Future 500: Providing Innovative Diplomacy between NGO Watchdogs and Corporate America


Advancing the triple bottom line by finding common ground between corporations and NGO watchdogs - moving past entrenched self-interests toward equally shared goals.


Erik Wohlgemuth, COO

The Future 500


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-You are seeing a change today where you have NGO’s increasingly professionalizing and 
getting better at translating their social and environmental objectives into business terms and you are finding businesses understanding that they have externalities that they impose on society and they need to begin to integrate social and environmental thinking and considerations into their business planning.

-Our specialty is fostering casual engagement where people are much more likely to open up over a beer, over coffee, where they don’t feel like they have to bring their ideology to the table. Sometimes we encourage the NGO’s to show up at a conference where they know a company they wish to speak to is going to be speaking and we encourage them to reach out to them and say “I would love to meet you for a drink during one of the breaks or meet you for coffee and similarily we do the same thing with the company.”  We even encourage both parties to pick up the phone and call each other up for advice. 

-Activist groups and NGO’s are really trusted by consumers and the media. Multinational corporations are not.  So again you are having a David versus Goliath story dynamic so when the activist groups popularize an issue over social media it can be quickly picked up by the mainstream press because they see that David and Goliath story and that sells papers. Companies should learn to see this as feedback as market R&D about what they can and can’t do in terms of your social license to operate.


-Sustainability issues are highly complex. When you are grappling with an issue that is being put out into the popular mainstream everyone is using their soundbites to get their point across. Fundamentally when they get down to the table together and a company explains what they are doing operationally, what their challenges are cross functionally in terms of aligning various business units around common things like procurement specifications, and when the NGO’s begin to really understand the economic dynamics that are happening in various industries, they begin to understand the complexity of the problem and begin to work together on a more systemic solution to address the problem. Sound bites are not going to get you there. It is when you really roll up your sleeves that you are going to come up with a solution that will work.



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