Mittwoch, 11. Dezember 2013

Delivering change – lessons for anti-corruption practitioners from Greenpeace’s environmental campaigning

The Humboldt Viadrina School of Governance in Berlin is doing some serious work on fighting corruption. The most recent output is a Handbook for Practitioners entitled: Motivating Business to Counter Corruption. In it, I have shared some thoughts on what those fighting corruption may learn from Greenpeace campaigning. May it be helpful to all who try to hold those in power to account.
Corruption is one reason why the public good is being damaged and our future as humanity is at stake. Greenpeace’s vision of a sustainable society demands that power be exercised fairly and that those in power be held accountable for their actions. Corruption undermines this vision, by privileging those with power and money over others, allowing them to profit at the expense not only of the rest of us – but of the planet itself. Greenpeace is therefore honored to share some insights from our campaigning history with anti-corruption practitioners. We hope that doing so will help our collective work for a more accountable and just world.
There is no question that sheer luck often makes the difference between a good - but unsuccessful – campaign plan and a winning one.  The victories Greenpeace has achieved also vary a lot (you can get an overview here.
There is no ‘off the shelf’ plan one can adopt, but here are five lessons from our experience that I would like to emphasize:
1. A picture is worth more than a 1000 words
It´s a cliché, but it´s true: unless there is a picture, getting attention is very hard. Abu Ghraib, for example, only became a real scandal once pictures were available. A picture isn´t everything, but without good visual material achieving impact is difficult. What pictures travel can often depend on the news day, but images that explain the demand of the campaign simply are an essential tool. Pictures of pipes blowing out dirt or of heavy air pollution simply work better than only analyses showing that there is a problem. The combination of “killer facts” with visuals illustrating them is to be strived for.
2. You need to identify the point „where it hurts”
With the rise of the Internet there has been a lot of debate about the tools of campaigning, sometimes at the expense of considering the bread and butter issues of strategy. But a campaign which is not based on an accurate analysis of the strength and weaknesses of the company or government it aims to influence, will never be successful. Planning a campaign to Green Apple or a campaign to stop the commercialization of genetically engineered rice in China could not be more different in many ways. But they are the same in the sense, that you need to analyze your ´target` as accurately and effectively as you can. We sometimes spend years doing research before we find a „lever“ that we think can deliver real change. If you have not identified such a lever, it´s probably better not to start your campaign, as you will only look weak. What effective levers are depends on what you are trying to shift. In the case of Apple, for example, we realized that we needed to appeal to the Apple fan base to affect change at Apple. When we were running a campaign on toxic ship paints, on the other hand, our target audience was often a very small number of technical magazines covering ship matters. It was (negative) coverage in those magazines that toxic paint producers were worried about because they directly influenced market decisions.
3. Always provide a solution
Some people believe Greenpeace to be against everything, but nothing could be further from the truth. We always do provide an alternative. We show in our Energy Revolution scenario, for example, that you can provide energy for all, cut emissions and do without coal and nuclear; we don´t JUST oppose coal and nuclear power plants. That´s why often our confrontations end in cooperation over time. A campaign on climate-killing refrigerants being used at the Sydney Olympics, for example, over time morphs into a common agenda with the likes of Coca-Cola to eliminate climate-damaging f-gases from refrigerants altogether. A (successful) campaign asking Nestlé to cut its ties with Golden Agri Resources because of their destructive palm oil practices results in us – three years later – welcoming GAR´s commitment to „no deforestation footprint“ for palm oil
4. Integrity makes you strong
Greenpeace is fiercely independent and takes no money from corporations or governments. When I talk of „cooperation“ with business in the previous paragraph, this working together never entails Greenpeace getting any money. In our experience, it is this integrity that makes us strong. If we say something is good for people or the planet, the question of corruption simply does not arise. Nobody can even dream of claiming that we only say this in order to receive corporate donations. Doing without corporate funding - and by doing so increasing your integrity - is thus certainly an approach we can recommend to other players. This seems to be particularly pertinent in the anti-corruption field.
Part of integrity is of course also accuracy. Greenpeace has its own Science Unit and issue experts across the organization, because we know we are only as strong as our claims are accurate.
5. Being unpredictable makes you stronger: No permanent enemies, no permanent friends
Strategy is key; it is probably the most important of all criteria for success (see 2). However, many wrongly equate strategy with a need to define `one definitive way of doing something`. But not only does one size not fit all, predictability is simply not an asset in campaigning. If you do the same thing again and again, that predictability will become your weakness (even if your execution of the campaign is excellent). The ´other´ side will be prepared for your next move, or failing that, will be able – soon after you start your campaign – to decipher an effective counter strategy based on previous experiences. How to counter “standard” campaigns is already being taught in MBA classes after all.
It is therefore essential that you stay unpredictable in your choice of both targets and tools. The reason why Greenpeace is often effective is that we do both: We take bold action forcing destructive companies to change course and do first hand research on the ground uncovering scandals and proposing solutions. But we are also present where important decisions are being taken by powerful institutions and governments, often unnoticed and far from media attention – but with profound impacts. We have „No permanent friends and no permanent enemies“. We praise those against whom we have previously campaigned if they do the right thing. But we also always reserve the right to confront a corporation on an issue even if we work in cooperation with it on another.
Greenpeace does from time to time directly attack corruption and corrupt practices. In doing so, we learn a lot from the anti-corruption community. I hope that these lines may help the anti-corruption community in a small way to develop effective campaign strategies to further our common cause of holding those in power accountable.