|More government agencies
are linking up with business and public groups to protect the
environment, according to a new report from The Conference Board.
Americans committed more than $17.5 billion for land conservation
between 1998 and 2000, with 85 percent of the nearly 500 measures
on state, county and local ballots winning approval. Still,
the United States loses 3.2 million acres of privately-owned
forest, farmland and wetlands every year.
Government agencies charged with oversight of the nations
open spaces have begun to work with the private sector to apply
non-traditional resources to the issue. Conservation organizations
are also making it their business to be seen as experts to whom
business can turn for advice when dealing with site and project
selection. These efforts both raise awareness of the need for land
conservation and save huge tracts of valuable land and wildlife
However, the study finds that tri-lateral cooperation between businesses,
government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is relatively
limited. Most partnerships now involve NGOs and businesses only.
One of the advantages of tri-lateral cooperation is that government
offers long-term land management capabilities that conservation
groups and businesses are not prepared to provide.
Complicating matters is that these partnerships arent always
met with enthusiasm. Closer relationships between businesses and
NGOs sometimes create splits within the environmental community,
with anti-business groups criticizing colleagues for cooperating
with corporations. But the study finds that working with business
groups can increase the resources spent on conservation and land
The most challenging aspect for businesses wishing to participate
in the conservation process is identifying and selecting a partner
that is a good cultural fit, says Meredith Armstrong Whiting,
senior research fellow, government affairs, The Conference Board
and author of the report.
A variety of cause-and-effect factors combine to create effective
partnerships that are good for all participants. For example, agreements
between timber companies, state and federal government agencies
and conservation groups provide for both public and private reforestation
and forest management projects while at the same time protecting
the public interest and conservation values.
Four Case Studies
3M has four domestic Nature Conservancy projects underway and plans
to expand its philosophy globally as soon as possible. Kathy Reed,
3Ms vice president for environmental technology and safety
services, says: Our first step was to develop criteria for
the kind of organizations we wanted to support. It was important
to work with groups with values similar to those of 3M. Our objective
was to produce long-term impact on sustainability or biodiversity
that would be appreciated for at least 50 to 100 years . . .
Eastman Kodak supports a variety of local and regional conservation
efforts. Hays Bell, vice president for health, safety and environment
for Eastman Kodak, says: Our philosophy is that it is always
better to work out an agreement on a conservation project locally.
That way we are more comfortable that company goals for any given
project are met. Bell adds: There is a great advantage
to working with a partner organization with a strong national and
even international structure. For example, we work closely with
the Central and Western New York chapter of the Nature Conservancy
on specific projects related to our local/headquarters operations,
but we are also represented on the Conservancys International
Leadership Council and have chosen to support several international
General Motors has also developed a thoroughly integrated partnership
with the Nature Conservancy, with programs ranging from senior GM
executives serving on the Conservancy board and corporate councils
to donation of GMC trucks through a credit card that accumulates
points for their purchase. GM also underwrites land conservation
projects in Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, California and Texas in
the U.S., in addition to projects in China, Indonesia, Brazil and
Venezuela. GM has committed more than $10 million for Conservancy
programs since 1994, and recently pledged an additional $10 million
for a major climate change/carbon sequestration project in Brazil.
Tying education to conservation, the Coca-Cola Foundation contributed
$1.5 million through the National Park Foundation to construct Discovery
Centers in 12 national parks. The Proud Partners of Americas
National Parks is the National Park Foundations newest
corporate stewardship program. Through this program, American Airlines,
Discovery Communications Inc., Ford Motor Co., Kodak and Time magazine
are working with the NPS and the foundation to improve Americas
parks system in a variety of ways.