Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


Revealed: favoured NGO partners of CSR heads

December 2009

WWF and Forum for the Future are the partners of choice for British CSR directors when they want corporate responsibility advice from non-governmental organizations, a new analysis has suggested.

The two are named as market leaders by the business research consultancy Verdantix in a study seeking the views of 30 CSR directors from FTSE 100 companies that regularly engage with NGOs.

Verdantix concludes that WWF, which works with companies such as HSBC, Ikea, Marks & Spencer and SABMiller, has become a leader in the field thanks to the ‘breadth of its capabilities and resources’. It has 250 employees in the UK alone.

WWF scores highly on thought leadership, communication and awareness building, advisory services, and investment in sustainability projects outside the UK.

By working with carefully selected companies it has maintained ‘strong brand credibility’ – an asset highly prized by CSR directors, says Verdantix.

Forum for the Future, which has 70 staff and works with BP, BT, Eurostar, PepsiCo and Unilever, among others, is also popular thanks to its ‘consulting prowess’ and its strong ‘business alignment’.

It is seen by CSR directors as being especially useful in helping businesses to plan by ‘envisioning scenarios and promoting innovation’.

More than half the directors said they pick NGOs for their ability to validate sustainability strategies as well as to challenge them. However, although they choose ‘critical friends’ that can give pragmatic advice, very few allow them near the boardroom, usually fearing a clash with directors over principles and the pace of change.  

The Verdantix report, Green Quadrant, says: ‘Due to the risks involved – to their careers and otherwise – CSR directors who own NGO relationships rarely seek to position these charities as board-level interlocutors.’

They also rarely use NGOs to help them with new product ideas or revenue-generating opportunities. However, there are exceptions, including AkzoNobel’s recent work with Forum for the Future to create sustainable paints.  

Among other NGOs included in the study were Business in the Community, Fauna and Flora International, Global Action Plan, Green Alliance, Oxfam and Tomorrow’s Company.

Forum for the Future and WWF were judged to be ‘more selective’ about the organizations with which they work than, for instance, Business in the Community, but had nonetheless worked with about half the directors interviewed.

Most respondents felt the recession had not changed the basis of their relationship with NGOs and that spending on such partnerships will be protected from drastic cuts owing to ‘the modest budgets involved coupled with the benefits of continued engagement’.

Verdantix | Global | Partnerships

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