Choosing which environmental groups to work with

Submitted by: Phil Riebel 11/29/2016

It’s best to choose collaborative ENGOs versus getting “bullied” into difficult situations

ENGO = Environmental non-governmental organization – this includes groups such as Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund and many others.  The main role of ENGOs is typically to drive positive environmental change by reducing the environmental impacts our society is having on the planet. 

The approach and methods used to do this, however, vary widely between ENGOs.  One tactic is to attempt to shame corporations, sometimes by the use of what some have called “misinformation”, i.e. the Greenpeace vs Resolute case.  To read more about this, see Is David the New Goliath?  and Peter Foster: Greenpeace’s SLAPPschtick.

Another, much more productive approach (in my opinion) is when industry and ENGOs collaborate on specific environmental projects to improve best practices.  For example, the latest joint initiative between WWF and UPM on forest certification for biofuels and WWF conservation initiatives via Domtar’s Earth Choice brand.

The methods used by ENGOs to achieve change has a direct impact on their reputation and credibility in the marketplace.  This type of ranking was covered in a previous blog on “Which Environmental Groups to Partner With – Trusted Partners vs The Uninvited”.  It’s no surprise that groups such as WWF and The Nature Conservancy rank as the most trusted partners (with high credibility) based on industry experiences, while “the uninvited” are at the other end of the chart.

During my paper industry days, we liked to work with groups that were clearly science-based and willing to understand our economic limitations.  The benefit to our company was the positive visibility due to the ENGO endorsement as well as improving best practices to reduce environmental impacts.

Finding a “Trusted Partner” partner to work with can be a good pro-active way to engage with an ENGO – in this case it’s always better for you to choose a partner than the other way around!

But what to do if your company is targeted by a more aggressive “shame and blame” campaign?  For example, ENGO pressure to change your paper sourcing practices.

Before engaging, please consider the points below.

As a company you need to achieve a more sustainable business by balancing economic needs with social and environmental responsibility.  However, the concern of most ENGOs is typically environmental – not economic.  Furthermore, “shame and blame” campaigns can include negative publicity and are designed to embarrass your company into changing.  If you go down this route, you will be letting ENGOs drive your sustainability agenda, and it could also become a path of never ending requests.  If you want examples…give me a call!

Stay in control of your own sustainability agenda and write your own policies that consider all the aspects of your business.  Set your own goals and targets to improve – be proud of them and make them visible to employees and stakeholders.  Giving that up to external parties is not good business.

If you are targeted by negative publicity - don’t be afraid to correct the media or ENGOs with the facts and make your sustainability policy clear.  Here is a great example of how Walmart corrected an article in the NY Times.

As Steve Forbes writes, ENGOs should be as accountable as corporations for their actions.

Source: This blog originally appeared on Printing Impressions website on November 9, 2016.