What Do Environmental Groups Really Want from Business?

By Gwen Ruta
Published March 29, 2010


A new book came out titled, “Good Cop/Bad Cop: Environmental NGOs and their Strategies toward Business.” Edited by Tom Lyon, Director of the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan, the book is a deep examination of the drivers behind NGO engagement with business and the ways in which NGOs have influence in the corporate sector.

It may be the first academic inquiry into the increasing role of NGOs in business.

Or as Mark Van Putten notes in his forward, it’s an attempt to answer a question that I hear all the time: “What do environmental groups really want, anyway?”

Through essays from social scientists, business theorists and NGO practitioners (full disclosure — I wrote a chapter on the organization and methods of Environmental Defense Fund), the book sheds light on the different factors that motivate different NGOs.

How do national or global groups differ from local organizations, and why? How are these groups funded, and what impact does that have on their agenda and tactics? How does the way a group is organized influence its strategy and results? All of these questions are addressed and more.

If you’re looking to really delve into the world of NGOs and about how they think and pursue their corporate strategies, take a look at this book.

Gwen Ruta, vice president for Corporate Partnerships at Environmental Defense Fund, spearheads the organization’s work with leading multinational companies to develop innovative, business-based solutions to environmental challenges and drive change through the corporate value chain. Her post is available at EDF’s Innovation Exchange blog and is reprinted with permission.

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