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Rebecca Hardin

Relationships emerging between corporate actors and environmental conservation organizations range from partnerships in field operations to gifts brokered at the upper echelons of corporate and nongovernmental organization (NGO) management. Drawing on Mauss’s original formulation of “the gift,” I consider the social consequences and contexts of these relationships, over various territorial and temporal scales. I argue that recent critiques of conservation NGOs for having “sold out” to corporate interests obscure a more nuanced view of such relationships, their roots in the history of wildlife conservation under colonial circumstances, and their connections to new modes of hybrid environmental governance. These latter include transformations in corporate practice vis-à-vis consumer preference, processes of certification, and educational impacts on professional training for industry personnel, as well as the adoption by many NGOs of terminologies and planning processes from the corporate world. These relational norms and institutional transformations make any oversimplified notion of corporate responsibility insufficient with respect to environmental sectors.