Have campaigning NGOs lost the plot?

There’s deepening concern in the environmental and sustainable business movement about NGOs.

In particular, campaign groups.

Friends of the Earth UK appears to have stopped doing any meaningful campaigning.

WWF has become a corporate partner, toning down its comments, particularly around business, to dangerously anodyne levels of expressing concern.

Greenpeace is way out in front, leading and driving change. That’s not to say GP is perfect by any means, but they do seem to be making a significant difference.

WWF in particular seems to be focusing more and more on corporate cash. Rumours reach me that levels of participation in corporate press conferences and so on depend on the monies paid.

Now the former campaigner is now charging companies and NGOs to attend drinks parties, presumably to engage in collective hand-wringing with the ‘usual suspects’, about the environmental challenges we face.

This is not exactly cutting-edge activism and campaigning.

Given the paucity of NGO activity around vital issues (let’s not forget NGOs have played a key role, if not the key role, in pushing companies to consider sustainability issues) such as forestry, fossil fuels and challenging corporate partnerships in recent years, surely WWF should be raising its game rather than hosting paid parties with the same old speakers and business partners?

Surely the donors to WWF would not approve of their money being used this way?

And when will Friends of the Earth UK actually do some campaigning?

It’s time for NGOs to raise their game and to turn their attention to companies who don’t get understand what sustainability means.

Campaigners helped get the thin layer of large companies who are innovating around sustainability to where they are today.

Now they seem to have forgotten that the next, much tougher stage, is persuading, cajoling and campaigning against, those firms who have yet to grasp the importance of the issues.


  1. There are a number of NGO's doing their bit, at Fair Squared we support People & Planet and Action Aid.
    Your comments in the WWF and Friends of the earth are very valid

  2. Very right to point critical remarks to WWF. They suck already for 20 years and more.

  3. Dear Toby,

    To suggest we need to up our game on activism and campaigning shows little understanding of what WWF has been doing for the last 50 years and little grasp of the challenges ahead. While many other NGOs do a good job on the activism front, and we challenge various unacceptable activities – for example oil and gas operations in places such as the Arctic, Sakhalin, Alberta and the Virunga National Park, our main focus is on working with business to arrive at sustainable solutions.

    Moving our economic system to being aligned with protecting the environment instead of degrading it requires a whole range of improvements to the way business is done and above all, we need new thinking. This is where WWF comes in. Our collaborative efforts through the Finance Lab, Tasting the Future, Green Game Changers and various partnerships, and, our reports such as the Livewell Plate and our global energy report are all about pushing business further and faster along the path towards sustainability.

    So, yes, come to our World with a Future event, where we dare to go where most mundane CSR conferences won't. We will be asking the tough questions – Can the world economy keep growing? Is green growth really the answer? Do we need to think about radically new ways of doing business?

    Dax Lovegrove,
    Head of Business & Industry,

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