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close this bookPartners in Time? Business, NGOs and Sustainable Development (UNRISD, 1999, 85 p.)
close this folderPart 1: The changing nature of business-ngo relations
close this folderConclusions: The Characteristics of Collaboration
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentPreconditions
View the documentInteractive Processes
View the documentOutcomes and Consequences

Outcomes and Consequences

A third general way of understanding business-NGO partnership is to consider their outcomes and consequences. Gray and Wood suggest that partnership outcomes can be identified by considering “whether problems were solved... whose problems were solved... whether shared norms were achieved” and whether the partnership survived (1991:18). Another way of reviewing partnerships would be to consider some of the wider implications of closer and more collaborative business-NGO relationships. Given that most of the examples cited are still evolving and the newness of this specific area of study, the following list of partnership outcomes offers a tentative picture of an emerging phenomenon:

· partnering NGOs are gaining greater credibility as important resources for both business and society;

· some partnering businesses are being recognized for their more proactive approaches to social and environmental matters;

· other NGO and consumer pressure on partnering businesses and/or industry sectors does not necessarily end and is often maintained;

· shared norms are emerging around the general idea of sustainable development although it remains a contested and controversial problem domain;

· many specific problem areas addressed by business-NGO partnerships remain complex and multi-faceted, and therefore require ongoing dialogue and negotiation in order to identify medium- and long-term solutions.

Seen from a wider perspective, business-NGO partnerships constitute part of a changing global political and economic context which is giving rise to new models of corporate accountability and stakeholder engagement. This context is characterized by a number of international developments including the globalization of business, trade and finance; advances in communications technologies; and a growth in the number of NGOs and the scope of their activities. Many would argue that this context also includes unacceptable yet deepening levels of environmental degradation and human poverty. The perceived and actual decline in the role of the state in the face of globalization raises additional concerns about governance and regulatory gaps nationally and globally. We should remember that stories of NGO-driven corporate environmentalism are fresh straws of hope in a rotten haystack of unaccountable and irresponsible global capitalism. The unsustainable reality for billions of people on Earth today nonetheless compels us to grasp at these straws, as potential catalysts for more sustainable and equitable world futures. This is our reason for venturing a new theory of corporate environmentalism based upon civil regulation.