At its best, a partnership with a nongovernmental organization (NGO) can be a fruitful, symbiotic relationship. At its worst, it can be a drain on energy and resources for both parties. NGOs provide critical insights into the communities that companies operate in, as well as the natural environments they affect, while companies can lend financial support and provide a different brand of expertise.
As a pulp and paper company with sustainability at the heart of its business model, Domtar purposefully collaborates with partners who share its business goals, geography, and commitment to protecting forests. Both the Rainforest Alliance and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) partnerships have stood the test of time because all the organizations involved share the belief that the best way to keep forests standing is by adopting standards that promote the sustainable use of resources and conservation of biodiversity as well as viable livelihoods for the people and communities that depend upon forests.
Add Value Through Expertise
In order for a partnership to be mutually beneficial, each must be able to lend expertise that the other lacks. The Rainforest Alliance provides Domtar with its deep knowledge of sustainable forestry policy, and today many of Domtar’s EarthChoice® products bear the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal, a globally recognized symbol that assures consumers of the responsibility of their purchases. A symbiotic partnership also means pooling resources – for instance, in the past Domtar and the Rainforest Alliance worked together to create the popular Green Your Office and Sustainability on Campus publications, leveraging the NGO’s expertise and the corporation’s end product. Today, the two groups are partnering along with other companies on the Appalachian Woodlands Alliance, a project aimed at strengthening sustainable forest management with small landowners in the Southeast region of the United States.
Lead by Example
Before choosing a partner, consider how that relationship will both challenge and enable your company to become a leader in your industry. NGO partnerships can have the greatest impact when they challenge you to set the new corporate standard. In Domtar’s case, WWF offered programs that encouraged the company to push the boundaries for a pulp and paper company in its commitment to transparency. As a result, Domtar became the first pulp and paper company to join WWF’s Global Forest & Trade Network – North America, an initiative to combat illegal and unsustainable logging by promoting responsible forest management. Similarly, the company was the first North American fine paper manufacturer to participate in WWF’s Environmental Paper Company Index, a public transparency tool that discloses the ecological footprint of the world’s largest pulp and paper manufacturers. These accomplishments were milestones for both Domtar and WWF – the former demonstrating a commitment to its sustainability goals, while the latter secured early buy-in from a key corporate player.
Set Parameters – And Stick to Them
Lastly, committing to a partnership’s duration and deliverables is key to building trust and ensuring a fruitful outcome. While some partners may only be interested in collaborating on a particular campaign, others will want to unite for the long term. Because sustainability is central to Domtar’s business model, finding partners that were also looking for a long term commitment has enabled these relationships to grow over time. Domtar has worked with WWF since 1998 and the Rainforest Alliance since 2000. Each year, these partnerships deepen as new opportunities for progress are realized.
Approaching partnerships with intention, transparency and commitment can lead to impressive outcomes for your business and for our planet.
Boasting partnerships with some of the world’s leading NGOs that span over a decade, Domtar has learned some key lessons over the years. To learn how EarthChoice Advisory Services® can help your business better understand the NGO landscape, view the case studies posted here.