CSOs and the Environment


Download the

Global Report on CSOs and Environmental Sustainability

Global Survey on Environmental Sustainability

This survey will contribute to the Open Forum thematic consultation on CSOs and the Environment and will form the basis for constructing some global messages around CSO effectiveness and environmental sustainability for HLF4 and beyond.

The survey was available in English, French, and Spanish.

If you would like to download the survey in Word format in English, French and Spanish.

Also please do not hesitate to contact Jennifer at jennifer.rietbergen at wanadoo.fr for any comments and suggestions regarding the survey.


As recognized and enshrined in the fourth Principle for CSO Development Effectiveness, the promotion of environmental sustainability is one of the key principles that should guide effective CSO development work.

In order to develop this principle to its full potential, the Open Forum undertook several activities in cooperation and leadership from the WWF. WWF is a leading international environmental CSO whose mission is to stop the degradation of the planet’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by:
- conserving the world’s biological diversity
- ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable
- promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.

WWF worked with the Open Forum to lead the development of the guidelines and criteria for CSO practice on the principle of environmental sustainability, for use by CSOs working in a wide range of sectors. This has then fed into the second Global Assembly of the Open Forum in Cambodia in late June, and will form part of the CSO advocacy towards HLF-4. WWF has considerable experience and expertise in integrating development and conservation issues and several parts of the WWF Network contributed directly to this work. A small working group was set up to guide the work.


1. Conduct a desk study (literature review) of existing guidelines and experiences on mainstreaming environmental sustainability into development work.

2. Design an online survey for CSOs to get input on an appropriate scope and content for the environmental sustainability guidelines. The survey will be run from the CSO Open Forum website, as a neutral platform, and will be open for a period of two weeks.

3. Discuss (face-to-face or via telephone/email) with environmental CSOs and selection of Development CSOs to identify Best Practice examples and other relevant information resources.

4. Analyse the survey data, synthesise the results and share them initially with the WWF working group

5. Liaise with the gender consultant and project manager at the Berlin Centre to ensure consistency of output and reporting

6. Produce a short paper, resuming the survey results and literature review, including overview of the main areas of work and issues to be considered, guidelines, examples of Best Practices, existing tools and prioritizing recommendations for future work on improving the integration of environmental sustainability in CSO practice.

Information and Links

Excerpt from the Draft Global Framework of the Open Forum: Nov 2010

Principle 4: Promote Environmental Sustainability
CSOs are effective as development actors when they … develop and implement priorities and approaches that promote environmental sustainability for present and future generations, including urgent responses to climate crises, with specific attention to the socio-economic, cultural and indigenous conditions for ecological integrity and justice.

The human rights of both present and future generations depend upon development paths and strategies where sustainability is the cornerstone of all development action. All people
have the right to live and work in a healthy and sustainable environment. Complex environmental challenges, including the urgency to mitigate and adapt to climate change, require capacities and skills that advance sustainable ecosystems in all aspects of the development process and are inclusive of all affected populations. Meeting these challenges not only demand environmental awareness and innovative solutions, but must also be shaped by principles of environmental justice.

Many millions of people, particularly in developing countries, are highly vulnerable, but bear no responsibility for the conditions that have result in deepening climate crises. CSOs, wherever they act, must explicitly give priority to local socio-economic conditions as well as cultural and indigenous approaches in strengthening sustainability in their development practice.


A Guideline: A context-specific recommendation indicating directions on how a principle should be implemented or what sort of action should be taken in a particular circumstance.

An Indicator: An observable sign, proxy or identified change that provides a credible means of verifying the status or change suggested by a guideline. Indicators should be recognized by relevant stakeholders as valid, practical, clear, and observable.

A Mechanism: Mechanisms are the context-specific means through which CSOs demonstrate accountability or implement compliance with agreed principles, standards and guidelines.

For more information, please write to info at cso-effectiveness.org