Can civil society afford not to engage the business sector? This is the question we face as we approach the new millennium. There are many sceptics within civil society who doubt whether engagement of companies in social development can yield true progress. However, if the position of the poor and socially marginalized, and the development challenges facing a community, a country or the world at large, can be addressed by engaging companies, then CSOs are duty bound to explore ways of relating to them.
Companies are all driven to a large extent by the profit motive, but a growing number are now striving for more socially responsible ways to conduct business. Engagement does not mean that the two parties will not differ and disagree. Nor does it deny the different power positions of different sectors based on wealth, access and influence. Indeed, good relationships will be built only if these inequalities are openly acknowledged.