Alliances for Sustainable Development: Business and NGO by Laurence Schwesinger Berlie

By Laurence Schwesinger Berlie

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47 This third ecology wave is more pragmatic; rather than seeking radical changes, it prefers to work gradually to attain its goals. 49 This view was also defended by Peter Melchett, director of Greenpeace UK, at a conference given to business managers in 1996. This change has led to a move away from denunciation and confrontation towards collaboration in order to solve environmental problems which are too complex to be solved by a single sector of society. This new paradigm requires addressing more complex problems, which cannot be tackled in an isolated way.

117 Instead of adopting a reactive or defensive position, which makes it more vulnerable to attacks, the company can face the crisis in a more open and proactive way by learning to communicate with NGOs (and other stakeholders whose interests are opposed to its own) and by becoming more familiar with the nongovernmental sector, by demystifying it. The usefulness of links with the environmental sector is illustrated by the contrast in the Exxon and ARCO cases. When the Exxon Valdez was wrecked off the coasts of Alaska in 1989, Exxon found itself isolated, without knowing who it could turn to for advice, having no links with environmental institutions or leaders.

Fowler (2004a) speaks of the moral authority of NGOs, and SustainAbility (2003) stresses their fundamental role in fashioning ideas and development trends over the last few decades. Andriof and Marsden (2000) state that the power of NGOs is not a passing fad but rather the expression of a new form of consumer power, the result of deep social, economic and cultural changes. Whereas in the 1960s and 1970s, companies were not overly concerned about the impact of NGOs on their activities or strategies, the rise in power of the NGOs has certainly played a key role in business’ change of behaviour.

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