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Campaign groups / NGOs: Nine tips on engaging companies

Here are some thoughts campaigners might want to consider when engaging big companies. 
I wrote these for a recent presentation and hope they might be useful to some readers. 
Campaigners, when engaging companies, ruminate on this:
  1. Your idea about how you notify companies is very different from theirs.
Speaking to a mid-level supply chain manager is not ‘engagement’ at a highpolicy level prior to a campaign.

You cannot legitimately say to companies “we warned you” if the top director incharge of external relations didn’t know about your requests.

2.              Once you set the conditions honour them.

Don’t engage in success creep where the definition of success changes as thecompany starts to come around.

Go ahead and set a new challenge once the first is met, but honour commitmentsfor achievement of success.

3.              Have a session on definitions with a company.
Words have different meanings for the business and NGO communitiesespecially around timing and success criteria.
4.              Once a company is at the table there is often no need to beat them up again.
Being there means that you have already scored a hit. No need toalienate them further whilst you both agree you are still at the table.
5.              Use other companies as surrogates.
If you have a good working relationship with one company solicit theirhelp in getting another company on board. They can make the business tobusiness case.
6.              Honour off the record comments.
If you are not planning to honour them don’t listen in the first place.This has to be near the top of the list in terms of breaking corporate trust.
7.              Give the company a potential victory innegotiations.
Let them win a small point or two if you get the big concession.
8.              Timelines must be realistic.
You might think a company is dragging its heels, but often it just takesa little more time than you offer, to get things done.
9.              Co-ordination among campaigners is going to bevital in future.

IF you want to go fromcampaigns to scalable solutions you will need to be more organised, nuanced andco-ordinated.

Internal guidance needs tobe adapted to be more in-depth and through a central control where you keeprecords on companies.

(With huge thanks to Arian Ardie for some of the above ideas)



1 Comment

  1. As a corporate campaigner (NGOs, unions, SRIs), I appreciate and agree with most of this piece.

    However, I disagree with point four. I would argue the opposite. Bob Massie, the former Executive Director of Ceres, put it well once: "You can achieve a lot sitting at a table with corporate executives when there are people outside rattling the windows."

    It my be that an NGO campaign group is ready to sit down and negotiate with a company, good cop-style. But you still need a bad cop outside actually building up the pressure on the company. Otherwise, the company may have used the opportunity for dialogue as a lure to make the NGO drop the campaign pressure.

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