Green, Inc.: An Environmental Insider Reveals How a Good Cause Has Gone Bad
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The stick seems to work more effectively than the carrot when it comes to corporate interaction with nonprofit environmental groups, as well. Home Depot, for instance, quickly removed wood products from its stores after the Environmental Investigative Agency issued a report linking the merchandise to illegal logging. And, after years of being targeted by confrontational groups such as E. The agreement overshadowed roundtable negotiations between the grain traders and nonprofits, including W.
You go to great lengths in your book to distinguish, within the conservation game, between those in the rank-and-file and those at the top — but is there some part of you that feels even the rank-and-file should be speaking up about these issues? Are they, in maintaining silence in order to protect their own jobs, complicit in all this? And I have spoken with several scientists who have left these organizations after growing disillusioned. While they were candid in private conversation, they were refused to speak publicly for fear of losing a piece of the millions of dollars in conservation work these groups subcontract every year.
Then, there are a number of people who view their jobs in these organizations as a step in their career ladder. The environment movement has become a big business with big budgets and big salaries and plush benefits. As these groups have become professional organizations that ethos has diminished. Of the solutions you envision, what are those that might be done most immediately — and how likely are these corrections to occur?
Change is difficult but not impossible. Because of the way these groups are run, change would have to come from the top — from the senior leadership and their boards of directors that often stacked with corporate executives. But if the reputation and funding sources of these groups were endangered, this could prompt reforms. Without more accountability these groups risk losing all credibility. It is certainly going to be a difficult conversation, but one that is long overdue and critical to restoring a strong environmental movement.
We need a strong movement more than ever given the daunting challenges of global warming and many other interrelated environmental issues we are facing. What sort of cooperation did you get from both sides — conservation and industry — in pursuing the book? And on a related note, what are you hearing from them now?
As I touched on earlier, most people in the conservation movement would only talk to me off the record, although people were much more open about the history of the movement and the storied pasts of these groups. The companies I contacted were pretty wary. I only wish she had talked to me. Very similar to the campaign the Right is waging now.
Private jets, exclusive donor retreats, spare no expense, there were times when i saw the actual donor trip to a project cost more than the actual yearly budget on the project they were visiting. This is a wealthy, white mans sport and unfortunately it parallels real life. I applaud the author Christine MacDonald for her crusading effort to take large environmental groups to task.
As a believer in the environmental movement, I have been frustrating at what I perceive is the slow development of an overarching environmental culture in America. I frequently ask myself what are the big conservation groups up to? And really, how can they dare team up with petrol giants like British Petroleum? It seems like as these groups get bigger and their budgets balloon under corporate sponsorship a malaise can set in.
I wonder how well their advocate instincts fare while trying to maintain their expanded waistlines and keep the big bucks flowing? The latter, in its myriad forms and permutations, is far more pliable. This topic has also been covered by Washington Post several years back with respect to The Nature Conservancy and some of its shady land deals in the past.
Still, I believe the fundamental question has never changed: Do ends justify the means? Wealthy people must be courted.
Businesses are also philanthropic. Can we all accomplish all our missions in a timely manner at the grass-roots level? Top environmental organizations are well-aware of potential for conflicts of interest. However, if they turn out to be anything like the self-regulating finance industry, their days are also numbered…. Please — this is beyond absurd. Private jets? Not in this lifetime. The environmental community is certainly not above criticism. Of course, funds are not always used wisely. Can you point to any organization in the world, including nonprofits, where this is not the case?
Give me a break. The sad thing is, this book will be seized on by those who oppose environmental progress George Bush and Sarah Palin, anyone. It is fair to say we caused a complete change in the attitudes towards Transportation in Mexico City by pushing them to creat a bus rapid transit system something NY City is still dreaming about AND demonstrated the virtues of very low sulfur diesel fuel and filters on existing buses to the delight of the then-mayor. Shell Foundation and now Caterpillar foundation money well spent?
The Mexico City work saves something like 25 tonnes of CO2 or more each year — not to mention gasoline and diesel fuel. Ford supports the work in Istanbul Turkey. They need to learn how sustainable transport and sustainable energy works, not simply go to conferences. Indeed, many of the top vehicle and oil companies, as well as Michelin, supported the Sustainable Mobility Project of the World Bus.
Council, Their report on Sustainable Mobiliy, which appeared in , had some bold suggestions. But few of the companies involved are doing anything different — notable exceptions imho Shell International and BP. The group I worked for — which was not mentioned above — was lean, mean and run by its members. The CEO and other top officers made six-figure salaries, but only barely.
All the people I worked with were deeply dedicated to the mission of protecting the environment. The numbers are staggering for the top 5 US Environmental Organizations.
It is cut throat fierce competition to garner donors and it gets even worse when they have to keep them. Is it truly a bad thing, no, they do have to compete and changing policy costs money both here and in the third world, but i do agree the God Complex that many of the above groups have is way out of line.
Also most of the Chief Officers come from money so there is a sense of entitlement. Are people seriously surprised by this stuff anymore? As an advocate of guerilla tactics and a severely jaded individual, I would tell anybody who gives two damns about this sort of thing to go and blow up a building.
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THAT will get some freaking attention. The world absolutely needs these corporate-type NGOs, complete with private jets, lavish fundraising galas, and six-figure executive salaries. MacDonald worked for Conservation International's Global Communications Division in , before her job was axed in a corporate restructuring. But this book isn't just a bitter diatribe from an ex-employee; it raises legitimate questions.
MacDonald isn't angry with the groups' rank-and-file workers, but she has plenty to say about the transgressions of their leaders. In the Amazon, Conservation International works with Bunge, an agribusiness that is decimating the rainforest for soybean production. The World Wildlife Fund defends IKEA, the home furnishings company, and is ushered in for damage control after the mega-chain is discovered selling illegally logged wood.
The Nature Conservancy lavishes conservation leadership awards on Shell Oil and Exxon Mobil, despite their records of environmental irresponsibility.
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MacDonald lists some needed reforms: Groups should limit corporate donations and influence on their boards of directors, publicly disclose funding sources, and cap executive pay. Still, despite their problems, the big nonprofits do good and necessary work, and in this era of climate change and disappearing species, MacDonald understands that "we need our environmental organizations more than ever.
Republish Like Tweet Email Print. Comments 2. Leaked audio from a recent agency meeting is filled with fumbles by leadership, disapproving rumbles and derisive laughter from staff. Vacation rentals have gutted the culture of nearby communities, but a new project in Questa flips the narrative.
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