Dow Chemical, Nature Conservancy Announce $10M Partnership: Good Deal for the Environment?


The Nature Conservancy and Dow Chemical announced a new collaboration yesterday that will "help Dow and other companies recognize, value and incorporate nature into global business goals, decisions and strategies." The pledge, $10 million from Dow over the next five years, is not the first corporate sponsorship for The Nature Conservancy, but it's not likely to be any less controversial than some of years past.

The Nature Conservancy says it will provide "strategic, science-based counsel and technical support to help answer questions about the value and benefits of natural areas on or near where Dow works" (no word whether cleaning up Bhopal will be on the agenda), while Dow, explains Bloomberg, "pledged Monday to make environmental protection a primary consideration in all its business decisions and to operate its plants in more nature-friendly ways."

But The Nature Conservancy has faced scrutiny for partnering with corporations for years. From a 2003 Philanthropy News Digest story:

the Conservancy is usually silent on major environmental policy issues that prove contentious among its council members and corporate donors -- the Bush administration's plan to allow oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, for example -- while other environmental groups do battle. In the case of ANWR, legislation to allow drilling is supported by Conservancy leadership council members BP and ExxonMobil, as well as by Phillips Alaska, Inc., which has donated at least $1 million to the group.

The conservancy is not the only NGO to be criticized for questionable partnerships, but it's been one of the most consistent. It took heat last year for aligning with BP, even after the Gulf oil spill.

Also last year, in a story for The Nation explaining some of the background of corporate influence generally on environmental NGOs, Johann Hari gives this example about The Nature Conservancy:

Thirteen years ago in Bolivia, a coalition of The Nature Conservancy and three big-time corporate polluters-BP, Pacificorp and American Electric Power (AEP)-set up a protected forest in Bolivia called the Noel Kempff Climate Action Project. They took 3.9 million acres of tropical forest and said they would clear out the logging companies and ensure that the forest remained standing. They claimed this plan would keep 55 million tons of CO2 locked out of the air-which would, in time, justify their pumping an extra 55 million tons into the air from their coal and oil operations. AEP's internal documents boasted: "The Bolivian project...could save AEP billions of dollars in pollution controls."

Greenpeace sent an investigative team to see how it had turned out. The group found, in a report released last year, that some of the logging companies had simply picked up their machinery and moved to the next rainforest over. An employee for San Martin, one of the biggest logging companies in the area, bragged that nobody had ever asked if they had stopped. This is known as "leakage": one area is protected from logging, but the logging leaks a few miles away and continues just the same.

More on Dow and The Nature Conservancy
Washington Post Links Oil Spill Culprit and Nature Conservancy
Dow Chemical Is Sponsoring A Run for Water - Activists Fight Back
Small Victory for Activists: Bhopal Case Reopened

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