The Path to Prosperous Partnerships

A recent article in the New York Times' Green Inc. column suggests that the dual concerns of greenwashing and reputation management are critical for corporations and non-profit organizations alike – especially as the prevalence of partnerships between these two groups continues to rise. This is something we've known for a long time at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

No partnership between a non-profit and a corporation should be taken lightly on either side. For the NGO, it is critical to maintain the independence, ability to challenge and focus on environmental results that are at the roots of its mission.

EDF has built a twenty-year track record of doing this by establishing partnerships when there is clear potential for measurable and significant environmental improvements and by holding our partners accountable to achieving and reporting on them – all while maintaining our financial independence.

EDF does not accept payment or financial contributions from our corporate partners. This helps us uphold high environmental standards and makes it clear that the innovations we develop with our partners are to be publicly shared. We are advocates, not consultants, so the new best practices and innovations we create are for the broader public good. Our ambitious goal is to spread these innovations across entire industries, multiplying the environmental benefits.

Understandably, at times EDF is lumped in with NGOs that do accept funding from corporate partners, as Ms. MacDonald has done in her book.

Are we saying our model is the only way to go? No, but we believe it has contributed heavily to our results over the years.  We've seen time and time again that corporate-NGO partnership can create both credible environmental results and business benefits like cost savings, market growth and improved risk management. When this happens, the environment stops being sidelined and becomes a key driver of innovation and growth.

For more on our model, check out the Guide we issued last year for a run down of best practices for partnering. And for more on the results of our work with corporate partners, visit