Green Risk and Red Ink: WWF’s Threat to Free Enterprise

October 2010 – Green Papers: Issue VII

The World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) is a large, multi-faceted international non-governmental organization. It has a high income and expenditure, in excess of US$650 million annually. It devotes as much as one-third of its operating budget to forestry issues, either through conservation work or via lobbying governments and the private sector on forestry policy. It enters into partnerships with corporations that impose a cost on business. Its varying programs and coalitions with other NGOs and the private sector wield considerable policy influence over governments, intergovernmental organizations and the private sector in general. It has no public or binding charter of accountability. Government bodies, intergovernmental organisations and corporations with budgets of that size are expected to be entirely transparent with their decision making processes. WWF is not. WWF’s policy influence is significantly broader than typical grassroots NGOs, which generally rely on occupying media attention and/or direct lobbying of governments and organizations.  WWF’s solution is to encourage businesses to join partnerships and buyer’s groups such as the Global Forest Trade Network (GFTN). The WWF goal is to have businesses agree only to procure and trade products that meet its standards, such as certification by the Forest Stewardship Council. In return, the businesses gain “endorsement” by WWF. If a business does not meet the standards or commitments, WWF will publicly attack the company.

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