From the celebrity-backed RED products featuring ‘-red’ suffixes to Susan G Komen’s For the Cure items taking over store shelves with pink versions of everything from blenders to bicycles, corporate cause partnerships are here to stay. The model, it appears, is working.

A recent report issued by Cone found that 88% of Americans find corporate cause marketing acceptable and that 80% would ‘switch from one brand to another… if the other brand is associated with a good cause’. These days, it seems customers expect the companies they shop with to give back.

The argument for cause marketing is clear: for-profit companies give, customer perception improves, and charities benefit. It seems like an obvious win, and yet until recently, this model has left out those companies marketing and selling to other companies. The positive public perception that comes with corporate philanthropy is great if your company is selling to the public, but if your market is other businesses it’s likely that low prices and high volume trump the halo created by charitable giving.

"A recent report found that 88% of Americans find corporate cause marketing acceptable."

Perhaps traditional charitable giving and corporate cause marketing aren’t the right models for B2B companies. Fortunately, the fact remains that many businesses want to do good. Better still, a model exists that is yielding positive results for business-facing companies and the causes with which they associate themselves.

In 2008, ProCaps Laboratories came to non-profit organisation Vitamin Angels looking for a way to give back. With a shared goal of improving individual health by delivering high-quality nutritional supplements, the match seemed clear. Vitamin Angels saw an opportunity to extend its mission on a huge scale by using ProCaps’ manufacturing expertise and industry connections to fill a vitamin void. Vitamin Angels delivers micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) to at-risk populations, specifically pregnant women, new mothers and children under five domestically and around the world. And the need for vitamin supplementation is huge.

Hidden hunger

More than two billion people globally suffer from under-nutrition. Alleviating vitamin and mineral deficiencies, often referred to as ‘hidden hunger’, is critical because its consequences are devastating. Individuals who are chronically deficient in essential micronutrients suffer a number of health problems that can lead to immediate life-threatening conditions as well as to a number of problems later in life, including impaired physical and cognitive development. Indeed, micronutrient deficiency is now linked to poor performance by children in school, and to subsequent, impaired economic performance by adults.

To help fill this global need for vitamins, ProCaps reached out to those companies they relied on for their own production needs to support the effort, and, in the first year alone, the consortium of companies donated 60 million prenatal multivitamins to Vitamin Angels, exponentially increasing the number of women the organisation was able to reach.

"Children’s multivitamins, so critical to proper mental and physical development, are, literally, coming in by the truckload."

In the years to follow, ProCaps and its consortium partners incrementally increased their annual donations to Vitamin Angels. In 2013, the group will donate 100 million prenatal multivitamins.

"We love it when a group of our donors join forces to produce a large quantity of critically needed vitamins for us," says Howard Schiffer, founder and president of Vitamin Angels. "Although the product or service contributed may vary, the companies are all coming together to help give the children and mums that Vitamin Angels is reaching a healthier life. We are so grateful."

With 190 million children worldwide suffering from vitamin A deficiency, Vitamin Angels looked for help from industry partners DSM, Natural Factors, and Ocean Nutrition, and continues to get it, to the tune of more than 36 million high-dose vitamin A capsules. Each company offers what works for them: Natural Factors donates the raw materials, DSM manufacturers the vitamins, and Ocean Nutrition contributes monetarily to offset production costs.

Children’s multivitamins, so critical to proper mental and physical development, are, literally, coming in by the truckload. NBTY – in partnership with Package All – is manufacturing more than 135 million children’s chewable multivitamins for Vitamin Angels, helping them to reach nearly 400,000 children worldwide with a full year’s supply.

"Through our partnership with Vitamin Angels, we have the opportunity to also provide life-changing and life-saving nutrients to hundreds of thousands of children in need," says vice-president communications, Andrea Staub.

The consortium model

Still more invaluable children’s multivitamins are coming in thanks to a partnership with NexgenPharma, in collaboration with nine other major companies. This year, Vitamin Angels will reach 30 million children in nearly 50 countries around with world with vitamins and minerals, many of which have been produced and donated by B2B companies, and all of which are manufactured to their specific formulation and specifications, which are consistent with those set by the WHO and UNICEF to ensure their safety and efficacy.

Vitamin Angels’ consortium model allows B2B companies to give in a way that is directly meaningful and functional for them, and to strengthen relationships with the companies or vendors they use for their own production.

Vitamin Angels is also a strong proponent of traditional corporate cause marketing, and welcomes direct corporate and individual contributions. Big or small, every donation enables it to reach mothers and children in need of essential vitamins and minerals.