are a beacon of hope in the fight for a sustainable future, particularly in the fashion industry where environmental and social issues are widespread. As a sustainability projects consultant, I have witnessed the transformative impact of cross-sector sustainability collaborations within apparel and textile supply chains. But what truly sets the most impactful collaborations apart is organizations joining forces — demonstrating a heightened level of commitment and ambition that drive systemic solutions.

But successful collaborations between corporations and nonprofits face several obstacles including balancing competing interests, navigating the inherent differences in organizational objectives and determining how to measure the impact and scope of their joint effort.

Navigating power dynamics between nonprofit organizations and corporations is the first significant challenge for collaborations. In the fashion sector, supply chain relationships are often imbalanced, with a hierarchical structure that places the fashion brand at the top due to its financial resources. Brands exert the most influence on the suppliers as customers, providing stability through their purchasing power. Nonprofits leverage this influence to bring on supply chain partners to participate in pilot programs.

On the other hand, nonprofits therefore often depend on corporations to scale up their activities and increase sustainability impact. For example, the brands provide funding for the nonprofit programs through membership fees, donations or strategic partnerships. This financial support can grant the brands a say in the scope of sustainability initiatives executed by nonprofits that might not perfectly align with the nonprofit’s mandate.

For example, a nonprofit could be focused on facilitating the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through its sustainability initiatives. These initiatives are not only driven by nonprofit’s mission, but also by development priorities and agendas set by governments. And in some countries, for a nonprofit to remain in operation, it needs to provide evidence that its programs are actually contributing to environmental and social improvements in the sector. To achieve this, nonprofits require brand collaboration as an additional incentive for manufacturers to participate.

Read the full article about intersectionality for nonprofits and corporations by Sandra Gonza at GreenBiz.