Does the WWF help the industry more than the environment?

New book and WWF's legal threats instigate new debate in Germany
As strange as it may sound in a globalised world, but there is currently an interesting development-related debate going on and the chances are high that you haven’t heard about it. The problem is that the discussions around the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) have been almost exclusively taking place in Germany and German media.

Almost a year ago I wrote a post on a documentary (The WWF and the industry-What role for environmental organisations in the age of multinationals and biofuels?) that caused quite a debate in Germany over the role of the WWF, particularly WWF's relationships with multinational companies and the risk of 'greenwashing' their logging and agricultural endeavours. Although this documentary is now available in English and even nominated for an award, except for a short note on the author’s website
The silence of the Pandas- What the WWF isn´t saying" has been nominated in two categories at the 52me Festival de Télévision de Monte-Carlo, June 2012
it’s almost impossible to learn more about its availabilty or screening. A direct link to the international distributor’s website produces a 404 error and I couldn’t find it in the catalogue either.

In the latest development, author Wilfried Huismann recently published a book on the subject of the documentary and WWF’s legal tactics to intimidate online and traditional booksellers have received wide coverage in major German news media. The book is still available from the publisher and a gag order will be discussed in court later in June. I have read some excerpts from the book and it's basically a more detailed account of the topics discussed in the documentary. It seems unlikely at the moment that there's going to be an international version of the book anytime soon, even though the publisher is part of the global Random House group.

Probably encouraged by those current debates, the SPIEGEL featured one of the very few English-language articles on the debate, claiming that ‘WWF helps industry more than environment’. Interestingly, the documentary is mentioned, but the new book and the ensuing legals debates aren’t.

The paragraph under the headline ‘Undermining Itself’ is a good example of the core criticism that has also been raised by filmmaker and author Huisemann when its comes to the ‘too close to comfort’ relationship between multinationals and the WWF:
Undermining its own standards seems to be a specialty of the WWF. In fact, it is this flexibility that brings the organization millions in donations from industry. In the case of soybeans, the group attending the round table meeting negotiated and negotiated. It softened some standards and made some concessions, and then, finally, the first 85,000 tons of RTRS soybeans arrived in Rotterdam last June. [...] The soybeans had come from two giant farms owned by the Brazilian Maggi family. [...]. They cleared a large swath of the savannah rainforest and planted soybeans. Blairo Maggi became the governor of the state, and in 2005 Greenpeace presented him with its "Golden Chainsaw" award. In no other Brazilian state was as much virgin forest cut down as in Maggi's soybean republic.
It would be interesting to see a broader global debate on the WWF’s work and hopefully the English version of the documentary will soon be broadcasted on local TV or, even better, available on the Internet. 

A few selected links to the German TV and newspaper coverage:

Public television NDR (featuring an interview with the author and responses from WWF Germany's spokesperson)

Detailed book review at the Sueddeutsche Zeitung

One of many articles on the pressure that WWF puts on booksellers from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung


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