Ethical Performance
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WWF sets out ethics code

November 1999

One of the UK’s most influential NGOs has agreed a new business and industry engagement policy that sets out for the first time which companies it will – and will not – work with.

The World Wildlife Fund UK (WWF UK) took nine months to draw up the policy, which spells out criteria for entering into partnerships with businesses on educational and fundraising initiatives as well as campaign work on key issues such as forestry, climate change and marine pollution.

It will also cover relationships with suppliers, use of the WWF’s panda logo by companies, consultancy arrangements and the WWF’s socially responsible investment fund, launched in January with NPI.

The policy says WWF will work with businesses providing there is ‘hard and convincing evidence that the company itself is on a path to environmental performance improvement, or is fundamentally committed to change. It adds that any company must ‘acknowledge our right to criticise its behaviour if we see the need’.

Although it rejects a blacklist approach in favour of ‘positive persuasion’, it says WWF will not enter into any relationship with companies whose core business is armaments, tobacco, trade in rare flora and fauna, or animal testing for cosmetic and other non-health reasons.

The policy will be implemented by the WWF’s business and industry core group, which was set up in May to look at all significant new WWF relationships with business.

Steve Waygood, who chairs the core group, said the policy would provide a ‘clear decision-making framework’ to govern relationships with business, but would be flexible and regularly updated. ‘It recognises that the reason for not taking money from a company may be the exact rationale as to why we would work with them in other areas,’ he added.

In a separate initiative, WWF UK is to set up a self-help group that will bring together sustainability experts to find practical solutions to various corporate responsibility problems.

WWF spokesman Alasdair Stark said the Sustainability Action Network, which hopes to hold its first meeting by the end of November, aims ‘to create a platform whereby people who are trying to do something in this area can share their experiences and ideas’.

Stark said around five ‘corporate players’, plus four NGOs and four consultants, have already expressed an interest in getting the network off the ground.


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