Greenpeace staffers call for resignation of top leaders

Greenpeace's ship the Rainbow Warrior off the coast of Barcelona, Spain. Credit: 350.org

The fallout has been swift in the month since it was revealed that Greenpeace International’s program director was regularly commuting by plane between his home in Luxembourg to the organization’s offices in Amsterdam. A letter from 40 Greenpeace Netherlands staff, reported last week by the Dutch news site NL Times, called on director Pascal Husting to resign. NL Times then reported this week that Greenpeace International staff joined their colleagues in asking for Hustings resignation and added that Executive Director Kumi Naidoo should do the same and assume a role of ambassador for the organization.

“The lack of an appropriate external response is seriously undermining the campaign, mobilization and fundraising work our organization is doing,” wrote Greenpeace Netherlands staff to Naidoo and Husting.

A leaked document obtained by the Guardian revealed serious mismanagement of Greenpeace International’s £58 million budget. The information was learned following reports that the group lost £3 million in donor money after a single employee made the bad investment of speculating on currency markets. An apology was issued and the employee was fired. The further documentation showed that this was only one example of how the organization was not managing its finances well.

One of the findings included the air commute made by Husting from Luxembourg and Amsterdam. A comment from Naidoo defended the travel.

“Pascal has a young family in Luxembourg. When he was offered the new role, he couldn’t move his family to Amsterdam straight away. He’d be the first to say he hates the commute, hates having to fly, but right now he hasn’t got much of an option until he can move. He wishes there was an express train between his home and his office, but it would currently be a 12-hour round trip by train,” he said to the Guardian.

The documents also showed some of the internal debates taking place. Efforts to restructure the organization, from the way it pays employees to communication strategies, have caused strife within Greenpeace. Audio of a organizational meeting obtained by the Guardian features Naidoo admitting that there is much work to be done in regards to catching up to current digital technologies for an organization that was founded in a time that was very different from today.

Questions about the steps taken by leadership in Greenpeace have led to calls for a shake up. Staff are upset with the way that Naidoo and Hustings have handled the scandal of the organization’s financial mismanagement. They cite the weak leadership as evidence that change is needed at the top.

Naidoo is well known for his sharp candor. The South African got his start as an activist as a young man campaigning against apartheid in his home country. He eventually joined Greenpeace International in 2009 as its Executive Director. His willingness to challenge the status quo and the world’s leaders are why Greenpeace staff want him to remain as an ambassador.

“The week of the [World Economic Forum (WEF)] feels like the most challenging week of my working life because of the “WEF spirit” conveyed by people at the Forum walking around as if they owned the world. The truly frustrating thing is that they actually do own most of it.,” wrote Naidoo about attending the event, last year.

So far there have been no changes. Naidoo told the NL Times that he does not plan on stepping down. Concerns remain that the scandal and lack of meaningful change can cause long term damage to the environmental work carried out by Greenpeace.

“By not reacting appropriately, you display a lack of understanding of integrity and reputational management. Pascal if you keep your position while externally no measures of improving our own behavioral standards are communicated, we cannot repair our loss ofcredibility. We will surely lose effectiveness in our campaign work,” write the staff.

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Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]humanosphere.org.