People in office (Photo: LYCS Architecture, Unsplash)

Five lessons on business engagement for nature conservation

Around the world, ecosystems and the services they provide are under pressure. In order to safeguard these, nature organisations need to engage companies and governments to work towards joint solutions. How to make such collaborations work? This article presents 5 useful tips for NGOs and businesses to engage towards green and responsible business operations.

Header photo: People in office photo by LYCS Architecture, Unsplash

1. Together we’re stronger: build local, national and global coalitions

The challenges civil society organisations face, are often too big to be faced alone. By joining forces with organisations with the same goal, we can confront much bigger tasks. Together we have more knowledge, more resources, more power, a larger network and a larger audience.

Our partner organization AFIEGO joined forces with civil society organisations around the world to file a lawsuit against oil gigant Total, something they wouldn’t have been able to do on their own.

But collaboration isn’t always easy. How to overcome the challenges that come with uniting different approaches?  Our partner organisation AFIEGO in Uganda shares its experience in working with other CSOs to organize dialogues with oil companies. 

2. Unusual collaboration? Keep in mind the common goal

(Inter)national financial institutions and local civil society organisations, an unusual match? Quite the contrary. In Paraguay, a collaboration between Dutch Development Bank FMO, local banks and NGOs appears powerful towards reducing illegal deforestation.

Civil society organisations can use the leverage of a large international party and investor such as FMO in mobilising the local financial and business sector to improve its operations. In Paraguay, 14 of the 17 banks have adopted voluntary and social environmental standards. Linda Broekhuizen, Chief Investment Officer of FMO, explains how they convinced the banks to start working with NGOs.

In order to view this movie you have to accept ‘Social media and advertising’ cookies. Click here to change your cookie settings.

Yet the collaboration did not come without challenges. How to overcome those

3. Set up a friendly space where business meets civil society

In order to view this movie you have to accept ‘Social media and advertising’ cookies. Click here to change your cookie settings.

What if civil society organisations could meet up with business in an informal way to share best practices on social and environmental programs? In Benin, this idea sparked the creation of the CSR café: a friendly space where business meets civil society.

Gautier Amoussou of NGO Eco-Benin explains how this initiative is valuable to companies and CSOs alike.

4. Nature organisations and asset managers can be allies

Asset managers can use their investments to trigger change. However, they often lack access to reliable information on specific companies. Civil society organisations can offer the solution.

Faryda Lindeman, Responsible Investing Specialist at Dutch asset manager NN Investment Partners, explains the important role civil society can play.

In order to view this movie you have to accept ‘Social media and advertising’ cookies. Click here to change your cookie settings.

So far, the collaboration between civil society organisations from Indonesia and NN Investment Partners yielded several results:

5. Your network is valuable – find out who is your “(wo)man inside”

Although not everyone feels comfortable networking, your network can be highly valuable in achieving your goals.

Maximin Djondo, Director of the Benin Environment and Education Society (BEES) explains how a government official helped him establish an administrative alliance that’s built to last.

In order to view this movie you have to accept ‘Social media and advertising’ cookies. Click here to change your cookie settings.

Cultivating his network, Maximin even managed to pull off a law that bans single-use plastics. How?

Lessons from Shared Resources Joint Solutions

The above lessons are drawn from the programme Shared Resources Joint Solutions, a strategic partnership between IUCN NL, WWF and the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Since 2016, we have strengthened the capacity of local NGOs and civil society organisations in 16 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America to join forces with the public and private sector to protect biodiversity, climate resilience, food security and the water supply.

A key component of this programme is the engagement with (local) business. Without clean water, air, or a fertile soil business development would not be possible. At the same time, business are one of the key drivers of loss of these so-called ecosystem services. The programme strengthens the capacity of local civil society organisations to engage with business. Their engagement strategies include a wide spectrum of approaches from more collaborative (partnerships with companies) to more activist (campaigning).

Share your experience

Which strategy works best for you? We are interested in hearing your experiences and lessons on how companies, civil society organisations and governments can work towards joint solutions. Share your stories in the comments below!

Learn more?