ACF helps greenwash corporate polluters

Issue 

BY JIM GREEN Picture

Corporate polluters have enrolled powerful allies in their efforts
to prevent restrictions on the emissions of greenhouse gases — politicians,
bureaucrats, public relations firms, corporate front groups, conservative
“think tanks”, and the capitalist media. Now they are going after mainstream
environment groups.

The cooperation between one of Australia's most influential environmental
lobby groups, the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), and BP Amoco,
BHP and other corporate polluters is a case in point.

In October, the ACF's strategies director Mike Krockenberger said that
“companies like BP are on the cusp of providing ... leadership”, and stated
that the ACF urged corporations to “join Greg Bourne from BP in his call
for leadership”.

BP Amoco was one of the corporate polluters invited to the launch of
the ACF's Blueprint for a Sustainable Australia on October 19, 2000,
at the governor-general's residence.

One months earlier, in June, Bourne, BP Amoco's regional president for
Australia and New Zealand, led a concerted lobbying effort to gain for
his company federal government exemptions from a then-mooted greenhouse
gas reduction regime. Bourne is also the chair of the Business Council
of Australia's sustainable development task force.

The BP heavyweight copped criticism, even from fellow senior executives,
because his private lobbying for emission exemptions is in contradiction
to his public backing for greenhouse gas reductions. But the ACF were still
happy to have his endorsement of their plan.

Bourne has also defended BP Amoco's plans to drill for oil in the Arctic
National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. He told the March 2001 edition of the
Mineral Policy Institute's Mining Monitor magazine: “The decision
to open it up firstly is a decision of the government of the United States
... Could we work well in the wildlife refuge? Absolutely sure we could
but in the end it is a government decision.”

To assist the decision-making process, BP Amoco has provided funding
to dozens of the most reactionary, anti-environment US politicians.

The UK Independent obtained details on financial contributions
from the US federal election commission and compared these data with voting
records compiled by the League of Conservation Voters. The comparisons,
the Independent noted on September 3, “show that [BP Amoco's] contributions
conflict sharply with its squeaky-green image”.

Over the preceding four years, the Independent reported, BP Amoco
contributed to the election campaigns of 22 of the 36 US senators and 37
of the 55 representatives who achieved a zero per cent rating from the
League of Conservation Voters in 1999 for voting against all the environmental
legislation that it monitored. By contrast, the company supported only
two of the 38 representatives and two of the 11 senators who scored a 100%
rating.

Among the recipients of BP Amoco's largesse are a number of senators
and representatives who are pressing for legislation to open up the Arctic
National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling.

“Perhaps most strikingly”, the Independent wrote, “the company
has helped to finance the campaigns of 34 of the 65 senators who successfully
introduced a motion in 1997 to reject any international agreement to combat
global warming”.

The ACF's strategies director Mike Krockenberger opined in the February
7 Sydney Morning Herald that Republican presidents in the US, including
Richard Nixon, “have been great environmentalists”. In the same article,
Krockenberger asserted that BP Amoco is planning a transition from fossil
fuels.

In fact, BP Amoco's spending on fossil fuels outweighs its spending
on renewable energy by a factor of several hundred — a contradiction explained
away by BP Amoco with the quaint argument that “plentiful supply [of fossil
fuels] is essential ... if we are to make a successful transition towards
a cleaner environment.”

BHP's managing director, Paul Anderson, also helped launch the ACF's
Blueprint for a Sustainable Australia last October — just days after
the release of a report in which BHP opposed the adoption of greenhouse
gas reduction targets.


Internal dissent


ACF's collaboration with corporate greenhouse gangsters has caused internal
dissent within the organisation. Minutes of an ACF national council meeting
held late last year were leaked to the Australian and reported in
its April 7-8 edition. According to the minutes, the meeting involved “a
long and robust discussion on corporate engagement, particularly in relation
to BHP”.

One bone of contention at the council meeting was ACF's proposed involvement
in BHP's so-called “forum on corporate responsibility”. Environment groups
in Papua New Guinea had argued specifically against their Australian counterparts
joining the BHP forum because of BHP's role in the Ok Tedi mine, in the
western part of PNG.

The ACF council meeting carried a resolution calling for an “evaluation
report” on the proposal to join BHP's forum to consider “benefits to ACF
as an organisation from this engagement including likely impacts on members,
supporters and our status in the community” as well as the “risks to campaign
goals of ACF and allies in Australia and overseas”.

Bob Burton, editor of Mining Monitor, asked BHP for details on
the role of the “forum on corporate responsibility”, confidentiality provisions
and whether or not its operations would be transparent with copies of briefings
and minutes posted on the BHP web site. BHP declined to answer Burton's
questions.

Another resolution carried by the ACF council meeting demanded more
detailed guidelines for corporate engagement, including “ways to increase
transparency of decision-making/expectations regarding corporate relationships
within ACF”.

Another example of corporate co-option of environment groups is the
cooperation between the notorious oil giant Shell and the New Zealand chapter
of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-NZ).

An article by Bob Burton in the November 2000 Mining Monitor
states that Shell has provided free fuel for WWF-NZ, has paid for an advertising
campaign which promotes both WWF-NZ and Shell, and has negotiated a NZ$500,000
“educational” program for schools with the environment organisation.

After the launch of the advertising campaign, leaked WWF-NZ documents
revealed that chairperson Paul Bowe had canvassed the possibility of Shell
being made a trustee of the organisation.

“I think it is very valuable to have ... a couple of sponsors [on the
board] to ensure that the business ethic of their business and our business
... is followed correctly”, Bowe said.

Other leaked documents discussed the controversy over the execution
of the “Ogoni 9", including environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, in Nigeria
in 1995. Shell wrote to WWF-NZ thanking it for its understanding approach
on the issue, “We very much appreciate your balanced and considered view
on this issue ... As you can imagine your approach is very welcome to us
at the moment.”

The World Wide Fund for Nature's curious brand of environmental “activism”
is also at play in Australia.

Academic Tim Doyle discussed WWF's “appeal-to-corporate-elites” strategy
in his 2000 book Green Power.

In 1998, WWF provided a glowing endorsement of Western Mining Corporation's
(WMC) Environmental Monitoring Report. Partly on the strength of
the WWF endorsement, WMC later received an industry award for environmental
protection.

Doyle wrote to the WWF asking how its endorsement could be reconciled
with the enormous environmental impact of WMC's copper and uranium mine
at Olympic Dam in South Australia. WWF's response was that it was only
assessing the quality of corporate reporting, not corporate practices.

“This is simply greenwashing”, Doyle wrote in Green Power. “WWF
representatives, and several other key environmentalists, who trade on
the integrity of their name for money and power, continue to be impressed
with Western Mining's efforts to look after the stick-nest rat that is
found in the vicinity of Olympic Dam, while the largest expansion of the
uranium industry in this country's history continues unabated at Roxby
Downs.”

WMC invests in fossil fuels, and company spokespeople are adamant greenhouse
sceptics. WMC also invests in uranium, and as the South Australian Nuclear
Information Centre noted in its August 1999 newsletter, senior employees
from WMC Copper Uranium profess deep concern about climate change and insist
that only the expansion of nuclear power can save the day.


'A somewhat different view'


Why do right-wing environment groups sell out to corporate polluters? A
combination of political naivete and economic self-interest is likely at
work.

David Butcher, CEO of WWF-Australia, told the April 7-8 Australian,
“We take a somewhat different view to many other groups. Our view is that
if we are correct, and business and industry are one of the most serious
threatening processes as far as the environment is concerned, then we need
to work fairly closely with them to ensure that their activities change.
We even work with mining companies that people would say are some of the
worst in the world.”

According to the April 7-8 Australian, WWF's global income was
US$360 million last year. Corporate contributions to WWF-Australia include
$1.2 million from Rio Tinto for a frog conservation program, $75,000 from
Alcoa last year to protect woodlands, and $60,000 last year from TransGrid
for a vegetation management project. Other corporate sponsors of WWF-Australia
include Holeproof, American Express, Accor, Escape Holidays and Southern
Cross.

Peter Garrett, president of the ACF, told the April 7-8 Australian,
“We cannot close our ears to the fact that one of the major forces on the
environment is corporations and we cannot think that the only way to deal
with them is to go after them with a vengeance. Sometimes that is the way,
but there are nuances in campaigning, particularly when you want to feed
policy ideas into the mainstream of political and economic discourse, which
is really what we are about.”

Corporate contributions to the ACF, according to the April 7-8 Australian,
include a sum believed to be in excess of $200,000 from Southcorp for an
anti-salinity program (the terms of the agreement are confidential), and
funding from the National Australia Bank, Berri, Kyocera, and Microsoft.