The RAN Strategy

The Strategy

Home Depot, Disney, Bank of America, Cargill, Chevron, Citibank, Goldman Sachs, General Mills…

RAN takes on some of the biggest corporations on the planet — and we get results.

Since 1985, RAN has been one of the most effective and innovative activist organizations in the United States. We partner with local, indigenous and frontline communities to create smart campaigns that exert pressure and extract actionable policies from corporate culprits responsible for rainforest destruction, massive pollution, and pushing species toward extinction. And RAN demands that human rights, labor rights, and local and indigenous rights are fundamental to any new corporate policies.

The RAN Theory of Change

RAN works at the intersection of preserving rainforests, protecting the climate and upholding human rights through the lens of corporate accountability. We approach this work through a three pronged theory of change:

· Target the companies and industries that act as the greatest drivers of deforestation and climate change;
· Partner with and support frontline communities who feel the greatest impact from — and who hold the best strategies to overcome — these challenges;
· Identify and move the legislative and regulatory levers of change that will create the greatest positive impact.

A History of Innovation: Market Campaigns

RAN was an innovator and early proponent of market campaigns — the tactic of targeting corporations to inform and elevate public opinion on these issues. These campaigns have exerted consumer influence to leverage real action out of major corporations. RAN has a nearly unparalleled track record of holding major global players accountable for the environmental and social consequences of their operations.

Due in part to this success, today most major corporations and RAN targets have social responsibility teams, or “green” marketing campaigns. They employ social media consultants pushing out messages of sustainability and climate awareness. Yet RAN has been able to keep ahead of the curve. And through relentless campaigning RAN continues to succeed in getting our targets to sit down and negotiate with us and eventually adopt and implement our demands for accountability and transparency.

Our goal is to achieve systemic shifts in the international industries that are primarily responsible for driving tropical deforestation, climate change and the human rights abuses that far too frequently accompany those practices. RAN’s campaigns are calibrated to apply strategic pressure on big name brands from multiple angles and to amplify the struggles and stories of frontline communities to mobilize consumers to demand change. RAN excels at raising the bar for what is acceptable business practice in a given sector by setting new benchmarks for accountability and transparency across whole sectors.

The Goliath Principle

In order to move whole industrial sectors, RAN will frequently target the largest or most well known brand, project or corporate player in a specific field. From Disney to Home Depot, from Bank of America to the KXL pipeline– this tactic has proven highly successful. Moving these high-profile players makes it possible for other companies and other players to follow and provides the momentum of scale for environmentally and socially friendly solutions.

In many cases targets can be entrenched,faceless industry leaders – such as agribusiness giant Cargill, the oil company Transcanada or the pulp and paper behemoth Asia Pulp and Paper. In such instances, we will target major corporate customers (such as well known grocery store brands) or mobilize local communities as a way to gain influence where direct campaigning against the target may not be as effective.

Inside / Outside: Multiple Tactics on Multiple Fronts

RAN’s proven strategy combines a variety of specific tactics to bring corporate targets to the negotiation table. Specifically, RAN utilizes an “inside/outside” approach that both exerts as much external pressure on the target as possible, while holding out the possibility of resolution through high-level negotiations. These external pressure tactics include grassroots organizing, peaceful and newsworthy direct actions, aggressive and sophisticated traditional and social media campaigns, and “brand-jamming” campaigns that parody corporate identities – all of which is supported by solid environmental science, in-depth supply chain research and deep stakeholder engagement.

Ultimately these efforts result in negotiations between RAN targets and RAN’s highly experienced corporate engagement team. Over the course of weeks, months or years, RAN negotiators will help educate and persuade decision-makers on critical accountability measures – or the campaigning will resume. RAN specializes in walking the fine line between these tactics to maintain the highest standards of credibility on our issues while also keeping our targets unsure about our next step.

Frontline Community Partnerships

A central tenet to RAN’s theory of change is the firm belief that local communities, especially Indigenous communities, are best positioned to act as stewards and decision makers in regards to their traditional territories. From the Appalachian communities dealing with mountaintop removal coal mining to indigenous peoples in Ecuador and Indonesia, these communities have firsthand knowledge – often built through generations – about the specific, place-based threats, vulnerabilities, political relationships, history, and ecological functioning of the landscape.

On the international front, the rights of Free, Prior and Informed Consent of Indigenous peoples are all too often overlooked or ignored by corporate and government entities making land use decisions. Even where ancestral land rights are acknowledged in theory, accurate maps are frequently non-existent or may be in conflict with other maps used by different levels of government.

Government corruption on all levels from local to national, combined with corporate duplicity, commonly results in legal “gray areas” which are invariably beneficial toward corporate interests. Often local residents do not fully understand the legal ramifications of questions being posed in these negotiations, nor the impact of agreements until chainsaws and bulldozers arrive and it is too late to save their forests. Community gardens, hunting grounds and even villages themselves are regularly destroyed under circumstances where those most directly impacted have little to no voice to stop it.

In order to directly support some local partners, RAN launched the Community Action Grants Program in 1993. [LINK TO CAG]

The Human Rights Bottom Line

RAN recognizes that thorough, honest, and cultural fluent communication with local allies – combined with an up to date understanding of the social and political nuances in the regions – are critical to success in these efforts. Considerations include security concerns for outspoken local activists, political backlash from opposing parties and cultural sensitivities necessary to maintain mutually beneficial, long lasting relationships with community leaders.

But it is not only good-faith partnerships that result in successful RAN campaigns. Often it is the ability and willingness to take direction and strength from local leadership that will create a successful place-based RAN campaign. This understanding that supporting the rights of Indigenous and frontline communities is almost always the most reliable way to secure lasting victories. And that is why this consideration is woven into all levels of RAN campaign strategy. RAN is firm in its resolve, with targets and allies both, to insist that the voice of impacted local or Indigenous communities are present at the negotiating table and we will not accept corporate commitments that do not include robust human and labor rights in addition to environmental and climate considerations.

In many cases it may be easier for an international company to directly address and root out the environmental destruction than it is to eliminate human exploitation from its supply chains. However, RAN has and will continue to hold a firm line that a policy commitment that only includes environmental considerations is a half-step and is not acceptable. All RAN-approved policies need to include human rights assurances that extend far beyond land conflict issues and address child labor, modern slavery and a host of other labor abuses that are still shockingly common in today’s global marketplace.

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