Six ways to find NGOs to engage (when no-one is paying attention)

This is a question I’ve been asked quite a few times by companies to whom no-one pays much attention to on CSR issues.

I suggest to them in training sessions and workshops that they seek out local NGOs when choosing factories, plantations, local/national companies or even areas to source from.

The idea behind it is basic risk management: Local NGOs could tell you which factory or farm owners are known for treating workers badly, or well.

They can help with monitoring of specific working conditions, improving worker health, helping contract factory workers speak up or gain access to their rights, proper documentation etc.

But where, asked several CSR supply chain managers, am I supposed to find them when I go to visit suppliers and contractors?

India has over a million NGOs, so an executive from Tata told me back in 2005. One source told me recently it’s many more than that.

How then, should a supply chain CSR manager from a sourcing company that no-one has really heard much about (ie not Nike, or Gap or one of the big buyers) find NGOs to engage?

Here’s a few ways I thought of, I’m sure there are others readers could suggest:

1) Visit the offices of the big international NGOs in-country and ask their local officers who is active around certain factories.

2) Get in touch with community healthcare clinics, or local hospitals, find an experienced doctor to ask.

3) Ask some workers if you are doing interviews out of sight of factory management.

4) Speak to shift, farm and factory managers, ask which organisations can help the workers gain access to their rights.

5) ‘Encourage’ your audit firm to actually include an NGO mapping element in their reports back to you, and to do some of the above, if they can.

6) Ask your relevant CSR membership organisation to build a database of NGOs on a country by country basis, share information with other companies as to who is who, and their capabilities.

Much of this is all very simple stuff. But the question has come up enough times that I figured it might be worth a blog post on the topic. Look forward to comments.


  1. Toby, Great list. I can add the following:

    In order to help companies find NGO´s that fit their type of business you can also use the following segmentation:

    Peace and conflict resolution NGO’s : Work in areas “relating to the reduction and elimination of destructive conflict”, or, in another definition “promote peace, reconciliation, and coexistence”

    Youth NGO’s: Major issues most popular among youth NGO’s include HIV/aids, human rights, diversity, the environment, education, and social entrepreneurship.

    Children’s NGO’s: These NGO’s are essential to uphold the standards articulated by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). They contribute to the global movement for children by advocating for youth, monitoring compliance with the CRC and coordinating aid and development programs. Examples could be: UNICEF, CRIN and Delhi Education Initiative.

    Women NGO´s: Devoted to causes and issues critical to women, these NGOs are the Legacy of human rights activism in times of historical crisis and are rooted in the fundamental principles of equality. Global Fund for Women, Womankind Worldwide and institute of Social Studies Trust.

    Environmental NGO’s: The environmental NGO seeks directly to impact and influence environmental issues on the international, national and local levels. Examples could be: Green Peace, International Society for Environmental Epidemiology and People and Planet.

    Educational NGOs: Addressing the lack of education in a region or country is the focus of educational NGOs. Such organisations could have goals to improve the educational level of the children from orphanages, special schools, homeless children or children with physical and mental disabilities. Examples could be: Unesco, Youth for Achievements and orphanages.

    Human Rights NGO’s: Devote their resources to the promotion and protection of universal human rights. Unlike governments, who tend to seek human rights for their own citizens, human rights NGOs fight for the security of human rights for all people. Examples could be: Amnesty International, Center of Concern and International Society for Human rights.

    Humanitarian NGO’s: Are an integral component of international affairs and security, and integral to the functioning of aid in all types of humanitarian disasters. Examples could be: The International Red Cross, Salvation Army, CARE International and Oxfam.

    Learn more about me and my approach to Responsible Procurement Management at http://www.responsibleprocurement.dk.

    You can learn more about NGO´s in the NGO Handbook where the above inspiration comes from.

  2. DJAli

    Hi Tony, do you think in some countries local lawyers office can assist by confirming existence of local NGO's etc? Lawyers are usually people in the know.

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