While at Copenhagen I found myself faced with a troubling reality -- as more and more corporations realize there is a wealth opportunity in climate and environmental initiatives, they are starting to throw big dollars at environmental NGO's to help them green up.
The only problem is that both are now walking the fine line between greening and greenwashing. Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, WWF, Sierra Club-- all have taken on substantial corporate dollars. Some of those dollars are going to great things. Take WWF whose ClimateSavers initiative which is helping big corporations like IBM, JohnsonDiversey, CocaCola, HP reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
But some of that money might end up hurting the environment. Take WWF's unholy alliance with IKEA, which forced them to release a press statement that essentially relieved IKEA of its corporate responsibility when it wrongly reported that its wood was not taken from endangered forests, which of course it was.
This uncomfortable reality of the corporate-NGO buddy routine was encapsulated by the WWF's ironically named "Arctic Tent" in Copenhagen. Ironic, because despite subzero temperatures outside, the tent was kept toasty warm. For two solid weeks the WWF pumped hot air into the thin polyvinyl tent (difficult too imagine just how much CO2 was generated to keep that Arctic tent warm). And as the ice sculpture melted outside the tent (slowly revealing the skeleton of a hypothetically extinct polar bear) the irony was lost on just about everyone.
Inside there was plenty of hot air as well as one Fortune 500 CEO after another boasted about how they were saving the world.
As both NGO's and corporations struggle to figure out how to work together in a post-Copenhagen world, we are going to see more of this partnering. My big concern is that it will slowly erode the credibility of what for decades have been the bastions of environmental integrity. Some have speculated that the Sierra Club's hire of Mike Brune as the new ED of the organization was made in attempt to recoup its credibility loss over a recent PR affair.