Who we will and won’t work with: our new partnerships policy
At SOS-UK we believe in supporting students and wider society to learn, act and lead for environmental justice, enabling them to build a more sustainable and fairer society for all. As part of this - and in response to some questionable, greenwashing corporate partnerships - we have applied our values to consider who we will and won’t partner with in future. Last week, we published our first partnerships policy.
In our wide range of programmes and campaigns, we work with a variety of people and organisations, including students, universities and colleges, NGOs, companies, and funders. Whilst we believe that in some cases engagement can be an important strategy to effect change – including with people or groups we may disagree with - there are several areas we see as fundamental barriers to achieving a more sustainable world and we will not partner with organisations whose core work is in these areas.
In doing this we are aiming to challenge the social licence of practices which are inherently unsustainable. We want to show young people that you do not have to be complicit in environmental breakdown and social inequality to function in society – and you can refuse to engage with, for example, the giants of the corporate world who are driving these issues.
On a more operational level, we are clear that partnering with those who are actively working against our vision is counterproductive. To argue for climate justice on the one hand, and then partner with banks funding new oil pipelines and displacing communities on the other is not only hypocritical, damaging, and unjust – but pointless too. Not only this, but as a student-led charity, we are committed to ensuring all students feel safe working with us, especially marginalised groups.
The policy addresses this by outlining our ‘red lines’. We do not believe there is a space for the sluggish reformation of business models that are, at their core, the cause of the environmental and social injustice. For us, these include areas like the extraction and production of fossil fuels, the manufacture and transfer of weapons to oppressive regimes, industrial agriculture, animal cruelty and exploitation of workers.
Furthermore, partnerships can often be used as a form of advertising and, with so many organisations and individuals looking to improve their image on sustainability, we refuse to become a tool for greenwashing.
We know urgent and meaningful action is required to address the climate and ecological crises. Empty platitudes and half-baked measures won’t do, especially ones sponsored by those still ultimately fixed on maximising profit at the cost of people and planet. Instead, we want to be working with the countless folks out there who genuinely stand for radical change.
We acknowledge that we have only recently implemented such a policy and have been inspired by those who already have one in place. We will also review ours annually to ensure it remains relevant.
Our call to action?
If you’re a values-led organisation, join us in implementing a robust partnerships policy. If you have one already – shout about it!
The policy is free for public use and we encourage peers to use parts if they see fit.