Should Green Organisations Accept Sponsorship From Big Bad Corporations?

From climate events to marine conservation projects, it seems that green organisations in the Middle East are happy to take money from not-so-green corporations

It goes something like this. A green organisation is set up with the good intentions of sorting out some environmental injustice be it pollution or marine destruction. That green and very credible organisation is then approached by a not-so-green corporation looking to sponsor it – the financially struggling organisation could really do with the support but is concerned that it will lose its credibility.

The corporation, which has caused a fair amount of environmental pollution of its own, claims that it wants to work with that organisation to change and insists that together they can achieve more. That green organisation agrees – the corporation gets it greenwashed press release earning it relatively cheap Eco points whilst the green organisation loses its credibility with real campaigners.

It’s a tricky and universal problem facing green organisations worldwide but after receiving another dubious greenwashed press release this morning, I couldn’t help asking myself why are there so many green organisations in the Middle East sponsored by large corporations?

Unequal Partners= Corporations Benefit Most

Maybe I am being too sensitive and should accept that if we really want to fight environmental pollution that occurs on a massive scale then we need to be working with the biggest polluters- the big businesses. To some extent I agree with this but judging from what I’ve seen, the reality is that huge corporation and green organisations are never equal partners. In other words, the corporation gets what it wants from its association with the green organisation whilst the green group is unable to exert any real influence on the corporation to exact any long-term change.

I also can’t stop thinking about the fact that corporations are legally bound to do what’s best for their organisations and many have now realized that sponsoring some green organisations gets them all the ‘green’ brownie points that they want without any real commitments to instil change in their own organisations which may cost them money.

Lack Of Green Awareness?

It’s not only the Middle East that is struggling with this issue. In the UK, the ‘Climate Week’ held in March was heavily criticized for its sponsorship by organisations such as the Royal Bank of Scotland (biggest financial backer or the disastrous Tar Sands project in Canada) as well as EDF energy (who operate two of the biggest five coal stations in the UK). Similarly, the sponsors of Earth Day 2011 were also hilariously spoofed by the Rainforest Action Network for their attempted greenwashing.

However, I think the difference here is that UK environmental organisations didn’t buy into the sponsors attempts to greenwash their corporations into some sort of green-friendly companies. I wonder what the reaction would have been if the same organisations sponsored a similar even in the Middle East? Personally, I’m not so sure that we would have been so quick or willing to be critical. It seems that at the rather premature stage of green environmental awareness in the Middle East (a fact that corporations may be taking advantage of), we’re willing to take any progress what we get – even if it is sponsored by big bad corporations.

:: Image via fotdmike/Flickr

For more on green-washing in the Middle East see:

Maldives’s Floating ‘Green’ Golf Island Not So Green

Rawabi: Palestine’s Greenest City, Or Greenest Wash?

What’s Sustainable About A Green Airport: Foster + Partners In Jordan

Debunking The ‘Green’ Biofuel Myth

Global Warming Message Goes Awry At UAE Water Park

Comments

comments

3 thoughts on “Should Green Organisations Accept Sponsorship From Big Bad Corporations?”

  1. Hi Vesna,
    I hear what you are saying completely. But as I say in the article, it seems that corporations are alot better at getting what they want. The green org may go about setting objectives for the corp but what chance have they got of making sure the corp follows and achieves these obj?

    Slim to none I would guess.

    Obviously, saying ‘no’ is not a long-term solution but green organisations need to be wary that they are not getting a poor deal when they allow big corps to use their green credibility.
    Arwa

    1. There was a study in Israel released this year which showed how companies giving money to and supporting CSR actually paid less taxes. Now is that helping civil society develop? Not really.

  2. Vesna says:

    Dear Arwa,

    I like your writing, but I ask myself in such positions as you describe above: Can my organisation make greater impact on corporation stand-point or mindset if we refuse them or if we start partnership and we set objectives how a corporation can improve step-by-step its environmental approach? US organisation Social rights has a system that sponsors have to achieve a minimum scores on a scale which estimate how their business processes and products have common values with the green organisation.

    I think the worst approach is just to say “You can’t be our partner”, because consequently they will go out on a market and do it by themselves (I estimate that the quality of activities would be worse). I guess that they can make not just non-loyal competitor ,but last of all they can confuse people who receives your and their messages.

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