When an advocacy group works together with a corporation to come up with commendable policy, great things can happen—socially, environmentally and economically—for both organizations. 

Although corporations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) often seem ethically opposed, now more than ever, successful businesses are realizing that social, environmental and economic responsibility can help their bottom line by boosting brand reputation, lowering waste & energy costs, and tapping the socially responsible investing market, among other things.  Businesses can gain quite a lot from employing the expertise of NGOs to become more socially and environmentally responsible.

Alternatively, NGOs have come to the understanding that it is easier to create change in alignment with their mission if they work with corporations instead of fighting against them.  In addition, by helping business, NGOs can sustain themselves economically with the money they receive for their services… which also helps them to continue their mission.

Here are some examples of Win-Win partnerships between advocacy groups and corporations:

Kimberly-Clark Corporation, the maker of Kleenex, Scott and Cottonelle brands, is working with Greenpeace International to reach their goal within two years of sourcing 40% of the fiber in their North American division from either recycled sources, or stock certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (an industry group promoting responsible forest management).

Greenpeace, which helped design the company’s new sourcing rules, said the results from the company’s commitment would be dramatic. “To be blunt, Kimberly-Clark uses a great deal of forest fiber,” Scott Paul, director of Greenpeace’s Forest Campaign, said in a statement at a press briefing. He continued, “It is the largest tissue company in the world. The steps committed to today, and the impact these steps will have on forests, should not be underestimated.”

The two groups said they planned to continue working together in the future.

The Sierra Club has partnered with Clorox’s newly-launched line of “Green Works” cleaners, a line of natural cleaning products that are as effective as conventional cleaners but made from plant-based ingredients.

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Green Works is 99% natural and made from ingredients derived from coconuts and lemon oil, and contains no phosphorus or bleach. The products are formulated to be biodegradable, non-allergenic, packaged in bottles that can be recycled and not tested on animals.  In lab and blind consumer in-home testing, all Green Works products performed as well as—or better than—leading conventional cleaners.

Starting in April, the product packaging will contain the Sierra Club’s name and logo and a statement about Green Works’ support for Sierra Club’s efforts to preserve and protect the environment.

Carl Pope, the Sierra Club’s Executive Director, said, “The bottom line is that these products are environmentally safe, affordable, work well, will be available to millions of people, alter consumer behavior overall and support the good work of the Sierra Club.  This is a win-win-win for consumers, business, and the environment.”

CVS/pharmacy has worked with America’s Promise Alliance, community groups and schools to develop its “Pathways to Pharmacy” program.  CVS/pharmacy started this nationwide internship program in 2002 to help disadvantaged youth take a first step toward a pharmacy career.

The “Pathways to Pharmacy” program offers participants training, mentoring and support, including financial assistance for pharmacy school. Ultimately, the program creates opportunities for future employment with CVS Caremark.

Since the program’s creation, it has expanded to nearly 40 cities and serves an estimated 1,800 high school students a year.  Plans are now underway to introduce one million students to pharmacy careers through the partnership with America’s Promise Alliance.

 The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has fostered many successful relationships with leading corporations, including:

In partnership with WWF, The Coca-Cola Company has set ambitious new global targets to improve water efficiency and reduce carbon emissions within its operations. They have agreed to extend their work two years through 2012.

The partnership also is promoting sustainable agricultural practices and helping to conserve seven of the world’s most important freshwater river basins, which include the Yangtze, Mekong, Danube, Rio Grande/Rio Bravo, Lakes Niassa and Chiuta, Mesoamerican Reef catchments, and the rivers and streams in the southeastern region of the U.S.

Johnson & Johnson’s “Healthy Communities, Healthy Ecosystems” partnership with WWF links healthy environments with the health of local people.  The partnership promotes environmental conservation by improving human health in remote areas around the world.

For example, a dispensary clinic for communities in Kenya’s Kiunga Marine National Reserve was constructed to help improve community health and encourage local participation in natural resource management. The dispensary also provides safe drinking water in the reserve’s main villages. Additionally, residents are learning about family planning options from newly trained health care workers from the Ministry of Health and Family Health International. Mobile clinics are reaching villages that have no access to quality health care, and people are receiving prenatal and postnatal care, immunizations, nutritional counseling and education about environmental health and conservation efforts.

“Supporting the health of local communities enables these communities to sustainably manage the natural resources base on which they depend,” said Katarina Trojnar, corporate relations officer at WWF.  Since 2003, Johnson & Johnson has supported “Healthy Communities, Healthy Ecosystems” projects in eco-regions of the East Africa, the Congo Basin, and the Eastern Himalayas.

In 2002, WWF and IKEA began a three-year co-operation to jointly promote responsible forestry in priority regions around the world. The 5 years of technical co-operation has seen the two organizations worked together on a series of forest, cotton and climate projects in many countries e.g. China, Russia, Bulgaria, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, India, Pakistan and Poland.

In February 2002, WWF joined forces with HSBC, one of the world’s largest banking and financial services organizations, to launch a five-year partnership that focuses on protecting global freshwater systems, which they are calling Investing in Nature. WWF and HSBC are currently working together on reversing the decline of freshwater habitats in Brazil, China, Mexico, UK and the US.

Investing in Nature is a US$50 million partnership over five years to fund conservation projects around the world and brings together HSBC, WWF, Earthwatch and Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI).  HSBC has also committed to developing its own environmental management and sustainability systems, and to advancing sustainability principles and guidelines for the financial sector as a whole.

The overall aims of the Investing in Nature partnership are to:

  1. Restore three of the world’s major rivers (benefiting 50 million people who depend upon them)
  2. Help save 20,000 rare plant species from extinction
  3. Train 200 scientists
  4. Send 2,000 HSBC staff to work on vital conservation research projects worldwide

HSBC and WWF will work together with other members of the financial community to develop an international protocol for the financing of projects that may have an impact on freshwater systems, to ensure they are sustainable.

WWF worked with the European insurance giant, Allianz, to publish “Climate Change and Insurance: An Agenda for Action in the U.S.”  Allianz also invested $500,000 in a WWF project that brought together climate experts and victims of hurricane Katrina to investigate the climate-related vulnerabilities of the southeastern United States and promote adaptation solutions.

Other WWF partnerships include:

The World Wildlife Fund has developed its “Climate Savers” program to help corporations lower their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  According to the WWF website,

By 2010, the Climate Savers companies will collectively cut carbon emissions by some 14 million tons annually – the equivalent of taking more than 3 million cars off the road every year. By increasing efficiency, Climate Savers companies are saving hundreds of millions of dollars, proving again that protecting the environment makes good business sense.