Greens bond with business, wonder how close to get

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LONDON, Sep 12 (Reuters) From budget airlines telling us how to ''fly greener'' to oil giants developing cleaner fuels the corporate world is pushing its eco-credentials, often tying up with well-known environmental groups.

It may be good for business, but is it good for green campaigners? Some green groups are still wary of getting too close.

Gerd Leopold, executive director of Greenpeace International, says environmental groups face a tricky balancing act in working with the corporate sector.

''Business is probably the most influential part of our society, so if you want to produce change you have to look at how you can influence business,'' he said.

''Environment news is big on the agenda ... some businesses are interested in order to learn from NGOs and in order to do something good.'' But not every corporation may be so committed: ''There may be cases where interest can be simply seen as providing a bit of a green mantel.'' Last month Friends of the Earth withdrew an application to take part in a televised Pop Idol-style competition to become broadcaster BSkyB's charity partner.

Over 160 groups had applied to take part, keen to receive 1 million pounds ( LONDON, Sep 12 (Reuters) From budget airlines telling us how to ''fly greener'' to oil giants developing cleaner fuels the corporate world is pushing its eco-credentials, often tying up with well-known environmental groups.

It may be good for business, but is it good for green campaigners? Some green groups are still wary of getting too close.

Gerd Leopold, executive director of Greenpeace International, says environmental groups face a tricky balancing act in working with the corporate sector.

''Business is probably the most influential part of our society, so if you want to produce change you have to look at how you can influence business,'' he said.

''Environment news is big on the agenda ... some businesses are interested in order to learn from NGOs and in order to do something good.'' But not every corporation may be so committed: ''There may be cases where interest can be simply seen as providing a bit of a green mantel.'' Last month Friends of the Earth withdrew an application to take part in a televised Pop Idol-style competition to become broadcaster BSkyB's charity partner.

Over 160 groups had applied to take part, keen to receive 1 million pounds ($2 million) in cash and in kind, as well as access to the UK broadcasting arm of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.

Friends of the Earth, without giving details, cited concerns over the timing of the campaign. Murdoch has been criticised in the past by environmentalists for his climate-sceptic news channel Fox News.

Companies implementing green schemes -- from attempts to become carbon neutral to encouraging staff to cycle to work -- have made it easier for green groups to work with businesses.

''Any sensible group would look into opportunities for partnership, either with NGOs or businesses,'' Mike Childs, head of campaigns at Friends of the Earth, told Reuters.

''I don't think anyone sensible in the environment movement is anti-business.'' MONEY AND INFLUENCE Greenpeace, which has been involved in campaigns with drinks companies Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo and consumer goods maker Unilever, says it does not take any money from the businesses it works with in order to retain its independence as a campaigner.

It says it can do this by drawing on the financial support of 2.8 million donors worldwide.

But some groups choose also to link up with businesses on a financial level, like the UK arm of environmental group WWF which signed a $50m sponsorship deal with HSBC bank in 2002.

The group has also recently renewed a project worth over 1 million euros per year with Lafarge, to advise the cement maker on reducing its carbon footprint.

''There's been a huge sea-change recently in the way non governmental organisations (NGOs) approach the business sector,'' said Dax Lovegrove, head of business and industry at WWF.

Corporate donations make up 10 percent of WWF's income and that amount is set to grow, Lovegrove said.

Campaigners say influencing businesses is their main aim, but many also say they need the money.

''Without fail every single one of the environmental groups that are campaigning at the moment are under-resourced,'' Friends of the Earth's Childs said.

But while environmental groups say their business ties have changed the way they campaign, they insist their goals are still radical: public opinion is just beginning to catch up.

''We are no less radical than we have been in the past ... a lot of science and some of business and some of society -- not enough yet -- has caught up with us,'' Childs said.

REUTERS CS BST0945 million) in cash and in kind, as well as access to the UK broadcasting arm of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.

Friends of the Earth, without giving details, cited concerns over the timing of the campaign. Murdoch has been criticised in the past by environmentalists for his climate-sceptic news channel Fox News.

Companies implementing green schemes -- from attempts to become carbon neutral to encouraging staff to cycle to work -- have made it easier for green groups to work with businesses.

''Any sensible group would look into opportunities for partnership, either with NGOs or businesses,'' Mike Childs, head of campaigns at Friends of the Earth, told Reuters.

''I don't think anyone sensible in the environment movement is anti-business.'' MONEY AND INFLUENCE Greenpeace, which has been involved in campaigns with drinks companies Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo and consumer goods maker Unilever, says it does not take any money from the businesses it works with in order to retain its independence as a campaigner.

It says it can do this by drawing on the financial support of 2.8 million donors worldwide.

But some groups choose also to link up with businesses on a financial level, like the UK arm of environmental group WWF which signed a m sponsorship deal with HSBC bank in 2002.

The group has also recently renewed a project worth over 1 million euros per year with Lafarge, to advise the cement maker on reducing its carbon footprint.

''There's been a huge sea-change recently in the way non governmental organisations (NGOs) approach the business sector,'' said Dax Lovegrove, head of business and industry at WWF.

Corporate donations make up 10 percent of WWF's income and that amount is set to grow, Lovegrove said.

Campaigners say influencing businesses is their main aim, but many also say they need the money.

''Without fail every single one of the environmental groups that are campaigning at the moment are under-resourced,'' Friends of the Earth's Childs said.

But while environmental groups say their business ties have changed the way they campaign, they insist their goals are still radical: public opinion is just beginning to catch up.

''We are no less radical than we have been in the past ... a lot of science and some of business and some of society -- not enough yet -- has caught up with us,'' Childs said.

REUTERS CS BST0945

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