Greenpeace chief defends attendance at economic forum

Sat, Jan 26, 2013, 00:00

Greenpeace director Kumi Naidoo has a packed agenda at the World Economic Forum.

The South African human rights activist, who a decade ago faced down riot police in Davos with thousands of other protesters, is being courted by big business.

“All my meetings with the CEOs are requested by them and not by me,” Mr Naidoo said inside the forum congress centre, between constant interruptions as delegates stopped to greet the head of the world’s biggest environmental group.

Mr Naidoo said one chief executive told him why he was in such demand: “He said: ‘Some of my peers are desperate to get you at the table because they hope that they then might not be on your menu’.”

A survey by PR firm Edelman published this week shows non-governmental organisations remain the most publicly trusted of institutions, scoring 63 per cent, beating business and government, which polled 58 per cent and 48 per cent.

“NGOs are now themselves superbrands. The global ones are now working not as a protest movement but as consultants with big companies,” said Richard Edelman, who heads the PR company.

Even Greenpeace, which has built its reputation on daring stunts to publicise corporate misdeeds, has started working with big business, for example teaming up with Coca-Cola to develop more environmentally friendly refrigeration.

Mr Naidoo, who posted a blog defending his attendance at the forum in response to incredulous messages he received ahead of it, denied this kind of collaboration was a sell-out. “Ethically there is no contradiction in it. If a company does something positive, then we should push them, work with them, share expertise.”


As Mr Naidoo networked with executives, Greenpeace activists shut down a Shell petrol station near Davos to protest the oil firm’s drilling programme in the Arctic by chaining themselves to fuel pumps.

“Frankly, I’d rather be risking arrest and taking part in an act of peaceful civil disobedience,” said Mr Naidoo. “But if we are going to make it through to the unelected, unrepresentative, super-powerful people prowling the corridors of Davos, we will need to be inside.”

Militants opposed to the World Economic Forum claimed responsibility for small explosions on Thursday that broke a window at a Zurich branch of Credit Suisse and blew up the postbox of Glencore chief executive Ivan Glasenberg. – (Reuters)