It’s been a rough couple of weeks for the multi-national environmental group Greenpeace. After gambling away millions in charitable donations and revelations that a top official flew into work everyday, the group’s credibility and image have taken a huge hit.
To make matters worse for the international green group, India is now putting controls on its funding and hampering its operations within the country after labeling them a “threat to national economic security.”
“They have become a corporate fundraising machine. Losing money on investment speculation is nothing new for organizations of their size,” Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore told The Daily Caller News Foundation. Moore left the group in the late 1980s after deciding it became too radical.
“But it is their hypocrisy on policy that shows them to be unworthy,” Moore said. “They tell us rot ‘quit our addiction to oil’ and then attack a Russian oil platform with a diesel-powered ship. Now it is revealed their executive is commuting 600 kilometers by plane.”
“They have a whole fleet of ships, pretending the $32 million Rainbow Warrior III is powered by the wind when it has two large diesel engines for propulsion. I like to joke that when we first sailed against US hydrogen bomb testing in Alaska we did not have a nuclear weapon on board,” Moore added.
Millions down the drain on bad bets on plane rides
In the past couple weeks Greenpeace has seen at least two major scandals emanating from within the group. The first came when the group’s international office admitted a rogue trader lost $5.15 million dollars in charitable donations betting against the euro.
The group said the trader made a “terrible miscalculation” and bet away millions hoping the euro would continue to lose value. That didn’t happen, and it was Greenpeace that saw its own value decline.
“Greenpeace has been careful to cultivate an image as intrepid defenders of the environment,” editorializes Der Spiegel, a major German newspaper. “Calling themselves the rainbow warriors, activists hang from factory chimneys, throw themselves in front of whaling ships or risk jail time in Russia by calling attention to the plight of the Arctic.”
“Now, another activity has been added: playing the financial markets,” Der Spiegel adds. “For an organization almost entirely financed by donations, the revelation is a PR disaster, endangering from one day to the next the greatest asset Greenpeace possesses: its credibility.”
The Guardian, a left-wing newspaper, has been especially critical of Greenpeace lately. The paper even obtained internal documents detailing the disarray within Greenpeace International.
A November 2013 document obtained by the Guardian shows that Greenpeace’s executive team was for years fully aware of major problems within the group’s finance department.
“[The] international finance function at GPI [Greenpeace International] has faced internal team and management problems for several years and the situation did not improve during 2013 despite efforts and support,” says the Greenpeace document.
“This has resulted in errors and sub-standards in the quality of financial systems, information and support provided to the teams, units in GPI and NROs [national reporting offices], and have on occasions adversely affected relationship between GPI and NROs,” the document adds.
The Guardian reported that “the group’s public face and top campaigner, executive director Kumi Naidoo, admits that internal communications are a ‘huge problem’ and staff have ‘good reason’ to be upset at a range of problems.”
“[S]taff are concerned at being shifted from Amsterdam on Dutch wages to national offices on lower local wages, as part of a major restructuring effort to decentralise the group,” the paper added. “the group did not campaign to have one of its three ships, the Arctic Sunrise, released by Russia because the political circumstances would have made it a ‘wasted effort.'”
Soon after the massive financial loss was made public, reports came out detailing how Greenpeace’s international program director Pascal Husting was commuting 250 miles between Luxembourg and Amsterdam by plane about twice a month.
The UK Telegraph noted that Greenpeace actively campaigns against “the growth in aviation,” which the group says “is ruining our chances of stopping dangerous climate change.”
“Each round-trip commute Mr Husting makes would generate 142kg of carbon dioxide emissions,” reports the Telegraph. “That implies that over the past two years his commuting may have been responsible for 7.4 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions — the equivalent of consuming 17 barrels of oil.”
Hustig issued an apology, saying he would no longer takes flights shorter than 500 kilometers (what the group already requires of its employees) and video commute as much as he can.
“It’s never easy when the spotlight of public attention finds a gap between what a leader says and what they do,” Hustig said. “But it is important to listen to the voice of criticism, and do the right thing. I expect that of anyone Greenpeace targets, and that’s what I’ve decided to do here.”
Greenpeace USA declined to comment, saying that these were matters for Greenpeace International to address.