WWF and Greenpeace: Two Strategies to Save the Arctic Ocean

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This case describes the two leading environmental NGOs: WWF and Greenpeace. It discusses these organizations' different approaches to the preservation of the Arctic Ocean. It asks to what extent these two organizations, with very similar goals but very different strategies, should collaborate.
Bibliographic citation: Casadesus-Masanell, Ramón; Mitchell, Jordan; Sastre Boquet, Isaac; Vroom, Govert, "WWF and Greenpeace: Two Strategies to Save the Arctic Ocean", IESE, SM-1677-E, 07/2019
Date: 04/07/2019
Author(s): Vroom, Govert; Casadesus-Masanell, Ramón; Mitchell, Jordan; Sastre Boquet, Isaac
Document type: Case
Department: Strategic Management
Languages: English
Year of the events: 2018

Learning objective First, the case allows for analysis and debate of the workings of the nonprofit sector by placing its focus on two very large nonprofit organizations that operate in the same area (environmental protection). Concepts like value, customer and many others-even what is considered "success in business"-are understood very differently in this sector. Moreover, the charitable character of those organizations informs how they conduct their operations and how they behave in their "market." Thus, the case presents an excellent opportunity for exploring to what degree conventional market concepts and business wisdom can be applied to nonprofits. Second, the case presents two very distinct organizations (in strategy, in organization and in culture) that nonetheless pursue the same goal. Can they both potentially achieve it? Is one of them "right" and the other "wrong"? The answer might be that both are "right", as long as the decisions taken along the road are consistent. This allows the debate of whether WWF and Greenpeace are consistent organizations (both internally and externally), whether their culture, organization and strategy are perfectly aligned, and whether the choices they are making-or the choices they might make-will have an effect on their consistency as organizations. Third, the case allows for discussion of competition. It may seem counterintuitive to think that nonprofits compete, but WWF and Greenpeace are indeed competitors: they compete for donors, for media coverage and for the attention of decision-makers that might help them carry out their agenda. But how does this competition work in the context of the nonprofit sector? By examining how WWF and Greenpeace compete with each other (and other nonprofits), the case can be used to examine ways of competing that go beyond the more traditional ones (i.e., competing on cost or on product). Fourth, the case presents two very distinct organizations, operating in the same sector, that are looking to collaborate with one another. This brings issues up of complementarity and limited synergies. At the same time the combined scale of WWF and Greenpeace makes collaboration not easily dismissed, in particular given the difficulty of attaining their shared goal.