Of all the activities the Forum announced when we launched 20 years ago, it was our intention to work with business that attracted the most interest.

There wasn’t a lot of that kind of NGO–business collaboration going on in the mid-1990s, and the Forum’s three co-founders (myself, Sara Parkin and Paul Ekins) were known at the time as being more on the business-bashing end of the spectrum – as former or current Green Party activists. So why would any risk-averse, self-respecting company have any dealings with such a motley crew of trouble-makers?

Well, happily they did, gradually at first, and then much more consistently over time. And that world of corporate sustainability is now absolutely at the heart of what we do.

It wasn’t always like that. There was a time (up to 2010) when our advisory work was around 50% with business and around 50% with the public sector – local authorities, Regional Development Agencies, Strategic Health Authorities and so on.

The significance of the year 2010 will not have escaped you – that being the year when Labour was booted out and the wretched LibDem/Tory Coalition Government took over, and its ideological crusade against ‘the big State’ kicked off, starting off with a wide-ranging conflagration of the quangos.

I had a chance to reflect on this at our 20th birthday party ten days ago, and what an amazing party it was too! Much to celebrate (as you’ll have seen in my earlier blog), including the work of some of our most important and enduring corporate partnerships.

It just so happens that three of those Partners (O2, M&S and Unilever) have all issued their latest Sustainability Reports in the last few weeks (see links below), with O2 focussing on the achievements of its Blueprint initiative, M&S rolling out another impressive Plan A Report, and Unilever keeping its multiple stakeholders on board with a very accessible update on its Sustainable Living Plan.

Each of these companies has a dedicated team of sustainability professionals, but one of their most pressing tasks has been to spread and deepen both ownership and leadership – and, in our opinion, what makes these three companies so special is the success with which they’ve done that.

By chance, each of them has also taken this opportunity to comment on how they see the business case, and how that business case works (in slightly different ways!) for them and their company. So here are the links to three authored pieces, from Karen Hamilton (Global VP Sustainable Business at Unilever) and Mike Barry (Director of Plan A at M&S), and with Bill Eyres (Head of Sustainability at O2) via a good interview with Ethical Corporation magazine.

Against the backdrop of incoherent and wretchedly inadequate government responses to the sustainability agenda, this whole corporate contribution becomes more and more significant.