Greenwash Of The Week: The Nature Conservancy and Corporate Donors.


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What do Monsanto, Cargill, Chevron, Shell, and Altria have in common? They are all huge donors to The Nature Conservancy. Seems The Nature Conservancy, an “enviro” org with billions of dollars in assets, has some very good rich friends who spend their days destroying the environment and our food supply. I was able to get access to their donor list from 2009, (which isn’t on their site, contrary to popular belief) and most of the list is a veritable who’s-who of planet destroyers.


And many, many more. The most awkward part, at least to me? The Nature Conservancy also has a “Leadership Council” which is, according to them, “one of the world’s leading corporate forums focusing on the challenges confronting biodiversity preservation, habitat conservation and natural resource management.” Who would you imagine would be on this council? Whomever you are thinking about, you are dead wrong. Because here are some names from the council list:

Altria Group
The Dow Chemical Company
ExxonMobil Corporation
Monsanto Company
Nestlé Waters North America

Notice any similarities between the donor list and those listed on the council? Yea, me too. That’s some leadership council on environmental issues!

If you remember, The Nature Conservancy took a lot of heat back in May for the fact that they “gave BP a seat on its International Leadership Council and has accepted nearly $10 million in cash and land contributions from BP and affiliated corporations over the years.” This is what got me interested in looking into their corporate donors in the first place. And while looking for that information, I have discovered other strange improprieties involving TNC – land donations, trustee land sales on the cheap, charges of drilling for gas under the breeding grounds of endangered birds, and assorted other stories that struck me as quite odd for an environmental organization to be involved in. Most of this stuff is easily found in the search engines, but it is going to take a while to put everything together that we are researching.

So, why am I doing this? Because I think it is important for people to know where some of these groups get their money from. Too often, we as environmentalists donate money to these orgs in hope that they are doing the right thing; but after seeing the millions that a company like Monsanto gives to TNC (while Monsanto hires Blackwater to spy on environmentalists), I have my doubts about just who is in charge here. Monsanto has been on a mission to turn all of our food into GMO’s that they own the rights to, and suing farmers who grow crops from accidentally blown-in seeds, and yet TNC takes their millions and seemingly remains quiet about just how bad Monsanto is – while the rest of us complain daily about Monsanto. Something stinks here.

That, my friends, is why I am interested in this. And I hope you will stay tuned for more info as we gather it and publish it, and please feel free to send along anything you find that fits into this story.

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  1. The Nature Conservancy has colluded with other groups to get untold amounts of glyphosphate dumped into Willapa Bay in the state of Washington, a bay that used to be pristine. It is difficult to get birth-defect rates now, but the tribes surrounding the bay have had very high rates. In addition, cancer rates are hard to get, but neighbors often find out who has had cancer. In the meantime, on the Potomac, the sea grass that is attacked in Washington state is protected, with its place in helping once though extinct life forms to return. The Nature Conservancy does not behave the same in different locations. Its behavior toward tribes south of the U.S. border has also been called into question. This is a sad story. I used to donate to them.

  2. This doesn’t surprise me at all. To these big companies, if the general public gains the perception that they are donating money to the Nature Conservancy, then the average consumer can feel good about supporting such a company. Bottom line is, companies care about making money, and that’s it.

    It’s the same deal with Starbuck’s green-washing. Sure, they purchase approximately 1 million pounds of Fair-Trade coffee per year, but that accounts for less than 1% of their total yearly coffee consumption. Most companies boast at least 5%, but Folgers has flat-out said “No” to Fair Trade coffee. It’s all about money, unfortunately.

  3. It just gets all more ridiculous by the day. The problem is these huge organizations are desperate for mega bucks at any cost. And I don’t think there are any mega green organizations/businesses that can donate such amounts yet are there?

    It’s not just the big boys. Think about how many smaller charities are affiliated with shopping stores selling products that are harmful to the environmnent.
    Eg: They ask us to help save a child of their cause, by harming the health of another elswhere in the world (and using slave labour) to buy a tee shirt from a superstore.
    I didn’t need to add any names here as you can easily get the gist of what I mean.
    There is no need for it. There are plenty eco affiliate programs out there that charites can sign up to to earn revenue.

    PS If you are a charity reading this look closely at the products that you sell or affiliate with to raise money…and CHANGE. It’s as easy as that.

  4. This doesn’t surprise me. There are a lot of companies which are just creating the image of nature-protective, just to cover their “dirty” activities.

  5. Greenwash of the Week? This should be titled ‘Greenwash of the Century’. If Monsanto and BP are on your environmental group’s leadership council, you are not an environmental group.

  6. It seems so wrong that the Nature Conservancy can still be an environmental group with those big polluting corps on their council. Large non-profits probably don’t work so efficiently. The larger they grow, the more admin/overhead costs. Non-profits could use their own profit-making arm, so they wouldn’t need to depend on grants, donations, and corporate partnerships for funding.

  7. Money is not “Value Neutral” – the purists among us are perishing fast. It is a sad but true paradox of our times. Since when did leadership require watered down compromise? At least there are a few more “islands of land and sanctuaries” set aside, for now, that wouldn’t be protected otherwise. I agree, tradeoffs stink and the stakes are getting greater every day. Engaging with the “enemy” as “self” is essential – communication is essential, integrity is lacking – dump them from the leadership council, take their money and engage with them in some other forum! See:
    Carry on Good Human, integrate compassionate warriorship on behalf of the Earth into everything we do – we need it now more than ever.

  8. This is actually a much more delicate issue than people realize. One argument is that if you want to really affect change that you can’t just “sit in the tree” as we used to do an hope people don’t cut it down. These days you need to use diplomacy and a variety of different efforts to get the gains you want. Like it or not, I bet most of you drive cars (use oil) and wipe your asses with toilet paper (cut down trees) daily. In order to make headway these organizations essentially need to become magnates themselves, sitting at the same tables and addressing these issues through the means in which our world is done today: the corporate world. Do I like it? Hell no. But I can’t think of another way we expect anything else to get done besides militarizing these groups.

  9. Thanks for your comment Ethan. However, I have to disagree with equating the fact that ALL of us use gasoline with the fact that an enviro org has to take money from oil companies, GMO seed companies, and corporate polluters. I have never seen TNC take a stand against Monsanto, yet Monsanto is destroying the planet. Could it be because Monsanto gives them millions of dollars?

    Just an FYI, Greenpeace does the job without dirty money, so TNC could as well if they chose to do the right thing. Sitting at a corporate table is fine; taking what I consider to be hush money from companies destroying the planet is another.

    Thanks again

  10. As you do your research, please mention the positive achievements that TNC has had in conserving land, as well. “Environmental” has a wide ranging definition and the TNC should be judged by how the define their mission. Also be sure to state your strategy for engaging the large corporate players in order to try to influence positive change toward a more sustainable future. If your approach to the large corporate players is merely adversarial, then I believe you will soon find yourself shut out of all discussions.

    1. Yea, I’ll keep that in mind while they continue to look the other way while Monsanto destroys the planet. Thanks for the advice.

  11. Sorry, I didn’t mean any offense. Political and business environments are never black and white – they always involve compromise. There are plenty of documentaries, books and articles about the harm Monsanto and other big ag corporations are doing. I am looking for more creative ways to effective engage/counter their influence. I think TNC and many others MAY have a more effective method. Personally, I would be more concerned with how Monsanto and others are funding research by IFPRI which helps to develop ag policy in developing countries.

  12. Again – how much greener are the polluting companies now that TNC has taken their money? They aren’t. At all.

    But they did buy good PR cover from an enviro org, which is all that matters to them.

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