Theme on the Social and Environmental Accountability of the Private Sector (SEAPRISE)

Theme Chair


Diana Shand, Chair, Theme on the Social and Environmental Accountability of the Private Sector (SEAPRISE)

Diana Shand (Aotearoa New Zealand)



News and Announcements


The subject of Environmental and Social Accountability of the Private Sector has been identified as one of the work themes mandated to CEESP by the IUCN General Assembly at the Third World Conservation Congress in Bangkok (November 2004).

The CEESP Theme on Social and Environmental Accountability of the Private sector - SEAPRISE - will collaborate with the Business and Biodiversity Programme of IUCN on methods and tools to strengthen the capacity of the private sector to become environmentally and socially accountable in its field-based work. In particular, it will promote the engagement of civil society in context-specific, long-term, constructive processes by which the private sector is followed and assisted to ameliorate their policies and practices.

Besides following the CEESP mandate, - SEAPRISE - takes inspiration from a number of IUCN Resolutions endorsed by the IUCN General Assembly in Bangkok (November 2004). These include 3.057, 3.059, 3.060, 3.061, 3.075, 3.082, 3.084 and 3.086.

Furthermore, SEAPRISE wants all IUCN Resolutions to be respected by Industry as well as Governments. These include the AMMAN Declaration which calls on Governments to prohibit by law, all exploration and extraction of mineral resources in protected areas which correspond with IUCN categories I to IV protected areas. It also lays down clear recommendations for when exploration and extraction would be acceptable in categories V and VI protected areas.


SEAPRISE was born out of the former CEESP Collaborative Management Working Group, CMWG. Several CMWG members, notably representatives and defenders of indigenous people, expressed concerns about dialogues between the private sector and conservation organisations. At the same time CMWG members became involved in providing independent advice to stakeholders in the prospect of oil and gas exploitation in the West African Marine Eco Region (Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia Guinea Bissau and Guinea).

SEAPRISE members

SEAPRISE members include academics, defenders and representatives of indigenous people, representatives of affected people organisations, and professionals working for development and environment agencies who share a common concern about dialogues between the conservation community and the private sector. Our members agree that strategies of both cooperation and confrontation are necessary to make business more sustainable. Members work on various themes like bridging the knowledge and power gaps between industries and stakeholders, financial transparency, the driving forces of business for good social and environmental conduct, loopholes in international law, and the role of the media, shareholders, consumers, civil society and governments in corporate accountability. The members generally offer their contributions on a volunteer basis. They can be compensated for their professional activities if funds are available through specific projects or programmes.

  • Membership in the SEAPRISE list automatically implies membership in the CEESP Commission.
  • Membership is by invitation, which is issued by one of the SEAPRISE Chairs on behalf of the CEESP Chair, or on the recommendation of experienced SEAPRISE members.


During its first years SEAPRISE will focus on the extractive industries (mining and oil and gas extraction)

  1. To To study ways for conservation organisations to engage effectively with the extractive industries towards improving their policies and practice.
  2. To increase the capacity of civil society and governments to work effectively with the extractive industry, particularly in countries with a low capacity of government and civil society to participate effectively in planning/managing extractive industry projects.
  3. To improve corporate environmental and social accountability through developing and implementing mechanisms, notably citizens councils, that enable stakeholders to engage in a fully informed dialogue with the private sector.
  4. To promote the 1% Earth Profits Fund, a newly proposed private-sector finance initiative to provide increased and sustained support to biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.
  5. To promote an "Energy Revolution" that will reduce the impact of oil and gas on climate change and biodiversity. This will include the removal of all subsidies to the Oil and Gas Industry (which are currently approximately $230 billion a year (UNEP 2003)) and apply the subsidies to help the industry to engage in renewable energy and environmental and socially sound energy/transportation systems and reduce the need to negatively affect areas of high biodiversity.

SEAPRISE Goals further explained:

1. Effective engagement with the extractive industry

In recent years there has been an explosion of voluntary initiatives intended to improve the social and environmental performance of business, including corporate social responsibility (CSR), socially-responsible investment (SRI), product certification and labelling, corporate sustainability reporting, etc. Some of these initiatives have been spearheaded by IUCN members. At the same time, other IUCN members remain sceptical of the potential of the private sector to achieve social and environmental goals voluntarily.
Many concerns were expressed by IUCN members about trans-national corporations of especially the extractive industry having succeeded in marginalising and neutralising International conservation organisations by providing relatively small sums of money for conservation work. Many advocacy organisations label funding from the extractive industry to environmental organisations as greenwashing.

At the Third World Conservation Congress in Bangkok it also became apparent to CEESP members that some conservation organisations who accept funding from the extractive industry are ill informed about the negative impacts of these industries on the environment and people. Greenwashing is likely to take place when organisations are both strapped for resources and poorly informed.

Other well-known interactions between the extractive industry and International conservation organisations are high-level dialogues and partnerships such as, for example, the IUCN-ICMM dialogue or the EBI (Energy and Biodiversity Initiative). These interactions generally aim to develop voluntary codes of good environmental and social conduct and to integrate considerations of biodiversity in the development of extractive industry projects. The organisations involved generally recognise that the extractive industries cause environmental degradation, but are convinced that the industry, as being a part of the problem, could also become a part of the solution.

Many SEAPRISE members, affected people, indigenous people groups and advocacy organisations are deeply concerned about these high-level partnerships. Many are having second thoughts about the effective and fair engagement of all stakeholders, especially indigenous and affected peoples groups, in such partnerships/dialogues. Others believe that these dialogues do not generate tangible results in the field, because discussions are too theoretic and the terminology that is used, such as "biodiversity" or "sustainable development" is too broad and too vague. Private sector and the environment movement often differ fundamentally in their actual idea of what these terms actually mean in practice. Others label high level dialogues as deep greenwashing. They believe that these efforts are part of a political strategy of the industry to convince civil society and national governments of the "self-regulating" capabilities of companies with the ultimate aim to weaken and prevent the development of binding legislation and regulation.

SEAPRISE members will study the driving forces behind good environmental and social conduct of the private sector. SEAPRISE will make conservation organisations better aware of the impacts of the extractive industry on people and the environment. SEAPRISE will investigate the limits of voluntary codes of good conduct and study the respective roles governments and civil society should play in making markets and business more sustainable. Real life cases will be taken under the loop in the analysis.

SEAPRISE will advocate for more concreteness in high level dialogues. Our Commission is furthermore committed to provide affected communities with a voice in the high-level dialogues between the conservation community and the extractive industry.

In order to realise our goals we are especially interested in hearing from those communities most impacted by the extractive industries.

2. Capacity building

CEESP members have been active over the past years to enhance the capacity of civil society groups and governments to enter in a more equitable dialogue with the extractive industry. Many stakeholders in the prospect of oil, gas and mining exploitation expressed a need for independent advice and capacity building activities.

SEAPRISE members assist civil society groups and government institutions with decision making procedures regarding oil, gas and mining exploitation. They give advice about Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA), the identification of "no go zones" and on how to fit extractive industry projects within National Sustainable Development plans, Poverty Reduction Plans, Energy and Transport Strategies.

Advice is also provided on a project level. SEAPRISE members work with stakeholders during especially the critical early planning phases of extractive industry projects, when awareness of stakeholders about best practices and undesirable side effects is low. Especially during these early planning phases, it is important that stakeholders have a thorough understanding about best practices and potential impacts because crucial decisions about social and environmental safeguards are taken in this period. Stakeholders mostly become aware about negative impacts only when undesirable side effects start to appear and when it is too late to put necessary safeguards in place. In this common scenario, violent conflicts between companies and their stakeholders may arise (see scheme below (Geert van Vliet, 1998). Complete PPT presentation in French downloadable here.

SEAPRISE experts have provided stakeholders in the West African Marine Eco Region in the prospect of oil and gas development with independent advice how to best manage this activity.

3. Citizen Advisory Councils

In efforts to make large-scale extractive industries more environmentally and socially accountable, it is essential to establish formalized mechanisms to engage local communities and citizens in the oversight of those industries. In addition to transparency, the critical importance of informed public oversight is key to the improvement of the safety, environmental practice, revenue equity, social responsibility, and ethical behaviour of extractive industries around the world. The Regional Citizens' Advisory Council (RCAC) established in Alaska to oversee the Alyeska oil terminal is one of the more effective models in this regard. We propose that all large-scale extractive industries establish similar well-funded, independent, representative Citizen Advisory Councils to provide real engagement with informed citizens over the entire lifetime of extractive industry projects (See Richard Steiner´s article on Citizen Advisory Councils).

4. 1% Earth Profits Fund (EPF)

As 51 of the 100 largest economies in the world are corporations (the other 49 are nation-states), the business community represents the largest under-exploited revenue source for conservation. Rather than accepting small sums of money from private sector for conservation work that are often labelled as greenwashing, a pooled fund within which businesses can dedicate 1% of their profits would represent an enormous step forward in the urgent need to provide financing for conservation. As profits of the "Global 500" companies (top 500 revenue generating companies worldwide) were reported at almost $1 trillion in 2004, 1% of this would have amounted to $10 billion.

Clearly, past combined financial commitments of governments, international financial institutions, corporations, and private philanthropies have been far too small to reverse environmental decline. While some estimates suggest that as much as $300 billion (USD) / year would be necessary to fully protect global biodiversity, global annual spending specifically on this issue is much less than 1% of this amount. As well, the conservation impact of traditional corporate giving has been limited due to four main reasons: 1) contributions are segregated rather than pooled; 2) funding decisions are made mostly by corporate directors for public relations and/or political value rather than by conservation professionals and communities for conservation value; 3) combined contributions have been too small, and 4) giving has been erratic, unpredictable, and unstable. Although national governments agreed at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 to dedicate 0.7% of GNP to Overseas (sustainable) Development Assistance (ODA), all but a few have failed this promise. (Download Rick Steiner's article on 1% Earth Fund here)

5. Energy revolution

SEAPRISE position, in a nutshell, is that climate change is the biggest possible threat to the planet, its people and its environment. Current actions to solve the problem are totally inadequate; the energy sector is making billions today and leaving behind environmental and social legacies costing billions today and in the future. The future of the planet is at risk and we have to act as soon as possible.

An Energy Revolution would have to tackle all aspects of our use of energy as well as the production of Energy. For example 50% of CO2 emissions come from the built environment, 25% from transportation and 25% from other causes. Radical changes need to be made not only to the way we produce energy but also the way we build and transport people and goods…

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