In June 2003, many of the top environmental and environmental
health markets campaigners from the U.S.,
Europe, and Canada came
together for the first time at the Markets Synergies Conference in Bolinas, California.
The participants included Greenpeace International, Rainforest Action Network,
ForestEthics, Union of Concerned Scientists, Organic Consumers Association, US
PIRGs, Health Care without Harm, Clean Production Network, and several others.
They agreed to create the Business Ethics Network (BEN), with the mission of
improving the effectiveness of corporate campaigns worldwide in order to make
business practices more ethical in terms of the environment, health, social
justice, and labor.
Participants identified a full-range
of needs, projects, and opportunities and committed both time and money
to launch this effort. The organization was officially launched in
October 2003 when it hired its first executive director, Michael Marx
(formerly the executive director of ForestEthics). Since then,
campaigners from over 150 organizations have joined the network. For a
complete list member organizations and organizations to which our
individual members belong, please see our Member listing.
In the months following its inception, the network launched a
website that included case studies of some of the most prominent
corporate campaigns in recent years as well as tools to educate new
corporate campaigners. Its staff provided instruction or campaign
consultation to several groups including the Genetic Engineering Action
Network, Center for New American Dream, EarthWorks, Rainforest Action
Network, ForestEthics, GreenCorp, Friends of the Earth-Japan, and the US
PIRGs. At the request of the membership, the BEN staff began research
on the feasibility of a cross-sector campaign targeting Wal-Mart.
In November 2004, Michael Marx released a white paper calling for a
unified international campaign targeting Wal-Mart. He argued that
“either we change Wal-Mart or Wal-Mart will change us-and not for the
better.” That paper not only led to organizing efforts across issue
sectors, but to high level discussions with Wal-Mart senior executives
that helped to launch Wal-Mart’s environmental initiative. Today many of
BEN’s member organizations, not just environmental groups, are involved
in efforts to reform big box industries. They are engaged either on the
inside as advisors or on the outside as pressure groups, and they have
support available to their efforts through the Big Box Campaign.
BEN held its first annual conference in October 2005 in San
Francisco. It attracted over 135 participants from around the country.
Joe Trippi, former Howard Dean Campaign Director, and George Lakoff,
author of “Don’t Think of an Elephant…” keynoted. The first annual BENNY
Awards were given to the top six corporate campaigns. In June 2006, BEN
hired a new coordinator, Anne Pernick, formerly with the League of
Conservation Voters in Portland, OR. She coordinated the second annual
conference with keynoters Ray Anderson, CEO Interface Corporation, and
Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the Farm Workers’ Union with Caesar
Chavez. Anne Pernick is now a Director and continues to coordinate all BEN activities.
BEN is now aggressively recruiting new Members, and creating additional
resources for its Members and other corporate campaigners. New projects
include “Corporate Campaign U” which provides workshops and intensive
instruction for corporate campaigners, and a Corporate Campaign Primer which helps to educate the foundation community about the importance of this
particular strategy for achieving significant social and environmental