Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


Earthwatch and Rio Tinto – celebrating 20 years

May 2011

Earthwatch film. 14 mins.

After a vacuous first few minutes in which the viewer is told how ‘life on earth comes in many forms’, this film gets down to its subject of the 20-year relationship between two of the biggest organizations in their respective corporate and non-profit worlds.

As one of the longest extant corporate-NGO partnerships, started at a time when such alliances were rare, the story of Earthwatch and Rio Tinto is instructive and interesting. We are taken through the genesis of the relationship, through to its reinforcement over years of engagement.

There are a number of things missing in this tale, however. The film is full of aspirations and methods, but there is an absence of any record of achievement. Watching the video, one could be forgiven for thinking that the practical impact of the two-decade association has been negligible.

Linked to its neglect of performance is the vagueness of the film’s other claims. It’s not clear that Rio Tinto is a multinational mining company, or the immediate issues that such a business would face and which, presumably, Earthwatch has been involved in addressing.

The account of a ‘win-win relationship’ also leaves out what might have been an instructive account of the problems that bedevil such a long partnership.

In short, though one cannot expect a full non-financial report in a film of this kind, its lack of specifics makes it seem more akin to an advertorial than a ‘celebration’ of real achievements.

Ben Hickman

Ben Hickman | Global | Partnerships

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