Greens and big biz
“Green movement is big business,” declares the headline of a Reuters article this week.
The concept recalls Mac Chapin’s ruckus-causing article in World Watch on conflicts of interest at the three big conservation groups, as mentioned by Geoff last week. (A fascinating read, by the way — I may never think of the Big Three the same way again.)
The content of the Reuters piece, though, is far less enlightening. It kicks off thusly:
Some environmentalists slam big business for its polluting or tree-cutting ways, but a growing number of “greens” resemble and even act like Wall Street types themselves.
Reflecting growing public concern about the environment, the green movement has grown into a multi-billion-dollar industry and its activists are more likely to wear a suit than sandals as they take their message to the streets.
And like corporations, they compete fiercely for “market share” — the cash they get from donors ranging from the Canadian secretary worried about the fate of pandas to big companies seeking to bolster their “compassionate credentials.”
It continues on with more insipid sartorial observations, scattered stats about big green groups’ budgets, and some blather from Bjorn Lomborg.
For more interesting observations on greens in suits, check out the Wall Street Journal‘s front-page story [alas, available to subscribers only; anyone got a password they care to share?] from yesterday entitled “Ex-Activists Find Grass Is Greener on the Corporate Side.”
The article follows the career of one Tom Burke, former rabble-rouser and executive director of Friends of the Earth in England, now “working on the inside” for mining behemoth Rio Tinto — he would say with the aim of making it greener, critics would say with the job of making it look greener, i.e. greenwashing.
The article also mentions another former FOEer:
Des Wilson, who ran Friends of the Earth in England during the 1980s, was one of the first activists to jump to a corporate job as head of public affairs at BAA PLC, the company that manages London’s airports and has been targeted by environmentalists. “There was never a question in my mind that the contribution I could make was far greater than standing outside in the street and waving a banner at them,” says Mr. Wilson, who retired in 2000.
Burke shares that line of thinking. And he’s got his work cut out for him these days, trying to mitigate and/or explain away environmental and social havoc that would be wrought by a massive proposed mine in Madagascar. This from a man who 30 years ago organized protests against his current employer’s efforts to dig for copper in a Welsh national park. My, how times change.