How Coca-Cola, McDonald's worked with nonprofits to get greener

Businesses and nonprofits used to have a one-way relationship: Nonprofit asks for donation; business says yes or no.

That relationship has evolved dramatically as the two sides found ways to develop mutually beneficial relationships, and -- more recently -- collaborative partnerships.

In this model, the goal is to create shared value. Nowhere is this more relevant than in the environmental and sustainability arena, where conveying and exemplifying true green value has such a critical impact on the triple bottom line.

Of course, no single nonprofit, business or group can do it alone. Solving problems requires the strengths, perspectives and talents that each type of organization brings to the table. When we developed our Impact Awards program, for example, our primary focus was to brainstorm with our corporate partners to create online collaborations resulting in compelling and beneficial experiences for their brands, their consumers and the participating nonprofits.

True collaboration

So what is true collaboration? Mark Tercek, CEO of The Nature Conservancy [TNC] – a founding EarthShare member charity -- believes when we move past donating dollars and time and bring members of each organization together to solve a problem, that’s when collaboration really happens. The relationship should be equitable, and members of each team should learn from each other’s strengths and join forces with the common goal of effecting measurable change.

“It’s important to figure out how one plus one can equal more than two,” Tercek told Sustainable Industries. “For a good NGO and a good business to come together -- really exciting things can come out of that relationship.”

Collaboration always wins: Coca-Cola & the Nature Conservancy…

Tercek is an outspoken champion of close, committed collaboration between businesses and nonprofits. He left a career on Wall Street to head TNC and strives to forge relationships with businesses with large footprints as the most effective way to bring about significant change in reducing emissions, conserving energy and water, and protecting the environment. To that end, TNC has aligned itself with what might seem to be unlikely allies, including Dow Chemical and Coca-Cola.

In 2011, TNC and Dow announced a five-year project to “help Dow and the business community recognize, value and incorporate nature into global business goals, decisions and strategies.” TNC and Dow plan to assess three pilot sites, or “living laboratories,” and make their findings available to the rest of the business community, so other companies can follow suit.

Next page: Nonprofits, Coca-Cola and water conservation goals