Interview with Ma Jun

China Development Brief no. 48 (Winter 2010)

中文 English

Introduction: The following is a in-depth interview with one of China’s best-known environmentalists. Ma Jun is the founder of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE), an independent environmental NGO, the author of the book, China’s Water Crisis (1999), and the recipient of the 2009 Ramon Magsaysay Award. In 2006, he was included in Time Magazine’s list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. In 2008, Ma was one of the organizing forces behind the Green Choice Alliance, a coalition that now includes 35 NGOs around the country focusing on greening China’s industrial supply chain. In this interview, Ma reflects on strategies that Chinese NGOs and NGO networks like IPE and the Green Choice Alliance can use to pressure businesses to conform to environmental standards. He discusses the opportunities and challenges that Chinese NGOs face in collaborating both with each other, with international NGOs, and with the business and government sector, and how the environmental movement in China has changed over the last few decades.

I.  Public participation in the Supply Chain Management (SCM) and the Green Choice Initiative

How we got involved in SCM

After making the water pollution database (水污染数据库) publicly available in 2006, we discovered that some large companies began to feel pressure by being exposed for pollution violations, particularly multinational corporations. An overwhelmingly large percentage (80-90%) of the first 100 enterprises that asked us for clarifications (concerning the recorded violations) were representatives of multinationals.
But we also discovered that only major brands were sensitive to public pressure. So the question we asked ourselves was how we could push for changes among mainland Chinese, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korean enterprises? Since these enterprises did not care about public pressure and pressure from media exposure, we wanted to find a way to pass on the pressure from those enterprises “who care” to those “who do not care”. Nowadays more and more brands outsource the high-pollution, high-risk elements of their production. However, outsourcing does not mean that enterprises also pass on their environmental responsibilities to their suppliers. In modern business, the behavior of suppliers is also a key part of an enterprises’ responsibility.

Based on this consideration, we decided to use the water pollution database as a tool for SCM. In this database we created records of violations committed by enterprises, including their suppliers, to create a search engine for customers. When searching a company, customers can clearly see who a company’s suppliers are, and what violations either they or their suppliers may have committed before making a purchase.

In 2008, we developed a process management system for a ‘Green Choice’ supply chain, which included a comparison function, and promoted the use of this database among large-scale enterprises. The first enterprise to begin using it was the Hong Kong based “Esquel” (溢达). Soon after, a number of even larger companies, such as  General Electric (通用电器), Nike (耐克), Wal-Mart (沃尔玛) etc. gradually began to also use this database. Having these big multinationals use the database put pressure on companies in their supply chain. The big multinationals didn’t want pollution records associated with their company, so they would speak with their suppliers to try to get them to change their behavior in order for their pollution records to be removed from the database.

When we first started promoting the idea of large enterprises taking responsibility for the “greening” and supervision of their supply chains, we discovered that our work became a lot easier. There were thousands of records in the database, and based on the capacity and resources we had at hand, we were always going to be fighting an uphill battle challenging violating companies one-by-one. However, if you take for example Wal-Mart—they have tens of thousands of suppliers. So if they compare their list of suppliers with our list of violators once a month, this means that thousands of suppliers are being pressured or discouraged not to pollute every month.

We have also just started another project to have Siemens (西门子) involved in a similar way, as it is another company in China with tens of thousands of suppliers.

Third-Party Review: A Way In

By going through a third party review, we’re able to encourage the responding enterprises to rectify their actions. In the rectification process, all the background materials, including each and every violation and monitoring record carried out by the government are reviewed. In many cases, companies even have to dig up their plumbing network so that this can be checked. In the past, we rarely had such opportunities, but now company representatives will take us around the factory and let us read through all the important environmental documents, and then demonstrate how the wastewater network functions, including the collection of the wastewater, and the wastewater treatment discharge process. They will even go through and explain the various aspects of the plumbing network with us.

The first part of the review process is the compliance review, and in this part of the process we always discover new problems. When companies undertake only specific actions to change, they rarely pass the compliance review the first time.  But once they begin to make comprehensive changes, many more companies are able to pass. However, of the companies we have reviewed, there are still at least a dozen or so enterprises that have not been able to pass and are still going through the review process. So far, the longest time a company has spent before becoming compliant with the review has been one year.

Evaluating the Effectiveness of the Supply Chain Management

Green Choice’s achievements depend to a large extent on the way in which supply chain management systems work. Out of the 170 companies that approached us last year, 120 were pressured by their customers higher up in the supply chain. In our 2010 Chinese New Year’s Manufacturers Blacklist Campaign, letters written by university student consumers also placed pressure on many enterprises. In addition, media reporting and other factors played a role. For example, the report we released accounting for polluting enterprises listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange put pressure on these enterprises. One company was competing for a green company award, but being listed as a violator in our report prevented it from moving forward in the selection process. The award’s selection committee also requested the company to make a public statement about the nature of the problem, which they complied with.  So with regards to the effectiveness of Green Choice, one thing which is quite clear is the way in which it influences supply chain management. You can clearly see where an order gets stuck because the supplier doesn’t meet their customer’s demands. This makes the suppliers really anxious to solve the problem.

Since starting Green Choice in 2007, we have been a driving force in pressuring around 300 enterprises to respond to violations. A considerable number of these companies have also undertaken rectifications. Many people are surprised to hear this, because we are just an NGO, and have no administrative power. We are a few people with very limited resources, and these companies are so strong and powerful.  How can it be possible for us to pressure them to change? Why do these companies care about reports published by representatives from civil society?  These questions point to significant changes in the attitudes and behavior of more than 300 enterprises as a result of actions taken by the Green Choice Alliance (绿色选择联盟).  We can say that we’ve been successful, because we‘ve seen that companies have taken measures to reduce the amount of pollutants they are releasing into the air and water, and they are able and willing to verify facts based on serious investigations. These are very positive developments.

But on the other hand, we have more than 70,000 records relating to more than 30,000 enterprises in total, and overall the response rate is far less than one percent. In the overall scheme of reducing energy and controlling pollution, our approach is still limited.  There have been no substantial improvements in either water or air quality, so we are still a long way from achieving our fundamental goals.

Moreover, at the moment we are still only able to influence the supply chains associated with multinational corporations. It seems unlikely that the same measures will be able to influence domestic enterprises, such as China National Petroleum Corporation (中石油) and Zijin Mining(紫金矿业), as these enterprises aren’t overly concerned about their suppliers’ environmental image. However, if one day “green credit” and “green securities” policies are properly implemented then perhaps they will be able to also influence these enterprises. This would require the integration of green credit and green securities with stock exchanges and banking policies, through loan policies, as well as listing and delisting mechanisms. Of course, this kind of work would require even higher standards of technical capacity compared to what we are doing right now.

The Strategy of the Green Consumer “Movement”

When we initiated Green Choice, we actually designed two paths— one was focused on encouraging consumers to make green choices and the other was focused on promoting a green supply chain.  As you can probably imagine, great progress on the green supply chain has been made up until now, but the green consumer initiative is still only in the beginning phase. If we were to give an overall evaluation of Green Choice we could say that one leg (the green supply chain management system) has taken a big step, whereas the other leg (the green consumer initiative) has hardly moved, or is still moving very slowly.

The first challenge comes from our own limitations. At the outset we wanted to push for changes at both ends (consumers and suppliers) but we discovered that influencing consumers to make green consumption choices was much more difficult. First, we needed to consider whether we have the capacity to influence consumers. Second, even if we did have this capacity, any kind of large-scale efforts to influence consumer choice would necessitate some form of social mobilization and within the existing social context in China, these kinds of activities are still considered to be sensitive. Therefore, we decided to take a more cautious, step-by-step approach and to focus on advocacy instead of mobilization. Since 2010 we have launched activities focused on encouraging consumers to write letters to voice their requests, but we intend to keep this operation within the scope of student organizations, so that these activities are more easily controllable. As you can see, Green Choice cannot (presently) be called a true green consumer movement. We are working hard toward this goal, but we are approaching this in a gradual way so that society will have time to slowly get used to these ideas.

Public Participation as Mechanism for Controlling Pollution

What the Green Choice essentially is trying to achieve is improved pollution standards as a result of greater public participation. Overall, pollution problems in China are still not being solved, and the core of the problem is not the lack of technical and financial means to deal with pollution, but a lack of motivation. In order to control pollution, we have already adopted a number of measures, such as a variety of administrative, technical and financial mechanisms (including market mechanisms), but companies prefer to pay a fine (for violations of environmental laws and regulations) instead of addressing the underlying problem.

The broad participation and involvement of all sectors of society is the most important factor in addressing the apathy companies have towards pollution, but this is not going to happen overnight. A prerequisite for public participation is for a wide range of environmental information to be disclosed to the public. In my opinion, water pollution problems are the most pressing environmental problems China faces, and information disclosure is the most needed approach to address environmental problems. So you can see the logic behind the creation of the water pollution database to address the very serious environmental problems China faces.

In order to as be as effective, timely and comprehensive as possible, the Water Pollution Database was designed with a user-friendly format that would make it easy for the general public to access information1. The database itself cannot give us back clear-blue skies, but it can stimulate the public to get involved and take initiative.

II. Green Choice Alliance’s Cooperation Mechanisms

The Importance of Credibility

Getting back to the question of Green Choice’s effectiveness, I think the biggest surprise and the most unexpected result for everybody was the finding that civil society organizations can have an impact on business. If NGOs are to exert an influence, they must possess credibility. We lack administrative power, and resources, but we do have a unique resource, which is credibility. Credibility is crucial.

All the data that we use are from government departments; in fact what we have done is to use the credibility of the government and put it in the database. Through these means we can to a large extent draw support from the government’s authority.

Credibility also comes from third-party audit organizations with strong technical capabilities who have joined the alliance. At this stage, we have worked with four internationally renowned environmental consulting and environmental engineering firms to carry out audits. I myself previously worked in a consulting firm, on projects specifically focused on supply chains, and I also have some experience with CSR management. I drew on these experiences to develop Green Choice.

We have also carried out dozens of third-party audits. In our society, there is a widespread lack of trust, and this is also true of the way in which auditing firms are viewed. This lack of trust can be explained by the fact that auditing firms obtain funding from corporations; so it is clear that third party auditing also needs supervision. Having a credible environmental organization participate in these audits serves two purposes: to control the quality of the auditing, and to act as “bad cops” to help auditing firms absorb some of the pressure coming from the enterprises. Unlike the auditors, we have nothing to gain from enterprises, so can play a unique role. Furthermore, for each audit process, we try to invite local environmental organizations to participate, as I firmly believe that local environmental problems must be solved by the involvement of the local population and local environmental groups. I think that the participation of NGOs in these kinds of audits is unprecedented and very important. Based on my limited understanding, this type of involvement is not common on an international scale.

Finally, credibility comes from within ourselves, so when we involve local NGOs we make sure that they don’t establish any unhealthy or compromising relationships with enterprises. There is an agreed upon system of checks and balances among the 35 organizations which participate in the Green Choice Alliance, and all organizations must avoid acting on their own to do anything that might be perceived as irregular. Furthermore, when it comes to compiling the audit report and making the decision to remove any pollution records, these decisions require the approval of all members of the alliance. This is an important aspect of ensuring the credibility of the alliance.

One of the things that I had not foreseen is how the formation of the Alliance has helped us to deal with stress and pressure. It is often very difficult for us to deal with situations where representatives from businesses or the government, and even personal acquaintances come to see us and put pressure on us. Now I just tell them that I need to discuss this issue with the other members of the Alliance, and this is an effective way of stopping them from troubling us.

 Motivations for continued cooperation

A clear division of labor and tasks has emerged within the Alliance.  EnviroFriends  (环友科技), and Friends of Nature (自然之友), are responsible for coordinating and sending letters within the network. Green Beagle Environmental Institute (达尔问自然求知社) is mainly responsible for handling communication with the media, while South China Nature Society (华南自然会) is responsible for the supervision of the auditing processes. In addition, several other organizations have encouraged student organizations in Dalian and Beijing to write letters to polluting enterprises, and many other organizations recognize the value of the whole process and provide important moral support.

NGOs can obtain more opportunities for cooperation only by becoming more professional and establishing a clearer separation of tasks. If NGOs are all focused on doing the same thing without a sense of the bigger picture, cooperation will not develop.  IPE is good at some things, but in other areas, such as mobilizing society and consumers at large, we are not so effective.  But this area is the strength of some other organizations. Furthermore, we are not specialists in communication and media, we tend to be more passive, but Green Beagle is very active in this area. So, the specialized division of labor and tasks within the Alliance is very important.

It is fair to say that cooperation among NGOs in China is difficult. At times everybody has experienced various setbacks, which is why we finally had to come together to form an alliance based on a common cause. The members of our alliance are engaged in environment protection throughout the country, but each and every one of them is focused on different areas. Each organization has a strong sense of independence and since we are all equal partners in the Alliance, it can be very difficult to work together and to focus our work. Non-for profit enterprises are unlike business groups that form around a common economic interest. In fact it is a common cause that brings us all together, in this case namely the issue of providing Green Choices. We all acknowledge that the environmental performance of companies has a huge impact on environmental pollution, and this is why we need to focus on initiatives like Green Consumption and Green Supply Chains. Taking up this cause is the only way to push enterprises to improve their environmental performance.

First steps towards international NGO cooperation

NGOs participating in the Green Choice Alliance are all Chinese groups, but some international organizations have been involved in coordinating cooperation and feedback. For example, in the campaign involving Apple Computer and the IT industry’s dumping of heavy metal pollutants in China, the U.S.-based NGO, Pacific Environment (美国太平洋环境组织)(PE), served as a vehicle to inform consumers in the United States. More than 900 consumers in the States wrote letters to Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, demanding Apple to take measures to solve the problem. As a result, Apple issued a brief response.

The U.S-based Business as Human Rights has developed a large database, through which they monitor the activities of thousands of companies. Among the recipients of this information are many representatives from high-level institutions. Business as Human Rights has included our data in their database, and posted all of our reports on their website, meaning that data collected in China is reaching a high-level, international audience. In addition, Business as Human Rights have contacted international companies with negative performances in our database, and those who have failed to respond to our correspondence, to hold them accountable. In addition, one of the members of our alliance, Envirofriends (环友科技), has translated the letters we write to polluting companies into Japanese and spread awareness in Japan. Furthermore the Chinese, Japanese and Korean members of the Environmental Information Network (中日韩环境信息网) at the Asia Institute for Environmental Studies in Japan have sent these letters to enterprises in Japan and Korea.

Using the Resources We Have

Up until now, Green Choice activities have mainly been carried out with the help of funding from some of its member organizations. Moral support doesn’t involve any costs, but when specific activities are being carried out, the situation is different. Some of the organizations have made Green Choice an integrated part of their own activities and central to the operation of their own, independent projects. IPE bears the operating costs for Green Choice partner organizations that lack funding. Some of these costs are for trainings that we provide.

Rather than focusing on long-term training programs, we provide training specifically related to conducting on-site audits. In this way, we are able to use our financial resources effectively in order to meet Green Choice goals. The next step is to systematically address securing more funds, which we have begun to prepare for through the completion of a preliminary project proposal.

Enhancing Our Professional Capacity

Participation in an audit actually involves monitoring the auditing process, while the actual audit itself is carried out by a technical auditor. There are very few enterprises that open their doors and welcome this form of public monitoring, so we have very few chances to do this. However, strong technical capabilities to monitor the process will ensure that monitoring will be more accurate.

NGOs should adopt measures to learn in order to strengthen their own capacity. Technical jobs may require hiring somebody outside of the organization. Another way of developing organizational capacity is to cooperate with other organizations and learn from them, as in the way we work with third party audit companies. From now on, we need to enhance the capacity of other organizations to work together.  Moral support from other organizations can also turn into substantial participation in the alliance’s work. If members of the alliance can follow the same procedures to carry out auditing work, then IPE will no  longer need to travel all the country to provide technical support in auditing monitoring.

As a part of the capacity-building processes, we invite representatives from other organizations in the alliance to come and work in our office for a period up to two months. In this way they become familiar with the whole process: from collecting data to the final stage where information is transformed into a tool to place pressure on companies to change. Organizations such as the South China Nature Society among others have already made clear strategic choices in this direction; to spend more time and resources on obtaining more comprehensive knowledge and mastering technical skills. They are based in the region of the Pearl River Delta is the world’s workshop, where the vast majority of audits are conducted. And I fully expect that the investment the South China Nature Society has put into developing its capacity will enable it to work fairly independent in this region during the next auditing process.

NGOs Should Pay More Attention to Efficiency

Of course, in cases where conditions are not yet fully ripe, we can only make gradual progress. NGOs are not-for-profit organizations and therefore cannot produce goods that will bring in revenues, so NGOs are to a large extent dependent on the good intentions of others (supporters and donors). Currently, there have been some very positive developments in regards to domestic foundations. I believe that if NGOs can achieve higher standards and partner with other sectors of society, then we’ll be able to gain the attention and support of these foundations.

NGO should pay attention to donor’s expectations of how NGOs can develop their capacity. Even though what we, as representatives of civil society, are doing is not-for-profit work, we still have to operate to according to efficiency standards. In fact, we should pay even closer attention to efficiency standards than businesses. This shows respect for donors, and is crucial if we are to obtain even more public support. By using the alliance to collaborate through the sharing of information, we have seen the efficiency of our work grow. The most effective way of exerting pressure on enterprises to take their environmental responsibility seriously is by using credible information.

The costs of doing nothing other than monitoring are inconceivable. But the approaches of Green Choice are many and various, and closely link up with other parts of society. Moreover the alliance’s foundation is relatively stable and participating NGOs are constantly developing and obtaining new knowledge. The combination of these factors have greatly increased the overall capacity of the alliance.

Non-profit organizations have not had an easy time accessing resources in the past and that’s not going to change dramatically in the near future.  But in the long run Chinese people need to wake up to our environmental problems and funding from within China needs to be used to push for change. If IPE and other members of the alliance can help China solve its environmental problems and thereby improve and enhance the quality of life of the people living here, our work is going to be acknowledged and will receive support. Our website has received a considerable amount of support from the Society for Entrepreneurs and Ecology (阿拉善生态协会). Also, a large part of our total budget now comes from funding from Chinese donors, which gives me hope for future developments. I have also noticed that a number of environmental NGOs have recently improved their domestic fund-raising abilities2.

III.  NGO – corporate relations: from a cooperative CSR role to independent advocacy

Changing the Relationship between NGOs and Businesses

The type of monitoring relationship that exists between NGOs and business in the Green Choice initiative is a completely new development. Although the 35 organizations involved in the Alliance have never actually sat down to openly discuss this, I am quite sure that we all recognized that in addition to establishing cooperative CSR relationships with business, we should also have an independent oversight and monitoring relationship. We shouldn’t receive funding from enterprises to carry out activities completely unrelated to their business. CSR funding should result in improvements for employees and local communities related to pollution and health concerns.

The formation of such a monitoring relationship has been a major challenge for us. NGOs need sufficient capacity to do better work in this area. At the outset, it was very important to decide what kind of attitude we should take towards enterprises. Our position is that we should respect the enterprise, and their contributions to society, but at the same time strongly oppose violations of environmental laws, and businesses engaging in activities that exploit others. Our approach is based on establishing a healthy relationship with companies, using exposure and pressure to engage them. Ultimately, the main goal is to provide follow-up solutions and a way to solve the problem, and to motivate the enterprise to change. So the relationship we have with business includes both opposition and confrontation, but also the desire for collaboration. If the enterprise continues to violate environmental laws, then our relationship turn confrontational; but if the enterprise is willing to adjust, and willing to change, then our relationship will change very quickly. In these situations we adopt a patient and proactive attitude and focus on providing assistance to the enterprise to make positive changes.

I think that the NGO community should also keep an open mind and positive attitude and work with other organizations and the government. We have the potential to learn from the experiences of businesses and government regulatory agencies, which can help to develop our capacity and enhance our own efficiency. On the other hand, we have something which businesses and government agencies do not have, namely, our starting point is an environmental philosophy. If we stand firm and work hard, then we can make a very unique contribution. This type of influence results in a win-win situation for everyone.  If NGOs only serve to be implementers of enterprises CSR projects, we will lose our integrity and our value to society.

Trends in the Strategies of Environmental NGO’s

If we look at the development of environmental NGOs in China, we can see it in stages. The first stage was initiated by Liang Congjie and his organization, Friends of Nature. This organization’s work was significant, as it was the first time environmental NGOs provided environmental education activities. Friends of Nature has been successful in raising society’s environmental awareness, and this still remains one of the main focal points for many NGOs today.  Environmental rights is another main area NGOs have been involved in. The China Legal Assistance Centre for Pollution Victims (污染受害者法律援助中心) at the China University of Political Science initiated and led by Wang Canfa, with the support of other professionals and local NGOs, is the main champion in this area. Judicial independence is restricted in this area, but they are standing firm and continuing their work.

In 2003, we witnessed the environmental movement’s second wave.   It was symbolized by opposition to the building of hydropower stations along the Nu River and Tiger Leaping Gorge Dam. Since the introduction of the Environmental Impact Assessment Law, NGOs have become more deeply involved in public decision-making processes. One example of this is the work done by Green Earth Volunteers (绿家园) to promote public participation in environmental decision making.  In addition to this, in recent years, organizations such as Global Village (地球村) have made great strides in developing sustainable community projects. Moreover, some environmental groups have focused on shaping corporate behavior.  These groups include the Guardians of the Huai River (淮河卫士), Green Han River (绿色汉江), the Green Volunteer League of Chongqing (重庆绿联会) and Green Anhui (绿满江淮), which have all made some contributions to the field of monitoring and pressuring enterprises to make changes in the way they impact the environment.

I think that in the future we will see developments in other directions. Environmental education needs to be tirelessly promoted, while there is a need to expand efforts to influence policy influence and conduct advocacy. The next step we are planning within our organization is to try and influence even more businesses at various levels of the supply chain in different industries. We also want to try to exert our influence to start a substantive consumer movement. Furthermore we want to follow up on the Green Banking Project initiated by Yu Xiaogang at Green Watershed (绿色流域).There are many gaps in the work of environmental NGOs are doing in China, and NGOS should work together in the spirit of cooperation, rather than competition, to identify these gaps and expand their scope of work.


  1. To IPE’s Water Pollution Map and database in English, go to http://www.ipe.org.cn/En/pollution/index.aspx 

  2. Editor’s Note: Ma Jun here is referring to an important trend covered in our Special Issue on Philanthropy and Civil Society in China, and that is the rapid growth of Chinese foundations like the Society for Entrepreneurs and Ecology.  The rise of foundations presents Chinese NGOs with a wider range of funding opportunities, and a number of Chinese NGOs that used to rely heavily on international funding are now beginning to draw increasingly on domestic funding. 

马军访谈实录

 

公众参与供应链管理和绿色消费

介入供应链管理的缘起

自2006年开发出水污染数据库后对社会各界公开,我们发现有一些大型企业开始感觉到压力,尤其是跨国公司,第一批来找我们(沟通说明)的100家企业里面,80%~90%都是跨国公司。

但是我们发现只有那些大型的品牌公司才会敏感于这样的公众压力,在此之外,如何推动中国内地及港台地区的和韩国的企业呢?他们不在乎公众和媒体,我们就想通过那些“在乎的”把压力传递给“不在乎的”。现在,品牌企业越来越多地将高污染、高风险行业外包出去,但是外包并不意味着他就可以把环境责任都转嫁出去。在现代商业中,品牌实际上涵盖了供应商的行为在内。

基于这样的考虑,我们把数据库做成了供应链管理的工具。我们把收集到的企业超标违规记录称为企业监管记录,开发了一个搜索引擎,供采购商拿他的供应商企业的名单与违规记录名单进行比对。

2008年我们做成了包括比对在内的绿色选择供应链的流程管理体系,推动大型企业采用这个数据库。最先采用的是香港“溢达”,之后一些更大的企业,像美国的通用电器、耐克、沃尔玛等也逐渐开始用起来,给有问题的供应商企业施加压力,通过沟通整改撤销污染记录。

当我们第一次开始推动这些大型企业去绿化和监管他的供应链条,我们发现效率提升了很多。数据库内有成千上万条的记录,以我们的能力和资源一家一家地克服,效率非常低,比如有上万家供应商的沃尔玛,每个月都会把供应商的名单和我们的名单进行比对,这就意味着他每个月让几千家的供应商感觉到这个压力,因为他不断向这些公司发出信息。又比如我们刚刚开始推动西门子,他也有上万家的供应商。

第三方审核:打开紧闭的企业大门

我们通过第三方审核的方式推动做出回应的企业进行整改。整改的过程中,所有背后的材料,包括一次次的违规和政府监测记录都要审核,甚至很多地方的管网都要挖开去查。(在以前)很少有这样的机会,企业他会带着你把这个厂子里所有的有关环境的重要文件看一遍,然后把废水从产生、收集、处理、排放的各个管网流程看一遍。

审核的第一个程序是合规性审核,总会发现新的问题,企业就要有针对性地进行整改,通过的企业几乎是凤毛麟角。整改以后通过的还是比较多的,但现在至少还有十几家没有通过,还处在整改中,最长的改了一年才通过。

如何评价供应链管理的成效

绿色选择目前取得的成绩,相当大的程度上是依靠供应链管理的作用。一年多来和我们沟通的近170家企业中,有120多家是企业的客户推过来的。2010年春节公开年货生产厂商黑名单,通过大学生消费者写信也推了不少。此外还有媒体或者其他各种综合因素的作用。比如我们发布了香港上市公司污染企业报告,也对企业产生了压力。有家公司参加绿色公司的评选,由于我们的报告提到,被卡住了,评选方要求它至少要面对公众做说明,他就做了。绿色选择的成效,比较能说清楚的是来自供应链的影响,你可以看到订单卡到那里,他们(企业)真着急,真想解决。

自绿色选择2007年启动到现在,我们总共推动了300家左右的企业做出说明和回应,其中相当一些进行了整改,这让很多人听起来都比较意外,因为我们都是民间组织,没有行政的权力,只有这么少的人和资源,这些企业又是如此强大,怎么能够推动它们?企业怎么会在乎民间机构发布的这些东西?这个“意外”也从侧面反映出,300家企业在绿色选择联盟推动下产生了明显的变化。从个案上来讲我们获得了成功,因为我们看到企业采取了措施去减排,能够查证查实,这值得我们欣慰。

但从另一个方面来看,我们有7万条以上的记录,涉及3万家以上企业,回应的比例远远不到1%,对推动中国整体的节能减排和污染控制,作用还非常有限,并没有实质性地改善我们的水环境和空气环境,我们的根本目标远未达成。

而且,我们现在能够影响到的主要还是与跨国企业相关的供应链,如果是国内的企业,如中石油、紫金矿业,可能暂时还不能用这种手段去影响,因为没有更大的客户企业去撼动他们。但是,如果有一天绿色信贷、绿色证券政策能够真正落实,就有可能对证券交易所和银行政策,通过贷款和上市门槛或者退市的风险机制影响他们。当然这些工作的技术性比现在还要强很多。

绿色消费者运动的本土策略

绿色选择启动时,实际上设计了两条路径,一是推绿色消费,二是推绿色供应链。你可以想象,从那时到现在,绿色供应链已经迈出了很大的步伐,但绿色消费仅仅刚刚起步。如果要从整体上评价绿色选择的话,我们在一条腿上迈得比较远,但在另一条腿上还迈不动,还非常迟缓。

最先的挑战在于我们自身推动力量有限,一开始两边都想推,但后来发现,在绿色消费这一面,我们无法全力去推。首先是考虑我们有没有这样的能力;其次,即使我们拥有这样的能力,大规模地动员消费者涉及社会动员,现有的社会条件下仍然有敏感性,我们有意采取谨慎的、循序渐进的方式,侧重于倡导性而不是行动性。我们已经在2010年的行动中采用了动员消费者写信表达诉求的做法,但有意将范围限定在学生组织,使行动更加可控。所以,绿色选择还称不上真正意义上的绿色消费者运动,我们是在朝这个方向努力,但采用渐进的方式使社会逐渐去适应它。

公众参与是控制环境污染的动力机制

绿色选择实质上是尝试推动公众以有效的方式参与污染控制。中国的整体污染问题迟迟得不到解决,核心的障碍不在于缺乏技术和资金,而在于缺乏动力。为控制污染,我们已经采用了很多手段,比如说各种行政的、技术的、财政的包括市场化的机制,但企业宁可交罚款而不解决问题。

动力的问题不是一夜之间就能解决的,必须要依靠社会各界的广泛参与来获得,而参与的前提条件是环境信息的广泛公开,将信息公开作为先导。我认为水污染是最需要解决的问题,信息公开也是最需要解决的问题,两方面思路合在一起,就变成了水污染数据库,这是其中的逻辑。

为尽可能以有效、及时、完整、用户友好的形式最大程度地将信息传递给社会,我们采用了地图的设计,将信息分为几个大类,在使用过程中逐步更有针对性地为目标用户设计他们需要的工具,如供应链的管理工具。但数据库本身不能还我们水清天蓝,只有它激发了公众参与和人的能动性,通过数据的采集和复制,以有限的力量撬动更大的力量,才能产生全局性的影响,否则就只能停留在个案上面。在总体排放远远超过环境容量,众多企业甚至连基本达标排放都做不到的情况下,仅仅做一些个案难以真正起到作用。

绿色选择联盟的合作机制

公信力的来源

回到对绿色选择成效的评价,我觉得大家最大的吃惊与意外,在于民间机构能够对企业产生影响。而产生影响的根本在于NGO在操作上一定要有公信力。我们虽然没有行政权力,没有很多的资源,但是我们有独特的资源,就是公信力。这三个字是非常关键的。

我们的数据都是来自政府部门,实际上是把政府的那部分公信力也借用到这个地方,我们很大程度上是借助了政府的权威。

公信力还来自拥有最强的技术能力的第三方审核机构的加盟。目前,我们总共认可了4家国际上知名的环境咨询和环境工程公司去做审核。我过去在咨询公司工作过,在供应链、CSR管理上有一定经验,将这些经验注入到了绿色选择中。

我们开展了数十次第三方审核。在社会普遍存在诚信缺失的情况下,由于审核资金来自企业,第三方审核也需要监督。所以,每次审核都有一家环保组织在旁边,既控制审核的质量,还可以做那个“坏人”,帮助审核机构分担来自企业的压力。因为我与企业之间截断了利益的链条,我无求于他,能起到独特的作用。另外,每次审核我们都尽力邀请当地的环保组织去参与。我一直有一个非常坚定的想法,各地的环境问题,必须要由当地的民众与环保组织去解决。至少在中国,我觉得NGO监督下的审核这种机制是前所未有的。据我有限的了解,在世界上其他地方,这种机制好像也不太多。

最后,我觉得公信力也来自我们自身。我们自己约法三章,要有操作的规范性,不能与企业之间形成非正常的关系。参加联盟的35家组织之间也有一种制衡,避免单独行事可能会出现的非正规的操作,对审核报告的认可以及是否撤除污染记录,需要联盟内成员机构的共同认可,这都能大大增加联盟的公信力。

我原来没有想到的是,形成联盟在客观上还能帮助我们(公众环境研究中心)应对压力。当企业、政府甚至是熟人找过来,面对权力和人情的压力,很难去处理,我就告诉对方,后面还需要同绿色选择联盟其他成员共同认可,企业一般就不会再纠缠下去了。

持续合作的动力源

现在联盟内已逐步形成了明晰的分工。例如,环友科技负责网络内部协调和发信,自然之友也承担了部分发信的工作。媒体宣传主要由达尔问负责,华南自然会承担审核监督,还有其他几家组织,动员了大连和北京的大学生社团向污染企业写信。其他更多的机构对整个过程进行认可,提供道义支持。

NGO之间,只有通过专业化分工才能获得更大的合作空间,如果大家都同质化,这样的合作不可能深化。有些事情是我们擅长的,但我们也有自己的弱项,如社区动员和消费者动员,而其他的机构恰恰就有这种能力。在和媒体沟通方面,我们是比较被动的,达尔问则非常主动。联盟内专业化分工协作很重要。

应该说NGO合作起来实际是很难的,有的时候是大家经历了很多挫折,最后在共同的关注下不得不走到一起形成联合。联盟内NGO在各地都从事环保,但又关注不同的方面,独立性非常强,每一家都是独立的、平等的伙伴,要共同关注和做事,是一件非常难的事情。非营利机构不能像企业那样围绕共同的商业利益形成联合,实际上是共同的关注将我们绑定在一起。在绿色选择的问题上,就是大家都认识到,企业的环境表现对环境污染有巨大的影响,我们需要关注企业的环境污染表现,我们需要通过绿色消费、绿色供应链等不同的方式来推动他们改进环境污染表现。

NGO的国际协作初露端倪

参加绿色选择联盟的全部是本土环保组织,但得到了一些国际组织的协作配合与呼应。例如针对IT产业重金属污染的倡导,苹果公司迟迟不予回应,美国太平洋环境组织(PE)后来把信息传给美国消费者,多达900位美国消费者给苹果总裁乔布斯写信,要求苹果采取行动解决问题,结果苹果做了简短的回应。

美国的Business as Human Rights开发了一个很大的数据库(网站),盯着数千家企业,有很多高层次的信息接收者,我们的每期报告都在他们的网站上登出来,他们还挑选表现消极、不做回应的公司,以他们的名义要这些公司去回应。是他们看到报告后主动来找我们,提供了非常实际的帮助。另外,通过联盟成员——环友科技,把给企业的信翻译成日文,由中日韩环境信息网的成员——亚洲环境研究所(日本)直接递给企业,也起到了很好的推动作用。

如何使用资源

到现在为止,绿色选择的活动主要还是通过各家组织的自有资金来支撑。如果只是道义支持,不涉及费用,如果涉及具体的行动,也有不同情况。有几家机构本身就将绿色选择纳入自己的项目运作;对暂时没有资金支持的机构,公众环境研究中心会承担行动的费用,其中部分以培训费的形式体现。我们把参加现场审核视作培训的一部分,而不是做大型的集中培训,将资源用在刀刃上。下一步是要系统地解决筹款问题,我们已初步完成了项目建议书的写作。

如何提升专业能力

参与审核实际上是监督审核,审核主体是由技术上的审核员来完成,我们监督这个过程。企业打开大门让公众监督的机会是很少的,如果我们的专业能力都很强的话,会大有好处,使监督更到位。

NGO应当成为学习型机构,专业性是一个门槛,非常技术性的岗位需要招人,另外还可以选择和其他机构合作,选择第三方审核机构就是一例。需要从现在开始提升其他机构的合作能力。比如从道义支持成为实质性参与,如果其他成员自己在当地以同样的流程解决了审核问题,就不需要我们的人飞来飞去。像企业的模块化、标准化操作那样,通过协作以较少的投入获取较大的效果。

在能力建设方面,我们邀请联盟内其他机构,可以在我们办公室工作最长两个月,熟悉从数据的收集到最后的信息变成压力,再到企业去改正这一整套流程。像华南自然会等组织在战略上已经确认了这样一种方向,会投入更大的力量学习和掌握技术。珠三角是主要的世界工厂所在地,所以我们所做的许多审核都发生在那里,我预期已多次参加审核的华南自然会能够在下次审核中独当一面。

NGO也要以效率为考量

当然,在条件不具备的情况下只能慢慢走。NGO不是营利机构,不能通过做好产品形成预期的收入,所以很大程度上需要依赖别人(资助方、捐赠者)的好意。目前,国内的慈善事业已有很大进步,我相信如果能够做到高水准而且能够跟社会上其他方面对接,NGO的活动将能够得到国内慈善事业的支撑。

NGO应当重视资助方对自己在能力方面的诉求。虽然是民间非营利机构,但我们的运作依然要以效率为考量,甚至要比企业还在意效率,一是对得起善款,也是为了赢得更多的公众支持。透过信息化手段进行协作,我们所做的实际上是提升效率的工作。对企业施加环境压力,使他们承担环境责任,用信息手段是最省的手段。单独去盯,成本不可想象。由于绿色选择的搭手很多,和社会其他方面密切楔入,也比较扎实,同时随着推进,能力将逐渐被吸收进NGO中,不知不觉中使联盟的整体能力得到提高。

非营利机构在获取资源方面过去不容易,将来也不会很容易。但我们还是应该有信心,中国的环境问题需要中国人民的关注和中国的本土资金推动加以解决,如果我们能够真正帮助中国解决环境问题,去改善和提升大家的生活质量,我们的工作就得到认同和支持。我们的网站就获得了阿拉善生态协会相当力度的支持。目前,我们获得的国内资助已经占总预算的相当部分,这给了我很好的预期。近期在各地看到不少环境NGO的本地筹款能力也在提升。

本土和企业的关系:从CSR合作到独立倡导施压

 绿色选择改变了NGO和企业的传统关系

像绿色选择对企业的这种监督关系是新出现的,跟以往的方式不知不觉已经发生了变化。虽然这35家机构从来没有坐在一起开过会,但我想,可能大家都认可,我们和企业的关系除了CSR方面的合作关系以外,还应该有一个我们对他们进行独立监督的关系。给我资金并不是来做另外一些跟企业毫无关系的一些项目,而是要解决企业在实际生产过程中对员工,对周边社区的环境所造成的污染和健康安全的种种问题。

形成这样的一种监督关系对我们是一个比较大的挑战,NGO需要有足够的能力,要做比较扎实的工作。另外,我们的出发点可能也非常重要,我们对企业到底采取一种什么样的态度?我们的立场是尊重企业,尊重他们对社会所做的贡献,但与此同时,我们又非常坚决地反对他们违反环境的法规,去侵犯别人的利益。我们抱着与人为善的态度,不以曝光和打压为目的,曝光只是手段,最后的目的是提供跟进的解决方案和出路,推动他去解决,我们和企业,是既有对立和矛盾,但同时也有转向协作的可能性。如果对方不愿意去整改,不愿意去改变环境违规的状态,那我们之间就以对立和压力为主,但是如果他愿意调整,愿意去改,那我们的关系在瞬间会发生很大的变化,我们会更加有耐心地积极主动去配合,提供力所能及的帮助,去推动他改变,协助他改变。

在与其他部门的合作方面,我也觉得NGO应当持开放态度,吸取和借鉴营利机构和政府监管机构长期形成的能力和好的经验,来提升我们的效率,但另一方面,我们有他们不具备的环境理念的出发点。如果我们能够站得住,去努力,就能做出独有的贡献,这种影响将是双向的。NGO不能简单地成为企业CSR项目的执行者,如果是这样,我们就会失去自己能够起到的独特作用,我们对社会的价值将大打折扣。

环境NGO的行动策略趋势

从环境NGO的发展来看,第一阶段是以梁从诫先生(自然之友)为代表的第一批环境NGO先驱从事环境教育,成功地提升了全社会的环境意识,到现在这仍然是很多NGO的主要工作。环境维权是其中一个辅线,以(中国政法大学污染受害者帮助中心的)王灿发老师和其他地方NGO的行动为标志。这方面由于司法独立性问题受到了制约,但仍然在艰难中坚定地推进。2003年出现了第二波(环境运动),以(质疑)怒江和虎跳峡建坝的行动为标志。由于环境影响评价法的出台,NGO得以更深地介入到公共决策中,以绿家园为代表的NGO推动公众参与环境决策。此外在过去几年,地球村等组织都在可持续社区发展方面作出了积极探索。同时,一些环境组织注意到影响企业的重要性,淮河卫士、绿色汉江、重庆绿联会、绿满江淮等机构都已在监督和推动企业方面有所作为。

我觉得未来几个方向都会继续,环境教育需要不懈坚持,影响决策倡导还会进一步拓展。我们自己下一步要通过供应链,拓展到不同企业和行业去施加影响,拓展到实质性的消费者运动中。这方面还有绿色流域的于晓刚老师所推动的绿色银行项目(网络)。环境领域还有很多空白的开阔地带可以去开拓,环境NGO之间的竞争远远少于合作关系。

CDB Editor

Translated by Kathinka Furst

Reviewed by Frank LaMacchia

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