Influencing Markets… and Traditional Environmental Advocacy

Walker Larsen

As my first post to the CLF Blogosphere I want to offer an alternative perspective on fostering environmental conservation and social justice, and I’m just going to say it: economics.

Allow me to introduce you to CLF Ventures, Inc., the non-profit consulting affiliate of the Conservation Law Foundation. CLF started Ventures in 1997 to foster creative, client-centered environmental solutions. At that time, CLF recognized that the challenges facing the environment could not be overcome through litigation and advocacy tools alone. This happened relatively early in the game, and was a pretty progressive move for an established environmental advocacy organization with the history and grassroots credibility of CLF.

Today, CLF Ventures provides a unique model for advancing environmental change—by implementing projects that have demonstrable environmental gain as well as economic advantage—and that complement the work of our advocacy colleagues. We use a unique combination of environmental, non-profit and community insights to help private and public organizations become more sustainable through the creation of effective risk assessment and collaborative stakeholder engagement strategies.  Our distinct value to clients is our ability to gain stakeholder and regulatory insights that are impossible for clients to collect on their own due to poor existing community relationships. Our value to the stakeholder community is our ability to bring our clients to the table under circumstances conducive to collaboration. We have a demonstrated record of successful outcomes wherein our clients and the community come to better understand each other’s values and needs.

This may sound like boilerplate consulting mumbo jumbo, but the point is critically valid: the world is complex and the world of environmental advocacy is more complex still. Very rarely are the issues black and white. While the best option to secure needed social and environmental protections may be legal advocacy, it is not the only option. Put another way, litigation is a hammer, and it’s a very effective tool for driving nails, but not every environmental problem is a nail. When an organization is making real changes to improve impacts on the surrounding community and environment, CLF Ventures will leave the hammer at home and load up the toolbox with other job-appropriate tools to help them succeed.

Let me step away from the confusion of a not-so-clever metaphor and be perfectly clear: before many others, CLF recognized that market-driven solutions can complement environmental advocacy. Twelve years on, CLF Ventures has successfully demonstrated that business interests are not incompatible with social and environmental interests, and that when given a chance, and proper guidance, partnerships with the private sector can provide leadership and innovation that benefits our economy, our community, and our environment.

There may always be a need for litigation and legal advocacy, but we at CLFV are grateful that CLF understands and supports our efforts to influence environmental change through markets and bottom lines as an alternative means to the same end.

Visit CLF Ventures online to learn more: www.clfventures.org

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The views and opinions expressed on this blog do not necessarily represent the opinions or positions of Conservation Law Foundation, our boards, or our supporters.