The International Union for the Conservation of Nature is increasingly turning to corporate donors for more of their funding. The organization projects that the percentage of funding from the private sector will jump from 7.7 percent in 2009 to 11.9 percent in 2012. But several grassroots groups say the relationship allows companies to greenwash their public image and ruin the reputation of the conservation groups, according to Worldwatch.
In October, at the IUCN World Conservation Congress, the organization was accused of risking its reputation over a five-year partnership it launched with Shell in 2007. Members of the World Congress called for IUCN to terminate its Shell agreement. However, IUCN warned its members that ending the Shell relationship could threaten conservation programs, and may be illegal.
Some grassroots conservationists did not agree with ending the contract and said communication between environmental groups and corporations is essential to prevent widespread industrial degradation. And for corporations, environmental stakeholders have changed from pesky activists to big investors – pension funds, state controllers, institutional investors, and even their investment bankers – and can no longer be brushed aside.
In order for the Congress to terminate the Shell contract, IUCN’s governmental and NGO members have to both agree to the action. However, the measure received a 60 percent vote from NGOs, but less than 20 percent of government votes.
A 2004 Cone study on corporate citizenship suggests a positive effect when NGOs partner with corporations.
In a EL column, Kevin Tuerff wrote that many companies are re-thinking their stand-off approach of dealing with environmental stakeholders as a segment of their green marketing.