World Wide Fund for Nature

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The major worldwide conservation and wildlife body, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) was originally called the World Wildlife Fund. The US branch, WWF-US, was founded in 1961 by Russell Train,[1] who was the second US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator from 1973-77. Train was WWF president from 1978 to 1995.

In the same year that the US branch of WWF was founded, the organization was established in Europe with Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands as its international president and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh as head of the UK branch.[2]

The organisation changed its name in 1986 to World Wide Fund for Nature, to better reflect the scope of its activities, retaining the WWF initials. However, it continues to operate under the original name in the United States and Canada.[3] It is the world's largest independent conservation organization with over 5 million supporters worldwide, working in more than 90 countries, supporting around 1300[4] conservation and environmental projects around the world. It is a charity, with approximately 60% of its funding coming from voluntary donations by private individuals. 45% of the fund's income comes from the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States.[5]

The group says its mission is "to halt and reverse the destruction of our environment".[6] Currently, much of its work focuses on the conservation of three biomes that contain most of the world's biodiversity: forests, freshwater ecosystems, and oceans and coasts. Among other issues, it is also concerned with endangered species, pollution and climate change.

History and orientation

Operating in over one hundred countries, employing 4,000 people globally, and boasting five million supporters on five continents, the World Wildlife Fund, or WWF, is 'one of the world's largest environmental organizations'.[7]

According to Candida Hadley:

WWF is a "global conservation organization" that works to "stop and eventually reverse environmental degradation and… build a future where people live in harmony with nature" ( Among their guiding principles WWF has pledged to "be global, multicultural and non party political," and to "involve local communities and indigenous peoples in the planning and execution of its field programmes, respecting their cultural as well as economic needs" (
Despite its international success there are some animal welfare organizations, such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, that oppose some of WWF's policies.
In addition to this issue of animal welfare, there is also a great deal of controversy surrounding WWF's relations with Indigenous and traditional peoples. Although WWF claims to maintain partnerships with Indigenous peoples who live in ecologically-sensitive areas, complaints about WWF's treatment of Indigenous peoples have emerged all over the world. One complaint is that the establishment of Protected Areas and National Parks has often led to the eviction of Indigenous and traditional peoples from their lands and has cut short the land claims being made by these peoples.
There are also concerns about the conflicts of interest that arise from the funding relationships that WWF has with governments, multilateral agencies, and private corporations. Corporations such as Shell, ExxonMobil and Monsanto are major funders of WWF, meaning that WWF is allying "with forces that are destroying the world's remaining ecosystems"[8].
This funding has several consequences. For example, WWF cannot ally itself with Indigenous peoples who are fighting these corporation's activities without endangering their funding, and their government and corporate ties mean that they may not oppose the government corruption and inaction that is often responsible for environmental degradation. WWF excuses its lack of action in "national matters" with the suggestion that they wish to remain apolitical, but critics believe that WWF is more concerned with the science of biodiversity than social realities.[7]

1001 Club

See main article:1001 Club

In the early 1970s, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands and Prince Philip of the United Kingdom, together with a few associates, set up the 1001 Nature Trust, its purpose being to cover the administrative and fund-raising aspects of the WWF. The club garnered 1001 members who each contributed $10,000 to the trust.[9]

Corporate ties

Writing in 1997, Brian Tokar observed in his book, Earth for Sale, that the World Wildlife Fund was

associated with nineteen corporations cited in the National Wildlife Federation's recent survey of the 500 worst industrial polluters. These companies included such recognized environmental offenders as Union Carbide, Exxon, Monsanto, Weyerhaeuser, Du Pont, and Waste Management.[10]

In her book Green, Inc., journalist and former employee of Conservation International Christine MacDonald lays bare the corporate ties of WWF-US, the US branch of WWF-International:

Its partners include mining, logging, consumer goods, financial services, high-tech, and large retailers.[11]

WWF's corporate partners are perhaps not surprising in the light of its board of directors, which includes Pamela Ebsworth, the wife of retired cruise ship baron Barney Ebsworth; General Electric executive Pamela Daley, and S. Curtis Johnson, the Johnson & Johnson heir.[12]

According to Christine MacDonald, Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase & Co. are WWF partners. WWF also has ties (relationships include donations, partnerships, programmes, projects, joint councils, and advisory boards) to Alcoa, Home Depot, Johnson & Johnson, PG & E, Royal Caribbean Cruises, and Starbucks.[13]

CounterPunch editor Jeffrey St. Clair accuses WWF of backing nearly every trade bill to come down the pike, from NAFTA (North American Free Trade Ageement) to GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) and of sidling up to some unsavoury government agencies advancing the same neoliberal agenda across the Third World.[14]

Close ties to Alcoa

Alcoa states that it has been in partnership with WWF since 1992[15], "making possible" such joint projects as the 1994 Chuditch Recovery Plan.[16] In 2001 WWF-US received a $1m donation from Alcoa, allowing the aluminium giant to join WWF's "corporate club", with then president of WWF-US Kathryn Fuller taking a seat on Alcoa's executive board in return.[17] Despite publicly opposing Alcoa's highly controversial Icelandic Reydarfjordur smelter project,[18] rather than voting against the project in Alcoa's boardroom, Fuller instead abstained.[19]

It is understood that following Fuller's 2002 abstention from Alcoa's Reydarfjordur-Karahnjukar vote, Dr Claude Martin, head of WWF-International, suggested that Fuller should resign from Alcoa. Instead Fuller responded, "you have an opportunity to steer the ship if you're on the bridge."[20] She elsewhere argued that Alcoa holds "a strong commitment to sustainability, including energy efficiency, recycling, and habitat protection."[21] Fuller stepped down as president of WWF-US in 2005, but remains on its board,[22] as well as on Alcoa's.[23]

WWF-US and the Alcoa Foundation maintain a fellowship program called the 'Alcoa Foundation Conservation and Sustainability Fellowship Program' that aims to "create a global program that is making a significant contribution to improving knowledge and building leaders in the field of conservation and sustainability."[24]

Who runs WWF?

Ex President working for Ford Foundation and Alcoa

Kathryn Fuller, WWF President and Chief Executive from 1989-2005, left the organisation to chair the Ford Foundation and sit on the Executive board of aluminium company Alcoa, which has been accused of multiple environmental and human rights abuses.[25]

Who runs WWF? A BP board member

The Dutch WWF website tells us:

Het internationale WWF-bestuur bestaat hoofdzakelijk uit vertegenwoordigers van de nationale organisaties. Voor Nederland is Antony Burgmans in het internationale bestuur vertegenwoordigd als voorzitter {The international WWF-board mainly consists of representatives of the national organisations. The Netherlands is represented on the international board by Anthony Burgmans, as chairman of the board}.[26]

Antony Burgmans is a non-executive board member of BP (the energy and biofuels giant that is also a member company of the Round Table on Responsible Soy) and a member of the Supervisory Boards of Akzo-Nobel, Aegon and SHV. He is chairman of the supervisory boards of WWF-Netherlands and Mauritshuis (The Hague).[27]


Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS)

Between 2008 and 2011 (ongoing) WWF came under heavy criticism from environmental and civil society groups for its central role in the Round Table on Responsible Soy, a big agribiz-led forum that claims to want to make soy production more responsible. (See Round Table on Responsible Soy.)

The Pact with the Panda - documentary

A documentary by the German film maker Wilfried Huismann, called “The Pact with the Panda” (also known in English publications as The Silence of the Pandas), presented damning evidence on WWF's collaborations with environmentally destructive corporations. The film included an exposé of WWF's collaboration with Monsanto in promoting GM soy through the RTRS.[28]

The film also reported growing concerns about the health risks of Roundup, the herbicide that is sprayed in large amounts on GM Roundup Ready soy.[29] In 2010, Argentine scientists published research showing that Roundup causes birth defects in frogs and embryos at far lower concentrations than those used in farming.[30]

For press coverage and comment about Wilfried Huismann's film, The Pact with the Panda, see:

WWF's response to Huismann's film:

Worldwide protest at WWF launch of Aquaculture Stewardship Council

On 14 May 2009 over 70 human rights and environmental groups from around the world signed an open letter expressing outrage at the planned launch of the World Wildlife Fund's Aquaculture Stewardship Council.

In a letter sent to leading members of WWF,[31] campaigners claimed that the organisation's plans to certify the industrial production of shrimp and salmon are influenced by the vested interests of the aquaculture industry, and do not reflect or take into account the wishes of local communities and indigenous peoples who live alongside shrimp and salmon farms. They say that WWF continues to reject invitations to meet with representatives of affected communities in six different aquaculture regions across the world.

Campaigners also argue that the planned certification process is inherently flawed in favour of the aquaculture industry. They point to the fact that the certification body run by WWF is part-funded by the food industry, and that the individual employed by WWF to run the process, was previously employed as a regional vice-president for a controversial aquaculture multinational, that has been widely accused of labour violations and environmental destruction.

"WWF needs to explain why they are happy to engage with industry, but have repeatedly rejected calls for meetings from over 70 groups, representing tens of thousands of marginalised people from around the world?" asks Juan Jose Lopez, Coordinator of RedMangar in Latin America.

"How can any process be regarded as legitimate when a large Western NGO and its financial backers in the food industry are able to dictate what is best for the livelihoods of people in other countries around the world?" asks Alfredo Quarto, of Mangrove Action Project.

"The proposed certification by WWF promises to legitimise environmentally and socially damaging forms of aquaculture in the name of cheap prawns and salmon. It's high time that WWF stops 'Pandering' to the interests of big business, and instead begins to listen to the voices of real people that rely on the oceans and forests to survive." says Natasha Ahmad, ASIA secretariat.


Presidents 1962–present[39]
Years Name
1962–1976 HRH Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld
1976–1981 John H. Loudon
1981–1996 HRH Prince Philip of Great-Britain, Duke of Edinburgh
1996–1999 Syed Babar Ali
2000 Ruud Lubbers
2000–2001 Hon. Sara Morrison
2001–2010 Chief Emeka Anyaoku
from 2010 Yolanda Kakabadse




Websites: WWF-US | WWF-International | WWF-UK

Facebook: WWF-International | WWF-US

Twitter: @WWF - WWF-International | @World_Wildlife - WWF-US | @WWFUS - discontinued |


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