By Laurence Schwesinger Berlie
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Additional info for Alliances for Sustainable Development: Business and NGO Partnerships
A certain number of elements, especially green consumption trends, the development of socially responsible stock indexes, and the changes in laws and standards, have a direct link with the core business of companies, that is, with how they produce and sell. However, collaboration is by no means the obvious thing to do. 63 Many factors hinder the setting up of corporate–NGO alliances: • The idea of the need to adopt management models which are more respectful of natural resources, although it is more widespread than previously, is still being questioned.
2 Changes in organisational characteristics The organisational characteristics of businesses and NGOs have changed. At the centre of this evolution is the way they position themselves with regard to environmental issues. Businesses have moved on from their denial of environmental problems in the 1960s and 1970s to recognising them. 38 Changes in attitudes have been due to the recognition of the role of the business sector in major ecological catastrophes: Seveso (1976), the Amoco Cadiz (1978), Three Mile Island (1979), Bhopal (1984), Chernobyl (1986), the Exxon Valdez (1989) and the Erika (1999), to mention a few.
At the centre of this controversy were the polystyrene containers, which McDonald’s used to package its hamburgers. At first McDonald’s adopted a defensive position but, under pressure, it started up a recycling programme, which did not satisfy the ecologists. During the summer of 1989, the Environmental Defense Fund took the initiative to hold constructive discussions with the leaders of McDonald’s. This ended in an alliance which has enabled McDonald’s not only to reduce its waste (among other things, by replacing the polystyrene containers for paper wrapping), but also to reduce its costs for packaging and waste management, thus improving its environmental image.