WWF vs. Greenpeace, setting the record straight

The only part of this article I can agree with is the headline:

Greenpeace and WWF anniversaries highlight wildly differing tactics

That’s true. The rest seems an apology for WWF. There’s no quote, or sign of a request for a quote, from Greenpeace. That’s poor practice.

Most importantly, Solitaire Townsend suggests that Greenpeace and WWF are “an angry teenager and an elegant, silvery 50-year-old” (in that order).

This implies thoughtfulness and judgement from WWF, and wild emotion from Greenpeace.

Then the piece quotes WWF’s boss David Nussbaum as saying:

“That more combative, aggressive approach of Greenpeace can be effective,” he says, “but we have a contrasting method. We see a need to engage constructively with the commercial world. We use our influence with businesses.”

So Greenpeace has no constructive influence with business?

Hang on. Did I miss a meeting?

How about GP’s major influence on the, er, leather, palm oil, deforestation, packaging and soy industries? And that’s just the last few years.

What has WWF done in the meantime? I’m not sure. Lots of partnerships, lots of money swelling the coffers. Nowhere near the same impact on actual practices deep in supply chains. Head office is not the problem these days.

The difference between the two is badging incremental change vs transforming practices.

I’ll let readers guess who is in each camp, in my book.

(I’ll declare at this point I am a member of Greenpeace and donate money to them. That does not make me an uncritical friend, as this podcast with John Sauven may demonstrate)

If comparisons are to be drawn the Guardian should know better than anyone which group has had the most impact.

WWF is in need of root and branch reform, before they get sucked into the emerging markets corporate money trap and become co-opted to the point of no return.

Greenpeace doesn’t always get it right. But they make the biggest difference of any campaign group around corporate responsibility. Of that there is no doubt.


  1. Excellent post. Greenpeace can be confrontational or collaborative, depending on the circumstances. And the fact that they don't take corporate $$$ gives them credibility that the BINGOs sometimes lack.

  2. Anonymous

    You ask what has WWF contributed to the cause of sustainability? Well, how about being the driving forces behind the creation of The roundtable on sustainable palm oil, Forest stewardship council, marine stewardship council, the better sugarcane initiative, the roundtable on responsible soy, the better cotton initiative, water footprint network…. None of these are perfect, but there would be a huge hole in the sustainability agenda had WWF not been there. Moreover — if you look at WWF's gobal sources of funds — memory says that business accounts for about 10% of their global budget. hardly a sellout. Come on Toby, you can do better than that.

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