Big Green NGOs: Sleeping With the Enemy

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The largest climate change campaign in the world is in bed with the world’s most powerful corporations. … The mainstream environmental movement no longer inspires nor leads society to an enlightened existence – it simply bows down to the status quo.

Cory Morningstar of Canadians for Action on Change has written a biting expose and critique of the corruption of mainstream Environmental NGOs like the Suzuki Foundation and the Pembina Institute by corporate money and by association with corporate advertising agencies.

She focuses in particular on the very well-financed and corporate-controlled TckTckTck Campaign for Climate Justice, which played a big role in controlling the green “message” in Copenhagen. As she shows, the agencies that created it have used it to greenwash their corporate clients, including one of the world’s largest nuclear power companies.

The following are excerpts from her article, which is posted in full on the CACC website.


We are in fact sleeping with the enemy….

Like the corporations greenwashing products, the practice of NGOs not only greenwashing corporations but partnering with them is quickly becoming ‘normalized’. …

The mainstream environmental movement is no longer led by visionaries, thinkers, activists. … It is clearly being shaped and defined by advertising firms. From top to bottom – it is being led by advertising executives – people whose expertise is ensuring corporate profit and growth at every quarter. …

Sponsors of TckTckTck include carbon offset companies which are being aggressively opposed by true Climate Justice groups, therefore, beyond watering down of the term “climate justice.” There has been a corporate takeover of the political space on the climate crisis including, even, the hijacking of the language and framing. Simply put – the climate justice concept is now being used by corporations and institutions for greenwashing their market-oriented policies.


Who are ‘The Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change’? This is one of the TckTckTck partners. You can find it on the main tck tck tck site if you look hard enough. It’s a bit buried under ‘partner’ links. The group’s members include corporations such as Shell, Unilver, Lloyds Banking Group, Fortis Bank, Thames Water, etc. etc. Signatories include 1000+ companies from across the globe including Coca Cola, RBC, BP, Nestle, etc. etc. etc.

So now, unknowingly, TckTckTck partners have now been teamed up so to speak with the very same corporations we challenge in our everyday campaigns. Many of these are the same corporations that greenwash summits and caused such social injustice and environmental degradation in the first place and continue to lobby and bully to maintain the status quo of corporate dominance today.


Prospects for human and other living species do ultimately hinge on whether or not global capitalism is replaced by an entirely different economic system. …. Climate change is the worst consequence of a wrong and unfair economical system which is killing hundreds millions of hungry people.

Yet again, one must emphasize, the mainstream NGOs do not speak of this. Is it any wonder why these NGOs never make mention of system change itself when the same advertising firms which they contract are in a feeding frenzy – feeding from the very hands of the largest multinational corporations on the planet.


I’m waiting to see which, if any, larger NGO will lead the movement by backing the demands and targets of those most vulnerable clearly voiced at COP15 by the G77 and ALBA. I believe it may well be Maude Barlow’s Council of Canadians although I am not certain. We will find out soon enough. Will real NGOs please step forward?


The more you engage, the deeper you dig, the uglier it gets. When I asked Power Up how Pembina’s ‘Green Learning Institute’ can be successful when funded by oil money I was again met with deafening silence. The Pembina Green Learning Centre has a list of founding members that will make your head spin.

[Climate and Capitalism note: The list of “founding sponsors” of Pembina’s Green Learning Institute includes petro-energy corporations BP, Suncor, Petro-Canada, TransCanada Pipelines, Shell, Nexen, Enbridge, and ConocoPhillips, along with forestry giant Weyerhauser, and three Alberta government departments.]


In a blog, a writer wrote about Lumumba Di-Aping, Sudanese by birth and chief negotiator of the G77. The writer describes Lumumba addressing the citizens as follows: “He did not start his speech immediately. Instead he sat silently, tears rolling down his face. He put his head in his hands and said “We have been asked to sign a suicide pact.” The room was frozen into silence, shocked by the sight of a powerful negotiator, an African elder if you like, exhibiting such strong emotion. He apologized to the audience, but said that in his part of Sudan it was “better to stand and cry than to walk away.”

In the comments below someone responds: “If it takes the tears of an old man to sensitize the cold hearted then let the tears of the poor come down like acid rain on the heads of the rich and selfish.”

So let’s take this wise advice. Let’s stand and cry – and then let’s walk away from he strawberry fields where nothing is real. Then let the tears of the poor fall like acid rain on the heads of the cold hearted who have sold their humanity. Then let’s dry off our tears and get to work. No more compromising. We have a planet to save.

Cory Morningstar is the chair of the advisory committee on the environment to the City of London, Ontario, and is very involved with Canadians for Action on Climate Change and Council of Canadians. She divides her time between activism and her children.


  • From an article by Johann Hari in The Independent, May 21:

    Why did America’s leading environmental groups jet to Copenhagen to lobby for policies that will lead to the faster death of the rainforests – and runaway global warming? Why are their staff dismissing the only real solutions to climate change as “unworkable” and “unrealistic”? Why are they clambering into corporate “partnerships” with BP, which is responsible for the worst oil spill in living memory?

  • There are environmental NGOs and environmental NGOs… some a useless load of greenwash, some are too cosy with corporates, but many are earnest, committed people trying to make a difference. Some are yuppies some are not. In many ways they can;t win, if they are 24hr environmentalists they are slammed as bores, if they are not, they are hypocrits…

    To be fair, I would say that this is a very US-centric piece (fair enough). In the UK is is quite different. We have our greenwashers, but nothing like yours. Also, almost none of our NGO staff are ex-lawyers, unlike in the US. Tck-tck-tck made virtually no impact on the pre-copenhagen run up, where all the news was made by Greenpeace, Campaign against Climate Change and Climate Camp – much edgier groups altogether….

  • I know a lot of professional environmentalists. Their 9-to-5 work may be marginally more useful to society than the average worker, but when the work day is done, they’re no different than your standard yuppie. They all own cars; they all own houses full of useless junk; they all vacation around the world and have the same ecological footprint as other well-paid people. Don’t look to them for guidance on anything, except how to decorate your house in a tasteful upper-middle class fashion.