Should Environmental Groups Take Money From Dirty Polluters?

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While many groups dedicated to saving the planet have green-colored logos and pleasant, naturey-sounding names, where they get a percentage of their funding from may surprise the most ardent environmentalist. Most of the money these organizations receive is, in-fact, from regular people like you and I who feel we are doing the right thing by donating a few of our hard-earned bucks to a cause we care about. But that doesn’t mean that some rather large corporate conglomerates aren’t giving these groups money as well, expecting silence and good public relations cover in exchange. “Dirty money”, as I call donations from polluting companies, plays a major role and influence in the NGO (non-governmental agency) world – but does that mean that it should?

No one would begrudge GMO king Monsanto from attempting to donate millions to environmental groups; that’s just smart business. But should environmental groups, purportedly dedicated to protecting our natural world, accept money from Monsanto which is doing everything it can to control and thus destroy our food supply? It’s a heavy debate and one I have quite often. And it’s in that spirit that I bring up some environmental groups taking dirty money and put this question to you: Is this the way these groups should be funded?

The Sierra Club, one of the biggest, most popular eco-groups accepting donations made headlines when it was published earlier this year that they took $26 million from the natural gas industry. They also have partnered with Clorox, makers of toxic bleach.

While Sierra may be a major player in the public eye, The Nature Conservancy is one of the biggest recipients of corporate monies. They have taken money from and/or partnered with some of the biggest names in the dirtiest industries – BP, Monsanto, Cargill, Dow Chemical, Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods, Shell Oil, Chevron, and Altria (parent company for Philip Morris). One would have to search high and low to find any negative publicity coming from TNC about any of their corporate donors’ behavior.

World Wildlife Fund has partnered with Coca-Cola (polar bear Coke cans anyone?) and came to the defense of IKEA when it was discovered that wood used in some of their products was harvested from protected forests. WWF is a financial partner of IKEA.

Conservation International has partnered with Fiji bottled water, Shell, BP,Chevron, Cargill, Texaco, Walmart, Exxon, Monsanto, McDonald’s, Shell, and Pepsi. Seems their list is a whos-who of dirty money, all of which benefits from some good PR karma by setting up shop with a group like Conservation International.

Maybe some good comes out of some of these partnerships and maybe it doesn’t. For my dollar, I believe much of this dirty money being poured into environmental NGOs is for publicity only; no change will ever come out of it. After all, Monsanto has been giving millions to these groups – yet their path of destruction continues to this day with no end in sight. It’s hard to find public complaints from these eco-goups about any of their own corporate partners, even if you dig around the internet for hours.

While the title of this article is “Should Environmental Groups Take Money From Dirty Polluters?”, I presume you can conclude that I don’t think they should. But I want to know what you think:

  • Do you think it’s an okay practice?
  • Or do you think that these kind of groups should stick to non-corporate donations like Greenpeace and the Natural Resources Defense Council do?
  • If they can make it without these kinds of donations, can’t the rest of the groups? 

I look forward to you weighing in.


Should Environmental Groups Take Money From Dirty Polluters? — 10 Comments

  1. Green washing is a popular practice among corporations and buying the silence of environmental groups is just as popular. I think that NGOs should not partner with organizations that exist in direct opposition to their missions. It’s dishonest and all it does is ensure that these large corporations are insulated from the criticism of these groups.

    As a business person I understand why businesses would be motivated to do so, after all they’re governed by the pursuit of profit. At the same time, as someone who spent four years working at various not-for-profit organizations, I’m extremely frustrated that this practice goes on, often under the radar of the smaller donors.

    • That’s why I mentioned that Monsanto giving money makes sense; it’s a business decision. I totally agree Jordann! But on the NP side, in my opinion, NGOs should not take money from the very people they are supposedly trying to stop.

  2. What does it say when the good guys take money from the bad guys? They are being bought. Not right now, they won’t all disappear from view tomorrow, but they’ll change, become more lenient about things. One day the “good” guys won’t be even slightly similiar to thier original state.

  3. Interesting! You could say that any money’s good money, but when you have such a moral cause at the heart of your organization it’s just bad PR at best to accept donations from these companies. And at worst, it’s allowing yourself to be coerced. That’ll make it hard to convince donors to join your cause in the future.

    • Well said. There is something to be said for remaining pure with your cause. I know lots of organizations who have crossed the line and run into some really issues with generating donor dollars after. It ends up defeating the original purpose.

  4. I would be really interested to see some of the information backing this article up. Not that I don’t believe you, in fact, it doesn’t surprise me at all, but still when making these kinds of claims, it looks a lot more credible if you back it up with supporting links.

  5. Earth and Money – which information in particular? All the information is readily available on the internet, and the info about The Nature Conservancy and Monsanto was provided directly from TNC on a PDF for 2009.

    Conservation International Partners
    TNC partners

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