February 26, 2020

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Lobbying For Good: Go Alone or Seek Allies?

The success of a lobbying initiative is significantly dependent on the resources available. Thankfully regardless of organization size, you have several options.


Lobbying for Good requires a company to be brave enough to put its money where its mouth is. In this post, fourth in a series of features by Infrangilis to coincide with our new book Up the Ethics, we focus on how a company can mobilize resources to flex its advocacy muscles.

By Philip Monaghan

The success of a lobbying initiative is significantly dependent on the resources available. Businesses of all sizes have a range of options open to them – from a well-established multinational with an in-house advocacy team such as Maersk Line to a startup and its use of outsourced advocacy advice.

You will need to “cut your cloth to fit.”

Go Alone or Seek Allies?

One early decision is the degree to which a business will go alone or seek to influence with others. The good news is that many collaborative efforts offer tiers of involvement. It is not unusual for there to be four to ten ringleaders in a collaborative campaign: who will kickstart activities, provide seed-corn funding, call the shots and divvy up brand enhancement opportunities.

Other businesses will likely have the opportunity to sign-on for little or no cost but can accordingly also expect to have little say or visibility. Acting as a leader in such a coalition is a useful entry point for businesses who want to learn the ropes of Lobbying for Good and secure an inside track on the rules of the game.

Working With NGOs

Additionally, acting as a leader should also provide an opportunity to work with NGOs who often lie at the center of such coalitions. Take the issue of sustainable urbanization: recent examples include the Global Initiative for Resource Efficient Cities convened by the United Nations, the Clinton Climate Initiative-led C40 Cities, the Future of Urban Development Initiative run by the World Economic Forum, and the recently-launched Sustainable Living in Cities campaign by CSR Europe.

NGOs can also be a great source of talent if a business wants to build an advocacy team. It is not coincidental that leaders in the area have all headhunted influential individuals from the NGO world with a track record of working well with business and politicians.

Lobbying to Level the Playing Field

For example, Maersk Line’s Jacob Sterling was recruited from the World Wildlife Fund [WWF]. Sterling has been a key player in pushing for stronger enforcement of minimum environmental standards (e.g., sulphur oxides emissions) through the Sustainable Shipping Initiative [SSI] campaign established by Forum for the Future in 2010.

This is on the basis that regulatory intervention is needed to secure lasting change and tackle the holding handsproblem of free riders. The SSI aims to ensure that the industry has both a profitable and sustainable future and Maersk Line is one ringleader in the campaign. 

But regardless of whether you are a big business with lots of in-house expertise or a smaller business with outsourced functions, at the end of the day it is important to get the biggest bang for your buck. Ideally one would hope to draw upon the competencies of colleagues and suppliers from outside corporate responsibility/sustainability, such as public affairs/government relations, marketing, media relations and legal affairs. 

Getting an Honest Broker

When challenging the status quo, one should expect barriers to arise that slow down or prevent the seeds of change taking root. In such circumstances, as with issue selection, an independent facilitator can prove to be a great asset: acting as an honest broker, as well as an issue and process specialist.

So be ready to be charming but also be ready to play hardball!

And once resources have been mobilized, you can turn your attention to the final critical step – constructing a winning advocacy strategy – an area Infrangilis will explore next week.

Part 3: Lobbying for Good: How Do You Build a Narrative?

Part 2: Lobbying for Good – How to Select the Issue?

Part 1: Lobbying for Good: The Next Wave of Corporate Responsibility?

The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by CSRwire contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of CSRwire.

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