Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise has been watching the climate world since 2009. What she sees isn't pretty.

‘No Culture of Accountability’ at Greenpeace

Environmental organizations are large, affluent, and secretive. Rather than being underdogs, they are now the establishment.

Noah's Ark on Mount Ararat

A Greenpeace-built Noah’s Ark replica. Click for the image source on Greenpeace International’s website.

It has been a sticky few weeks for Greenpeace. The government of India has identified this activist organization as a threat to its national economic well being. According to an article in The Hindu newspaper, funds destined for the Greenpeace India Society from abroad will henceforth be “kept on hold until individual clearances are obtained from the [Home] Ministry for each transaction.”

Then there’s the embarrassing revelation that a “well-intentioned, if reckless” employee (as the New York Times phrased it) lost $5 million of Greenpeace funds via currency speculation.

Today, the Guardian newspaper says leaked documents indicate that the finance team at Greenpeace International headquarters in Amsterdam has been “beset by personnel problems and a lack of rigorous processes, leading to errors, substandard work and a souring of relationships between its Amsterdam HQ and offices around the world.”

Near the bottom of the Guardian story are a couple of paragraphs that warrant particular attention. Gerald Steinberg, the president of NGO Monitor, suggests that these problems are partly due to the fact that:

NGOs keep things very much within the organisation, there’s no culture of accountability. They call on governments to be accountable but they lack this in so many ways, so in that sense it’s not a surprise.”

He said a shift in culture was required to address the problems. “It requires a cultural change. NGOs tend to see themselves as insurgents. They have now become the establishment but without the structures that are required for such large organisations – they can no longer think of themselves as insurgents but as corporate organisations. That hurts their self image but there is no other way to avoid the financial meltdowns that can take place [otherwise].” [bold added]

Something historic has happened. It has now been reported in the Guardian, of all places, that organizations such as Greenpeace are now the establishment.  That’s a point I made back in 2010, in a post titled Independent Bloggers vs Corporate Environmentalists.

Organizations such as Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund, and the Environmental Defense Fund are not shoestring operations. They are not the underdog.

Instead, they’re huge corporate behemoths, with tons of money at their disposal. They pay their executives lavishly, employ small armies of lawyers, and host dinners in honour of former CIA directors. Yes, really.

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The article in The Hindu is backed up here. The one in the Guardian is backed up here.

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