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Ethics and Sponsorship



Circle of Blue takes ethics seriously. While Circle of Blue’s scope includes many disciplines, its core is based upon the journalistic principle of the Fourth Estate, in which self-governed societies function optimally when served by a free and responsible press that informs, engages and inspires. This project is firmly rooted in journalism, in the belief that any valid consideration of a vital social issue such as water must begin with a comprehensive, fair and compassionate assessment and documentation of humanity’s relationship to fresh water. Circle of Blue takes appropriate steps to maintain the utmost journalistic standards.

As a non-profit organization, it relies on contributions, both in-kind and monetary, from multiple outside sources, but preserves a “church and state” division between sponsors and content. While donors may choose to fund a particular aspect of the program, they participate with the understanding that their funding will not influence content in any way. With respect to journalistic ethics questions, Circle of Blue relies on the National Public Radio Code of Ethics and Practices, WGBH-TV standards and the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics.


Circle of Blue’s Sponsorship Policy


Circle of Blue, is an independent, non-partisan journalism organization and operates as a nonprofit affiliate of the Pacific Institute. We prize, above all else, our carefully cultivated reputation for impartial, high-quality reportage and assessments, and our ability to inform policymakers and the public with our work. Funding for Circle of Blue comes from a variety of sources, ranging from foundation and government grants to individual donations and corporate contributions. Circle of Blue cannot be influenced or discouraged from its mission to report the widest of issues. The effectiveness of our work depends on the organization’s credibility, particularly in the eyes of our peers, policymakers, and the public. We also recognize that funding sources of any journalistic group can affect (or even appear to affect) its independence, particularly in situations where support raises the possibility, inference, or perception of a conflict of interest. This document is an attempt to make these guidelines more explicit and to help avoid problems of inappropriate influence or the appearance of influence.

General Support

Unrestricted corporate general support donations of any kind that are made in support of Circle of Blue operations are welcome.

Donations are subject to review by Circle of Blue staff and, where deemed, by the Pacific Institute Board of Directors, to ensure that there will be no undue influence on our activities and that the donation will not adversely affect Circle of Blue or the Pacific Institute’s reputation for independence. Under no circumstances will donors of any kind be allowed to edit, redraft, or hinder publications or other Circle of Blue products. Contributions may in no way limit or put unspoken expectations on actions Circle of Blue or the Pacific Institute may take, research we may publish, or positions we may advocate.


Some reportage by Circle of Blue and/or activities of the Pacific Institute – and recommendations based on that work – are explicitly relevant for corporations. Where appropriate, we work to ensure that corporations hear and understand what we recommend and report. We also use our work to inform governments and corporation policies. On occasion, we will accept and even solicit work from corporations on a fee-for-service basis when we retain complete control over the analysis and final products. Under no circumstances will the Institute accept funding for the purpose of enhancing the image of a corporation or influencing policy in a direction antithetical to the results of our analysis. All information and/or research gathered from a corporate donor’s support will remain part of the public domain.

Screening Process

Circle of Blue and the Pacific Institute will neither seek nor accept corporate grants that may create a conflict of interest for Circle of Blue or the Institute, or whose practices are directly and intentionally in conflict with Circle of Blue or Institute goals. This policy permits Circle of Blue and the Institute to accept funds from excluded corporations when an individual employee makes a gift that triggers a matching gift from the corporation. When determining whether to accept support from specific corporations, Circle of Blue and the Institute will review the type of support offered, the products and outcomes expected, if any, and the reputation of the source of support. Senior staff of Circle of Blue and the Institute will be asked for their opinions, which will be considered in a final decision by the President of the Institute. The President together with the Institute’s Board of Directors will evaluate corporate contributions greater than 10 percent of estimated annual income, or from any sources for which serious concerns have been raised. In addition, an ad hoc committee comprised of staff, board, and outside participants may be formed to both review specific cases and to recommend refinements of this policy. Circle of Blue and the Institute do recognize that the activities of many corporations change rapidly, and that we will periodically need to update information about corporate donors. We encourage our staff and others to provide information about corporate activities that they believe has bearing on this policy.

Additional Guidance

Pacific Institute policy, and as such Circle of Blue, states unequivocally that the Board and Staff of the Institute shall not permit any donor to influence or determine the content of any project or activity. Donors shall have no control over things like:

  • the development of Circle of Blue’s strategic plans or work plans;
  • which projects and activities Circle of Blue undertakes, and which issues the Circle of Blue researches and analyzes;
  • the content of any Circle of Blue publication, either in paper or in electronic format;
  • the attendance at, participation in, or agenda of any Circle of Blue event;
  • the solicitation of funds by Circle of Blue from other sources.

Corporate Donations Policies Reviewed in Preparation for this Policy:


Special Reports

  •    Bulk Water Exports

  •    Reign of Sand

  •    Himalayas Melting

  •    Tehuacan

  •    China Karst

  •    WaterViews

  •    Asian Carp

  •    Biggest Dry

  •    Patagonia