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Greenpeace Inc.: The $336 Million-A-Year Multinational Behemoth

Matthew Nisbet, The Breakthrough

At $336 million in global revenue and $228 million in direct program spending, Greenpeace  global revenue dwarfs that of most industry associations.

March 9 profile on The Observer spotlights writer and activist Mark Lynas, who has gained notable attention for arguing that environmentalists need to reconsider their longstanding opposition to nuclear energy and genetic engineering. As Lynas told The Observer, during his days as an activist, he had viewed the Green movement as a brave, scrappy underdog – a little David battling the Goliaths of industry, government, and conservatives.

But the more he critically examined the work of Greens on issues like nuclear energy and genetic engineering, the more he was surprised to discover the vast financial and organizational resources available to organizations like Greenpeace.

The financial might of today’s environmental groups has helped narrow the gap with industry and their political allies across issues. Yet, as Lynas rightly argues, in some cases this same organizational wealth has helped institutionalize an ideological bias that threatens progress on issues like climate change and food security.

“The anti-nuclear movement is partly responsible for global warming,” Lynas told The Observer. “Everywhere, pretty much, where a nuclear plant was cancelled, a coal plant was built instead, and that’s because of the anti-nuclear movement. The environmental movement has been very successful in regulating GM [genetically-modified agriculture] out of existence in some parts of the world.”

The Observer profile sparked my curiosity about the financial resources of Greenpeace International/Worldwide and how these resources have been applied to limiting rather expanding the technological options countries have available to address problems like climate change and food security. To its credit, Greenpeace provides readily available and detailed information on its financial resources by way of its website and annual report.

As explained in its 2011 annual report, Greenpeace International serves coordinating and leadership functions for national and regional affiliates such as Greenpeace USA, Greenpeace Germany, and Greenpeace India. Its annual budget of €60 million (US$83 million) is derived from donations from its affiliates.

Even more relevant are the figures reported for Greenpeace Worldwide, which according to the annual report represents the combined budget of Greenpeace International and its affiliated national and regional organizations. In this case, Greenpeace brought in global revenues of €241 million (US$336 million) and spent approximately €159 million on program activities (US$221 million) and €77 million on fundraising (US$107 million) across countries.

To put Greenpeace’s global fundraising prowess in context: the organization’s annual revenue is equivalent to or greater than some of the world’s richest sport franchises including the Arsenal soccer club (US$336 million)Boston Red Sox (US$272 million), and L.A. Lakers (US$212 million).

At $336 million in global revenue and $228 million in direct program spending, Greenpeace also fares well in comparison to other globally-focused environmental organizations commonly thought to have much larger budgets. Consider that in 2011, the World Wildlife Federation brought in $238 million in revenue and spent $202 million on program activities.

Greenpeace global revenue also dwarfs that of major U.S. industry associations for year the 2009, including the American Petroleum Institute ($203 million) and theU.S. Chamber of Commerce ($214 million)

At the global level, Greenpeace employs nearly 2,200 staff, with 1,039 based in Europe and 314 in the U.S and Canada. As displayed in this graph from its annual report, Germany is the leading source of the organization’s worldwide fundraising followed by the U.S., Netherlands, and Switzerland.

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