Corporate Environmentalism: Enviro-sellouts

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

In the U.S. environmental movement, there are thousands of local community groups with little to no money to work with. There are also national and U.S.-based international groups which exist to support these grassroots activists.

However, most national/international groups do NOT exist to support the grassroots environmental movement. They, almost categorically, neglect the needs of local communities while pursuing their own agendas, often ones which aren't even decided democratically.

Many of these large and wealthy environmental groups have a long history of compromising on issues which other environmentalists are working hard not to compromise on. They've held back-door meetings with polluters. They take money from some of the most anti-environmental corporations. They take money from foundations like Pew and Heinz which are notorious for attaching dubious strings to the money they give out... strings which usually push the group into a position of playing footsie with the corporations that grassroots activists are fighting. In some cases, these groups allow executives from corporate polluters on their board!

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) are the most notorious for these types of acts. Much has been written on this.

Below are some links to articles which have exposed just some of these groups egregious actions. As these groups seem to have no end to the stupid things they do, this page will never be complete and doesn't claim to be an exhaustive list of the sell-outs committed by these groups.


There are 4 main books which discuss the sellouts of the mainstream "big 10" environmental groups to various degrees. They are:

Other articles worth checking out:

  • Enron and the Green Seal (NRDC, EDF, Enron and Energy Policy)

  • Environmentalism on the Take - Integrity of Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Challenged on Development of the Ballona Wetlands of Los Angeles --NRDC Trustees and Funders Linked to Wetland Developers (EDF also involved)

  • "Earth Out of Balance -- The Clinton administration's eco-record falls far short of its rhetoric" by Ken Silverstein for the Advocate [mentions sellouts on NAFTA]

  • "Environmental Board Games," Multinational Monitor, March, 1990

    "The boards of the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) have representatives from some smaller companies. Union Carbide, Southern California Edison and HCX, Inc. are represented on the Chairman's Council and the Board of Trustees of the NRDC; and Information Resources, Inc., Hambrecht & Quist and Ranieri Wilson & Co. are represented on the Board of Directors of the EDF. Of these, only Union Carbide is listed in the Fortune 500."

  • The Pennsylvania Environmental Network's 1999 series on Green Energy includes references to NRDC and EDF's sellouts on energy issues and their blatant support for nuclear bailouts. See: Part One: Intro to Green Energy, specifically the documents in the footnotes section.

  • "Third-World groups often believe that once they start working with U.S. groups - groups that have so many more resources and such greater access to power than they do - the Americans start to dominate the agenda. This was the case in Ecuador when U.S. environmental groups were supporting the efforts of Ecuadoran groups to stop the Conoco oil company from drilling in the Yasuni National Park and the Huaorani indigenous reserve. The Ecuadoran Amazon Campaign, a coalition of Ecuadoran environmental and human-rights groups, accused two U.S. NGOs - the Natural Resources Defense Council and Cultural Survival - of misrepresenting their views in negotiations with Conoco and of intentionally deceiving them in a 'blatant display of ecological imperialism.'"

    -written by Chris Kiefer and Medea Benjamin in an article on page 234 of "Toxic Struggles - The Theory and Practice of Environmental Justice" published in 1993.