The first UN conference on the environmentin Stockholm in 1972 highlighted thatpollution knows no borders. Twenty yearslater at the Rio Earth Summit, the linkbetween environment and development wasmade. The Johannesburg Summit last yearreinforced the concept of sustainabledevelopment, highlighting the need for anew development model in our globalizedworld. It also emphasized the social andenvironmental responsibilities of thecorporate world.UNEP has been working with business andindustry for many years to engage differentsectors in an effort to advance sustainableproduction and consumption. We have beenhosting annual consultative meetings withtrade and industry associations since 1984,involving increasing numbers of NGOs andlabour organizations. These dialogues raisedawareness among associations of newchallenges and equipped them to catalysechange in their own ranks. UNEP helpedbring many key stakeholders to the table,providing a neutral platform for thediscussion of major issues. On manyoccasions, however, questions were raisedfrom various sides about the role andrepresentivity of different partners.In this publication SustainAbility builds onthe tradition developed in our
series of tackling the big issueshead on. So for example: how do NGOs goabout working with business? There is no‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. We are allconfronted with complex societal roles:the diversity of sustainable developmentrequires a diversity of approaches from allactors including NGOs.During sixteen years as head of UNEP DTIE,I have learned that we need to evolve ourshared vision, while keeping our feet on theground. This is why over this time I have soenjoyed the partnership with SustainAbilitywhich I hope has brought new ideas andnew light to the sustainability debate.
Jacqueline Aloisi de Larderel
Assistant Executive Director, UNEPDirector, UNEP DTIE (Division of Technology,Industry and Economics)
The 21st Century NGO
represents the firstphase in a new round of our work on theagenda driven by NGOs —and on theemerging strategic, accountability andgovernance agendas for NGOs themselves.The report is partly an updating of workSustainAbility has been doing for more thana decade on evolving relationships betweenbusiness and civil society —and, in particular,between business and NGOs. But it is alsointended as a provocation, as anencouragement to NGOs to challenge theirown thinking, sense of mission and strategies.As we wrote the report, we imaginedourselves talking to NGOs and those whofund them, but we would hope that publicand private sector readers will also finduseful guidance on where the agenda maynow be headed. This is no longer a simplematter of reputational risk for such sectors,but of potential market drivers. As NGOs’expertise and contacts evolve, so theythemselves will come to be seen bythoughtful companies, investors andgovernment agencies as a source, direct orindirect, of market intelligence. The logic:if NGOs shape markets and markets shapecompanies, then companies that understandwhere key NGOs are headed may get the jump on their competitors.The report is based on a wide literaturereview, interviews with nearly 200 key peoplearound the world, and four workshops held inBrazil, Canada, the United Kingdom and theUnited States. In addition to thanking thosewho took part in the interviews (pages 53-54), we are enormously grateful to the UNGlobal Compact Team, the United NationsEnvironment Programme, our sponsors (NovoNordisk, VanCity, DuPont, Holcim and theInternational Finance Corporation), ourNGO partners and the wider project team.Thank you all.
Director, Research & Advocacy
Chair, SustainAbilitySeb Beloe John Elkington Katie Fry Hester Sue Newell Georg KellJacqueline Aloiside Larderel
UN Global Compact foreword
The strategic move by many non-governmental organizations to become activeplayers within market systems has profoundimplications for multi-stakeholder initiativesthat seek positive social and economicchange.For some civil society actors, confrontation,which has proved a highly effective meansfor raising awareness of critical issues, isbeing joined by cooperation with otherstakeholders, including business, to producesolutions to pressing global challenges.Much of this shift stems from the realizationthat many of today’s problems requiremulti-stakeholder responses. Moreover, theascendancy of markets demands that societalactors come to grips with today’s marketfundamentals in order to reach their goals.The UN Global Compact is an ambitiousexperiment in multi-stakeholdercollaboration intended to embed globalmarkets with universal principles aroundhuman rights, labour, and the environment.The findings of this report are important tothe Global Compact, which can succeed onlyif business, labour and civil society worktogether. Dozens of international NGOs arenow actively engaged in the Global Compact,in addition to numerous local NGOs —allworking as part of the Compact’s worldwidenetwork of stakeholders.In addition, this report will help informa high-level UN panel that is currentlyexamining the interaction between civilsociety and the UN system as a whole.We would like to applaud SustainAbilityfor once again stretching the boundariesof current thinking and thereby provokingnew debates and discussion. We are certainthat this new report will lead to a betterunderstanding of the critical trends anddynamics that are unfolding within thecivil society movement.
Executive Head, UN Global CompactThe 21st Century NGO01