Environmental professionals are often asked to serve on boards of nonprofit groups that pursue programs dealing with professional, conservation, or environmental matters. They are sought for their technical expertise and experience. In such a role, a professional is likely to encounter situations that could give rise to conflicts of interest. His or her previous experience in technical roles, however, may not have provided much practice in understanding how to deal with conflicts of interest or other issues of concern to nonprofit boards. Further, awareness of potential conflicts of interest is critical in many professional roles. Getting serious about avoiding and managing conflicts of interest begins by understanding what a conflict of interest is, what persons in particular are more likely to be in a position to produce conflicts of interest for your organization, and what might be the fallout from a real or perceived conflict of interest. This article is adapted from a publication providing advice to boards of directors of land conservation organizations. But it offers general advice applicable to board members of any nonprofit group. We illustrate the importance of this topic by reviewing three case examples.
Environmental Practice 14:206–211 (2012)