OPINION: Hot Issue - Should green organisations collaborate with business?

The WWF has launched a report designed to highlight to investors the problems that are caused by large-scale dam projects. There have been claims that the WWF co-operates too closely with the corporate sector, thereby compromising the deeper values of the environmental movement.

Robert Napier, chief executive, WWF-UK

YES

Businesses can provide both expertise and funds to make a huge impact on conservation efforts. They are also - as some of the largest consumers of the world's resources - at the very core of global environmental concerns.

Without addressing these issues, it is impossible for WWF to achieve its mission.

Indeed, these collaborations must be judged by their success in halting and reversing the degradation of our earth's natural resources. WWF works with business to influence the way they operate and reduce their environmental impacts by, for example, securing commitments to cut their emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

Relationships between environmental organisations and business need not be viewed with scepticism if they are conducted transparently. This means being able to demonstrate a consistent and rigorous decision-making process behind these partnerships. WWF retains the right to criticise any company whose operations undermine its mission to protect the environment for people and nature.

Penny Kemp, environment spokesperson and political advisor to the national executive of the Green Party

NO

There is a world of difference between the small entrepreneur that produces solar panels, recycled goods or organic local produce and the likes of the big multi-nationals.

If the question is whether environmental organisations collaborate with businesses that have a commitment to providing green solutions to environmental degradation then the answer is yes. However, if we are asking whether environmental organisations should collaborate with multi-national organisations, who put profit before people and planet, the answer is an emphatic no.

Globalisation directly undermines green economics. Multi-national dominance of the world's markets is increasing the gap between rich and poor and multinationals are using their power to undermine democratic accountability by eroding social and environmental safeguards which are seen as barriers to trade.

Liana Stupples, policy and campaigns director, Friends of the Earth

YES

I say yes, but "collaborating" is not a very helpful word. Business is here to stay. No green campaigner can produce wind-up radios, bicycles, or solar panels. We need successful companies.

It would be arrogant and wrong to think that no-one who manages a private firm can care about our environment. Take the management of DIY retailer B&Q, which has taken important steps to ensure its stores stock only sustainable timber. It didn't have to do this, but chose to do so after discussions with Friends of the Earth and other environmentalists.

Of course, companies can also wreak environmental destruction. There are no grounds for "collaborating" with Exxon-Mobil, for example, given its dismal record on climate change. In these cases, the job of green campaigners is to expose and oppose.

Environmental campaigners must be independent of business. When necessary, we must be sharp critics. When possible, we must work together and seek to persuade.

James Marshall, head of marketing and fundraising, The Wildlife Trusts

YES

Working with business is vital in the battle to change hearts and minds and also to raise support. Genuine partnerships between charities and the corporate sector can reap vast benefits for both parties, if the objectives of engagement are clear.

Cause-related marketing, sponsorship, donations and gifts in-kind from the business world do come with their caveats. However, as long as the charity is true to its ethos and is not prepared to compromise its integrity, then it should be able to achieve long-term support.

The Wildlife Trusts has had many valuable partnerships with companies.

Some of the activities have also developed into commercial operations.

For example, White & Wild milk, our own branded milk project which delivers crucial support to farmers and wildlife.

One of the things that most people seem all too ready to ignore is that the staff who work for these companies become the people we want to target.

Therefore, working through and with companies, gives us two bites of the same cherry.

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