Vermillion Institute
  • Date submitted: 1 Nov 2011
  • Stakeholder type: Major Group
  • Name: Vermillion Institute
  • Submission Document: Download
Keywords: Investment (1 hits),

Full Submission

Vermillion Institute submission

This submission deals primarily with specific strategies for closing the implementation gap and advancing the state of play of the SD agenda.


Last year, UNEP RONA convened a civil society forum in San Francisco, and asked the participants to discuss the very issues about which the Second Preparatory Committee members are now asking for feedback.

Building from the ideas in that consultation, as well as on the discussions of the implementation gaps that the First Preparatory Committee members brought forth, Vermillion wishes now to highlight the following gaps for this submission.




The drivers of a lack of cooperation and consensus among NGOs are:

Funding from government often comes from specific departments/agencies to solve specific, narrowly defined problems. Therefore narrowly defined NGO projects are seen as having tight fits --- but too often their projects have the applicability and stability of someone standing on stilts. On the other hand, more integrative projects/approaches have a wider base and can accomplish more, but rarely show a tight enough fit to be approved. This is because agencies can find themselves on the wrong side of government auditors for funding projects that are not using most of the money for the originally defined purpose.

Funding from both government agencies and company sponsorships tends to go to easy to describe projects; the more complex and integrative projects that are capable of tackling more difficult problems, are less easily communicated to the public, and less frequently funded. NGOs are therefore less willing to undertake more complex projects, and have fewer resources to cooperate to see them completed.

Government agencies are often willing to share the recognition in their funding. However, except in high-profile settings, companies are generally less willing to share the stage with other companies in funding public-interest projects.


When you fund one org to develop something, sets up a win/lose dynamic for the NGOs. In each of these settings, NGOs succeed in getting funds when they show why they are more deserving. They chip away at each others' credibility, and this does not lend itself to building cooperation or consensus.

From the point of view of the donor, when all their eggs go in just a few baskets, the results of their programs are more vulnerable to external risks, and less likely to deliver for the public interest.

Also due to all these factors, NGOs often choose not to cooperate. The result is more splintering of knowledge over time instead of deepening it. For the SD agenda, it means more and more groups diluting each other instead of deepening the underpinning of their work.

The losing organizations become less cooperative, and more militant --- less inclusive of other views, and more ideological --- in order to get those narrowly defined pots of funding.


Some readers will be familiar with the concept of 'Green Muting'. Simply stated, Green Muting is the effect where companies become less willing over time to share their sustainability outcomes and insights publicly, because, on the one hand, if they talk about what they've tried that has worked, external groups may try to show how the company is really just greenwashing, and on the other hand, if they talk about what they've tried that hasn't worked, external groups may use that to show how the company 'just screws things up.'

We need better disclosures to inform research and public policy leading to a sustainable economy, so this effect works at odds with efforts to encourage disclosures.

Vermillion believes the world needs better systems for something like a semi-permeable membrane that will enable companies to disclose their techniques and outcomes in a private setting, to inform research and public policy without risking their reputations due to the disclosures.



In order to help groups connect and cooperate, Vermillion has been working to pilot an Innovators in Economics project --- to help GPI experts connect and cooperate, to challenge each others' ideas in private settings, and build greater depth within their concepts.

In order to help companies better inform public policy Vermillion has been working to pilot an Innovators in Sustainability project --- to help companies discuss what has worked, what hasn't, and what has been in the way, in settings where they aren't at risk for the disclosures.

We also note that both of these major groups do not see the strands that connect their macro (GPI) discussions, and their micro (disclosure) discussions --- and these projects seek to help bridge the gaps between the development of these major groups.

Vermillion sees other such programs, and recommends that they should be strategically funded to help deepen the concepts of sustainable development.

But more can be done.


With respect to improving cooperation mechanisms and partnership arrangements, Vermillion recommends that national and regional governments agree to:

1. Fund integrative discussions, and settings where NGOs and multi-stakeholder groups get funding to come together and challenge each others' ideas, on the path to strengthening the underpinnings of

their ideas and finding consensus where possible.

2. Direct government auditors to give latitude to agencies that fund projects that advance the goals of multiple government agencies at the same time in integrative ways.

3. Through public education campaigns and tax policy, encourage companies to update their community Investment policies to set aside 20% of their budgets to fund cooperative NGO projects that are more complex (less easy to describe), and another 20% to go ONLY to projects where the company shares leading sponsor status with at least three companies from other industries.

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