Partnerships: The key to lasting solutions

EDF VP of Corporate Partnerships Gwen Ruta at a FedEx warehouse

We partnered with FedEx to develop a delivery truck that reduced soot emissions by 90%.


How can we hope to change the world with a staff of just over 400 people?

We can't do it alone. We succeed by tapping the knowledge and influence of others. We work with other environmental groups, of course—but that's not enough.

Today's environmental challenges are different from those of the 20th century. We believe that in order to solve the toughest problems, we need to listen to all stakeholders and find common ground—because the only way we can save the planet is by getting all hands on deck, working together.

Listening to those closest to the problem

We bring about lasting change through constructive engagement with those closest to the problem.

If we want to protect ecosystems for coming generations, we need help from the people who own and work the land. Why? 75% of the land in the United States—harboring critical wildlife habitat—is privately owned.

Our partners can bring great ideas to the table. The idea for our wildlife conservation program on private lands came from listening to landowners and incorporating their needs.

In Iowa, farmer Denny Friest boosts his corn and soybean yield while using one-third less fertilizer—saving money and cutting pollution at the same time. "Rather than telling us what to do, EDF helped us become better managers and better stewards of the soil," he says.

Tackling problems on a large scale

In a world driven by global commerce, we can't ignore the environmental footprints of corporations. By partnering with businesses—and finding solutions that benefit everyone—we can make profound improvements to the environment and human health.

Our work with Walmart, the world's biggest retailer, is a prime example of how big an impact we can have by working with major companies.

Under our guidance, Walmart is working to remove several known toxic chemicals from their household products. This will not only affect Walmart's private brands, but its 100,000-plus suppliers, too.

"Harnessing the massive scale of Walmart's business to move hazardous chemicals out of the supply chain and off store shelves will have ripple effects across the entire industry," says Sarah Vogel, EDF's Director of Environmental Health.

A long history of alliances that get results

The art of collaboration goes back to our founding in 1967. A group of scientists teamed up with lawyers–a novel approach at the time—to win a nationwide ban on the chemical DDT, which was poisoning birds and crustaceans.

Taking teamwork to new territory, in 1990 we joined forces with McDonald's in a first-of-its-kind partnership to reduce the food company's solid waste, including foam "clamshell" containers. This was the first collaboration between an environmental group and a leading corporation, and led to the elimination of 150,000 tons of packaging.

Since then, we've partnered with other leading corporations, including:

  • FedEx, to develop a cleaner, more efficient delivery truck,
  • Ocean Spray, to reduce carbon emissions and shipping costs, 
  • AT&T, the telecom giant, to develop significant ways to save water lost from cooling towers atop AT&T office buildings and data centers around the country, and
  • Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pork producer, to help its hog production subsidiary optimize fertilizer use on grain crops, which reduces greenhouse gases and water pollution.

As EDF takes on some of the most difficult environmental problems internationally, the need for new alliances will multiply. The varied cultural backgrounds, history and experience that our partners bring to the table will challenge us and strengthen our effectiveness in finding solutions.

We accept no funding from our corporate partners, and that frees us to set more aggressive goals and influence entire industries.

Gwen Ruta Gwen Ruta V.P. Programs
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