(When) Should a NGO Cooperate with Companies?

Doctoral candidates of the doctoral program developed ideas for an “ethic-check” in dialogue with betterplace lab.

The solution to current societal problems requires, now more than ever, active collaboration between civil society organizations, the public sector, and private corporations. Nevertheless, it is argued that these partnerships may undermine the legitimacy and reputation of civil society organizations, as they associate with corporations whose behavior might be distrusted by the public opinion. Also betterplace lab faces this challenge. Betterplace lab is a German non-governmental organization (NGO) that aims to use digitization for the improvement and humanization of society. A team of five doctoral students of the doctoral program “Ethics and responsible leadership in business” reflected on these issues by studying how betterplace lab should work with ethically ambiguous companies. The focus of this study lied on companies which have a potentially significant impact on society but whose ethical record is disputable. Taking into consideration the values of better place and additional information gained through various discussions with betterplace lab, the team provided betterplace labs with a framework to assess their future partners, the projects they might endeavor and the standards to sustain the process of working with them. These tools will support betterplace lab in the challenge of partnering with private companies without drifting away from their purpose and values. At the same time, these tools help to explain and justify decisions towards third parties.