For those who fear there are too many non-profit organisations chasing the same goals, the venerable International Business Leaders Forum has some welcome news
When it comes to corporate sustainability, is the rise of more non-profit groups necessarily a good thing? Does a proliferation of NGOs threaten to create too many organisations working in the same area with essentially the same mission?
“While the world continues to face significant challenges in this area, we have come to realise that with many businesses now becoming self-sufficient in sustainable development, our business model of global corporate membership is no longer viable,” wrote Mark Foster, chairman of the IBLF board of trustees, in an email to members.
Speaking to Ethical Corporation, Foster confirms a plan to continue three core programmes as either standalone independent bodies or semi-autonomous concerns merged inside other organisations already operating in related areas.
These are: the International Tourism Partnership now successfully operating under its own brand and backed with considerable industry support; the Partnering Initiative, a global leader since 2004 in cross-sector partnerships training, which will explore new approaches to scale up its impact; and an international Business Standards programme whose in-country capacity will probably shift most of its resources towards Russia, where the IBLF sees a strong network emerging.
Victim of own success
Established in 1990 by the Prince of Wales and a group of influential chief executives, the IBLF helped develop much of the intellectual basis that is today’s bedrock of global corporate responsibility. In many ways the IBLF became a victim of its own success, having helped spawn bodies such as the UN Global Compact, the Global Business Coalition on Health, and the Business Call to Action.
“Businesses are looking less and less to be members of things,” says Foster. “Quite rightly they are now looking to drive a lot more of the activity themselves, or they want to be a part of very specific programmes which they are prepared to fund around specific objectives,” says Foster.
He quickly adds: “That’s not to say the battle has been won … The key thing is trying to find the right platform for the future – platforms that are larger in scale, ones that are able to draw in and convene greater financial investment firepower from both businesses and NGOs, as well as wider governing communities.”
Organisations such as the G20 and UN Global Compact can facilitate this work, yet at a more fundamental level business still lacks partnering capacity to dig down into local contexts, Foster says, citing the work of the IBLF Partnering Initiative as a necessary ingredient cutting across all current programming.
Led by Darian Stibbe, the Partnering Initiative will continue to play a role at the international level in global forums, and on-the-ground supporting in-country hubs through its business in development facility and with the Global Compact’s country network.
“Although there are many partnerships going on already, we are really only scratching at the surface of what’s required compared with the scale of the challenges out there,” Stibbe says.
As for the immediate future, Stibbe and Foster say they are in discussions with potential funding partners.
Foster says his hope is for the “vast majority of current programme activity to be taken forward”, adding: “The idea is to make sure that in the end we see as many of these programmes have homes as is possible.”Eric Marx G20 IBFL Leadership NGOwatch Responsible Business Responsible leaders standards United Nations