Why NGOs Top The List Of Those Advancing Sustainable Development

Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior, docked in Amsterdam| Shutterstock

By Eric Whan

Sustainability leadership by NGOs is well recognized around the world as the type of organization that has contributed the most toward sustainable development since the Rio Earth Summit.

While this finding from our latest Sustainability Leaders Survey of experts is neither new nor surprising (NGOs have ranked as a leading institution since we began tracking this measure in 2009), NGOs’ steady commitment to collaboration, engagement, and advocacy is celebrated despite them often being under-resourced.

The private sector has seen a significant decline in ratings compared with 2018.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has seen an 11-point increase in positive recognition among experts and now ranks in second place, viewed positively by the largest percentage of experts in the history of this survey. In contrast, very few experts rate the performance of national governments and institutional investors positively. The private sector has also seen a significant decline in ratings compared with 2018. It is impossible not to notice the negative correlation between influence and recognition across these various types of actors.

Eight hundred and seven qualified sustainable development experts in 78 countries responded to this year’s survey during April and May. They span the public, private, NGO, institutional and corporate service sectors.

When asked specifically which NGOs they think are leaders in advancing sustainable development, our panel of experts cites the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Greenpeace as the two most widely recognized NGOs. WWF remains the stand-out leader with increased recognition compared to last year (36 percent, up to seven points), while Greenpeace continues to be the second-most recognized NGO (20 percent, up seven points compared to 2018).

With this increased appreciation of WWF and Greenpeace, along with the strong performance of other NGOs such as the World Resources Institute, Oxfam and The Nature Conservancy, we are seeing a diverse set of NGOs that are both collaborative and activist leading the charge toward advancing sustainable development. Read more…


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