Since industrialization, environmental history has linked corporations to the surge of unsustainable ecological footprints and environmental crises. Businesses have relied and continue to rely on natural resources to generate mass production and mass consumption. It was not until the second half of the twentieth century that the idea of corporate sustainability emerged as a consequence of the first global United Nations Conference on Human Environment in Stockholm in 1972.[1] Non-government organizations (NGOs) play an essential role in promoting sustainability among businesses as a key to conservation collaboration among all stakeholders.[2]

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is an environmental NGO that has led the movement of cooperation with the private sector to understand the value of natural resources. By partnering with corporations, particularly the ones with large environmental footprints, TNC has changed these corporations’ practices and facilitated the goals of corporate sustainability. TNC approaches conservation by integrating science and non-confrontational, practical market-based solutions. By setting corporations on board, TNC has been successful in protecting larger biologically important areas, which benefits all stakeholders.


Traditional nature-based conservationists have denounced the approach of working with big corporations to create green values, which can trigger greenwashing. The concept of greenwashing describes companies who claim their organizations are environmentally responsible just for the marketing benefits but create few positive impacts on nature.[3] Reporters have blamed some of TNC’s corporate partners for pursuing greenwashing practices instead of real corporate environmentalism, such as BP, Exxon Mobil, The Dow Chemical Company, and American Electric. Thus, a study of critical examples of TNC-corporation partnership needs to be conducted to evaluate their practices and establish whether or not TNC achieves its conservation goals.

This blog will provide a study of TNC’s approach to collaborating with big corporations to mitigate the environmental impacts of business activities and recognize the value of nature. TNC’s collaborations with The Coca-Cola Company and Dow Chemical will present two examples to evaluate major outcomes of its conservation projects and chronicle the global movement of valuing natural ecosystem services. Finally, the blog will examine a story of how TNC responded to critics against its corporate relationships through their environmental crises.

[1] Dyllick, Thomas, and Kai Hockerts. “Beyond the Business Case for Corporate Sustainability”. Business Strategy and the Environment 11, 2002: 130-141.

[2] Kong, Nancy, Oliver Salzmann, Ulrich Steger, and Aileen Ionescu-Somers. “Moving Business/Industry Towards Sustainable Consumption: The Role of NGOs.” European Management Journal 20, no. 2 (2002): 109-127.

[3] Bowen, Frances. After Greenwashing: Symbolic Corporate Environmentalism and Society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.