NGOs Are Driving Sustainability

Alan L. Johnson

We've all seen the good and the bad when NGOs and industry collide, but can NGOs help drive sustainability with more humanity? I recently considered this as I was reading an article by Bob Langert, Editor at Large at GreenBiz and the former VP of Sustainability at McDonald's. His article, "6 insights for NGOs to transform corporate sustainability," provides key insights learned from Langert's years in industry. He started by saying:

NGOs’ successful engagement with companies is absolutely necessary and fundamental if corporate sustainability is to make positive transformative societal change.

P.S. Check out his new book here 👇🏼:

I agree fundamentally with this statement and it began to make me wonder: How could this be possible when industry and NGOs can so often feel like they are at odds? The good news is that Langert went on to explain that there can be a happy medium where NGOs and industry jointly push sustainability. He mentions that the top 6 points for NGOs are:

  1. Listen, then listen more
  2. Assume innocence
  3. Be an incredible expert
  4. Be willing to start small or big
  5. Strut your independence
  6. Apply smart pressure

What I think are so brilliant about these six points is that they pull at that which is core to all of us - our humanity. They focus more on relationships and building bridges then building walls and moats. They reflect a synergistic relationship that can benefit both parties while still pushing sustainability forward and mutually saving the world. It is great to hear such sage advice in a market where divisions and propaganda can be used to such terrible detriment.

It is important for both corporations and NGOs to keep each other in check but also and maybe more importantly is the need for NGOs and corporations to cohabitate. Cohabitation means more than simply living next to each other, it means a certain level of engagement and hopefully bilateral help. Just as one would rush next door to help their neighbor, Langert paints a picture where NGOs can help corporations for the better and truly drive sustainability.

Reality Changing Observations:

Q1. Do you believe NGOs are important and why or why not?

Q2. What do you believe NGOs' roles should be in society?

Q3. What are ways in which you've seen NGOs and Corporations work for the common good?