NGOs: Selling out by partnering with business?

A study developed in cooperation with UN bodies, NGOs and the corporate community reveals that NGOs have increasingly chosen engagement with businesses, rather than confrontation.

The report reveals that an increasing number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) engage with business and governments, changing their initial confrontational posture.

At the same time, the authors indicate that “there is concern that such a move could compromise the independence of NGOs and draw criticism that they are ‘selling out'”. The report gives three recommendations for NGOs to handle 21st century challenges:

  • Ensure higher levels of transparency and disclosure;
  • Innovate in the area of branding to attract funding as “good investments” as opposed to relying on funding fuelled by public anger;
  • Develop greater commercial understanding and work in partnership with businesses and governments to develop market-based solutions.


Friends of the Earth Europe(FoEE) commented that "the report has some useful ideas". "As a sector NGOs should be cautious about making an unsustainable international economic system dominated by multinationals appear acceptable by partnering the source of the problem rather than the agents of the solution – citizens, communities and governments. The attention on NGO accountability is a distraction from the much more pressing issue of corporate accountability given TNCs are massive economies having a huge impact on many people’s lives and the environment."


For-profit consultancy SustainAbility working together with the UN Global Compact, the UN Environment Programme and supported by a number of corporate as well as non-governmental organisations, released a report on 26 June, entitled "21st Century NGO: In the Market for Change". The behaviour of over 200 NGOs worldwide was examined in this study.


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