Two years ago the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation decided to bring European NGOs together, attempting to agree on a pan-European standard for green electricity. Despite much initial skepticism and tough discussions along the way, the new label EKOenergy was established this winter. So far 23 different environmental NGOs, in 19 countries, are in agreement on the general principles of green electricity. The list of NGOs joining EKOenergy has been growing on a weekly basis, and hopefully by the end of this year all countries within “greater Europe” will be represented. I could not be more satisfied.
The fact is that by joining forces, the influence of the NGOs is by far greater than if standing alone. They have agreed that it is important to give European consumers and businesses a real choice in purchasing renewable electricity. They agree to base the EKOenergy label on an existing common system (“Guarantees of Origin”) for documenting how, where and by whom renewable electricity is produced. This ads credibility and trust for all involved.
Since being a teenager I have sympathized and supported numerous environmental NGOs, in Norway, as well as internationally. Sometimes my support has come by being a paying member, while other times it came by actively participating in protests or organizational work.
Environmental NGOs are in a tough business. Although their “main message” is extremely important, the NGOs have a difficult “product” to sell, and few “customers” are actually willing to pay. Most environmental NGOs agree on some general principles regarding the value of preserving our natural habitats, either on a local basis or on a more global scale. Using this common backdrop, many NGOs, like businesses, have carved out niche positions in their markets. Some NGOs are membership based and driven by a common interest among its members. Other NGOs are driven by strong founders, who are able to attract other likeminded personalities to join the cause. While again others spring from the need to solve a specific pressing issue, where people on a local basis form a more loosely organized pressure group.
But since environmental NGOs often are seen as being part of the same homogeneous marketplace, it may for outsiders and skeptics look like there is much infighting and bickering among the NGOs. Their common backdrop may easily be hidden behind strong and diverse opinions about specific issues.
Irrespective of what drives them, NGOs do important work. Their unselfish focus on creating a sustainable future is important for every one of us. And they deserve more support and respect than they often receive.
NGOs – one by one – obviously have important roles to play. But in a period where the threat of severe climate change is becoming a reality, the environmental NGOs could play an even more significant role, by joining forces. Agree to leave minor differences behind, and agree to focus on what unites. This is what the European NGOs have done by establishing EKOenergy.
I sincerely hope that more NGOs will join EKOenergy in the time to come, and I would like to challenge especially our Norwegian NGOs to play an active role. EKOenergy deserves the support from all participants in the market of promoting the use of renewable energy. ECOHZ, being the first commercial company to sign a license agreement with EKOenergy, is ready to take EKOenergy to the market, and convince customers of its value.