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Does the corporate responsibility campaigning movement need reform?

Are campaigning (particularly green) NGOs losing their edge? It’s a question many are asking.

Here are the concerns I’m hearing, in a nutshell:

1) Campaigners have become too big, bureaucratic and slow moving
2) Some seem more interested in the corporate dollar than their original mission
3) Partnerships are sometimes going too far in that they are legitimising unambitious goals
4) NGOs large and small have not done enough to tackle organised climate science denial groups and industry lobby organisations
5) Even smaller NGOs are not calling out front groups loudly enough
6) Journalists in many countries are not being engaged with successfully beyond mere individual campaigns
7) There simply isn’t the will among NGOs to create peaceful protest marches as is happening with spending cuts, anti-war movements and in other areas
8) Government is being allowed to mask slower action on the basis of economic issues. i.e. Campaigners are not pushing them hard enough.

I would probably except Greenpeace from many of the above allegations, which are collected from different sources I’ve either spoken to, or read comment from.

Global Witness too, continue to amazing work, along with some of the others mentioned in the linked article above.

Of particular concern to many is the future of NGOs that used to be campaigners, but now appear to be more interested in corporate cash than their stated mission might indicate.

Partnerships have been all the rage between NGOs and business for a good decade or so.

Many have delivered great results, as we have documented extensively for the same period. Here’s are our most recent briefings, here and here.

(Search www.ethicalcorp.com for “partnerships” to view reams of articles and analysis)

The worry around large campaign groups, alongside concerns I have about the large company performance gap is how they plan to balance their partnerships with increasing action around social and environmental issues. How will they push their partners harder when the cash is flowing into their coffers? And how will that cash prevent them from engaging other large firms in positive action rather than just long term targets?

I posted a bit of a rant about campaigners losing the plot back in March.

We need a much more mature debate about this, as both Charles Secrett and Jonathon Porritt have said. It’s not happening right now. Too many campaigners such as Friends of the Earth and WWF, are in denial. That needs to change. The situation is even worse in the US, with many large green NGOs shopping themselves to anyone with a dollar to a degree that’s way beyond the pale.

There should at least be some public debates held here in London and New York/DC to help kick that debate off.

We’re all in favour of public discussion and transparency, right?

I’m happy to throw my hat in the ring and help convene or moderate/chair any of them.

Who’s with me?

1 Comment

  1. For all government contracts a legislation be enacted for eligibility to participate and to allow, only companies who are certified for the 10 principles of UNGC, covering the 4 issue areas – Human Rights,Labor Rights, Environment and anti-corruption.

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