photo via flickr
The Washington Post's Joe Stephens today took another angle on the Gulf oil spill, reporting on the links between BP and the conservation group the Nature Conservancy. While many environmental groups have policies against accepting corporate dollars--much less corporate dollars from major polluters such as BP--the Nature Conservancy seeks out this revenue stream, which helps to fill out its almost half a billion dollar annual income. In fact, the Conservancy accepts nearly $10 million in cash from BP and has put the oil giant on its International Leadership Council. [Full disclosure: The Nature Conservancy is an NGO partner of our sister site, Planet Green.] In light of perhaps the worst environmental disaster in US history, such donations and relationships appear to have some of the Conservancy's donors and supports concerned.
For what it's worth, the Conservancy's leadership seems more than okay with its relationship with BP. In fact, in the Post's piece chief executive Mark Tercek says it's necessary for creating real change. Before joining the group, Tercek was managing director at everyone's favorite investment bank, Goldman Sachs. His full bio is here.
"Anyone serious about doing conservation in this region must engage these companies, so they are not just part of the problem but so they can be part of the effort to restore this incredible ecosystem," Conservancy chief executive Mark Tercek wrote on his group's Web site after criticism from a Conservancy supporter.
The Arlington County-based Conservancy has made no secret of its relationship with BP, just one of many it has forged with multinational corporations. The Conservancy's Web site lists BP as a member of its International Leadership Council.
BP has been a major contributor to a Conservancy project aimed at protecting Bolivian forests. In 2006, BP gave the organization 655 acres in York County, Va., where a state wildlife management area is planned. In Colorado and Wyoming, the Conservancy has worked with BP to limit environmental damage from natural gas drilling.
Until recently, the Conservancy and other environmental groups worked alongside BP in a coalition that lobbied Congress on climate-change issues. And an employee of BP Exploration serves as an unpaid Conservancy trustee in Alaska.
"We are getting some important and very tangible outcomes as a result of our work with the company," said Conservancy spokesman Jim Petterson.
Stephen's first looked into the Nature Conservancy in 2003 for his multi-part series: "Big Green." He looked at its funding sources and ties to industry groups. Stephen's revealed that then President Steven J. McCormick received over $420,000 in compensation, including a $75,000 signing bonus and a million dollar house to live in.
It will be interesting see how the Conservancy continues its relationship with BP. One thing is certain, many will be looking closely.