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Kumi Naidoo and GP’s Evolution

September 7, 2011

Naidoo, a 46-year-old human-rights activist from South Africa who has held the top job at Greenpeace for two years, has always shared with the organization a taste for direct action. But his willingness to negotiate with multinational corporations is a new and controversial direction for the organization. He has successfully pressed Unilever and Coca-Cola to agree to discontinue the use of HFC gases (which are more harmful to the atmosphere than CO2) in their refrigeration systems. He has gotten Nestlé to agree to stop buying palm oil from Sumatra, where forests in pristine tiger habitats bear continual clear-cutting. He is now pressuring Facebook to “unfriend” coal.


One CEO told Naidoo, “My colleagues are very keen to get you to the table, so that they are not on your menu.” In a battery of informal half-hour meetings with companies across a range of industries, from energy to telecom to chemicals to electronics, executives asked how they could avoid Greenpeace’s wrath, whether it’s a ranking on a polluter’s list or being subjected to direct action.

But Paul Watson thinks GP has evolved into the wrong sort of organization:

Paul Watson, the youngest founding member of Greenpeace and now leader of the smaller, more confrontational Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, is perhaps the best-known detractor of his former NGO. He paints a picture of a once-great organization lost at sea. “It’s become nothing more than a bureaucratic money machine that rides on the backs of other NGOs,” Watson charges. He is especially contemptuous of Greenpeace’s philosophy of peacefully bearing witness in its direct actions, labeling the approach cowardice. “It sounds like he wants to move it in the direction of the Red Cross instead of Greenpeace,” Watson says.

Thanks to gCaptain for the profile.

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