Corporate sustainability professionals often speak of "moving the needle." At the risk of mixing metaphors, sometimes industries really need a poke from a different kind of needle to move faster. Nonprofit groups, pursuing a noble cause, setting long-term goals and owing nothing to shareholders, can provide that jab.

No single organization can solve systemic, planetary problems on its own. Green business efforts regularly enlist not-for-profit groups to share resources, bridge gaps among competitors and mobilize for mutual interests, nudging the odometer dial forward. When a corporation makes an ambitious, science-based sustainability commitment, an NGO may provide the scientific and technical proficiency to execute on it. Nonprofits also grab the mic to preach about problems that corporate leadership would rather muffle or mute. On controversial issues and initiatives, a business may take a stand without taking the flak by partnering with an outspoken nonprofit. Some not-for-profit organizations consult with downstream community members and the general public to help a business better understand the potential impacts of its actions.

Each NGO featured in this article demonstrates a clear cause-and-effect for how it’s effecting change in business, industry or society at large. Some agitate, point fingers and shake up the status quo. Others are diplomats, policy partners or collaborative technological innovators. All are ultimately changing the practices of sustainable business.

Mainline "Big Green" groups, such as Greenpeace, WWF and Sierra Club, are already household names. Here is a sampling of 10 lesser-known, yet influential, nonprofits changing minds, influencing lawmakers and turning the heads of sustainability teams and C-suite officers alike, presented in alphabetical order.

As You Sow 

@AsYouSow | Berkeley, California | Founded 1992 | CEO Andrew Behar

"Empowering shareholders to change corporations for good."

Shareholder advocacy leader As You Sow feeds no sacred cows: In January, CEO Andrew Behar posted a marked-up PDF correction of Larry Fink’s much-lauded annual letter to investors.

Blue Green Alliance

@BGAlliance | Minneapolis | Founded 2006 | Executive Director Jason Walsh

"For America, by America."
You know the familiar trope of spotted owl-loving treehuggers facing off against job-loving loggers. The Blue Green Alliance, however, is proving that labor groups and environmentalists have more shared interests than not. Blue Green continued a rich history of green groups and labor interests pairing up, when it emerged in 2006 from a partnership between Sierra Club and United Steelworkers.

Read the full article about climate NGOs by  Elsa Wenzel at GreenBiz.