Greenpeace Inc.

The $336 Million-a-Year Multinational Organization Turns its Focus to the US and Global South


A Greenpeace activist illegally destroys a genetically-modified (GM) wheat crop site in Australia. When ideology mixes with vast financial resources, the result can derail progress on climate change, energy, and food security.

March 15, 2013 | Matthew Nisbet

A March 9 profile on The Observer spotlights writer and activist Mark Lynas, who has gained notable attention for arguing that environmentalists need to reconsider their longstanding opposition to nuclear energy and genetic engineering. As Lynas told The Observer, during his days as an activist, he had viewed the Green movement as a brave, scrappy underdog – a little David battling the Goliaths of industry, government, and conservatives. 

But the more he critically examined the work of Greens on issues like nuclear energy and genetic engineering, the more he was surprised to discover the vast financial and organizational resources available to organizations like Greenpeace. 

The financial might of today’s environmental groups has helped narrow the gap with industry and their political allies across issues. Yet, as Lynas rightly argues, in some cases this same organizational wealth has helped institutionalize an ideological bias that threatens progress on issues like climate change and food security.

"The anti-nuclear movement is partly responsible for global warming," Lynas told The Observer. "Everywhere, pretty much, where a nuclear plant was cancelled, a coal plant was built instead, and that's because of the anti-nuclear movement. The environmental movement has been very successful in regulating GM [genetically-modified agriculture] out of existence in some parts of the world." [1]

The Observer profile sparked my curiosity about the financial resources of Greenpeace International/Worldwide and how these resources have been applied to limiting rather expanding the technological options countries have available to address problems like climate change and food security. To its credit, Greenpeace provides readily available and detailed information on its financial resources by way of its website and annual report.

As explained in its 2011 annual report, Greenpeace International manages international campaigns and the Greenpeace fleet, and provides coordinating and leadership functions for national and regional affiliates such as Greenpeace USA, Greenpeace Germany, and Greenpeace India. Its annual budget of €60 million (US$83 million) is derived from donations from its affiliates. [2]

Even more relevant are the figures reported for Greenpeace Worldwide, which according to the annual report represents the combined budget of Greenpeace International and its affiliated national and regional organizations. In this case, Greenpeace brought in global revenues of €241 million (US$336 million) and spent approximately €159 million on program activities (US$221 million) and €77 million on fundraising (US$107 million) across countries.

To put Greenpeace’s global fundraising prowess in context: the organization’s annual revenue is equivalent to or greater than some of the world’s richest sport franchises including the Arsenal soccer club (US$336 million)Boston Red Sox (US$272 million), and L.A. Lakers (US$212 million).

Greenpeace global revenue also compares well to that of major U.S. industry associations which we commonly think of as having inconceivably large budgets. Consider that in 2009, the American Petroleum Institute generated $203 million in  revenue and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce $214 million in revenue from its industry members.

At the global level, Greenpeace employs nearly 2,200 staff, with 1,039 based in Europe and 314 in the U.S and Canada. As displayed in this graph from its annual report, Germany is the leading source of the organization’s worldwide fundraising followed by the U.S., Netherlands, and Switzerland.

As big in scope as Greenpeace Worldwide might be, it is smaller than at least one other multi-national environmental organization. Consider that in 2011, the World Wildlife Federation Network, which includes the U.S. based World Wildlife Federation and affiliates in 80 other countries, generated €575 million in revenue (US$800 million) and employed 5,000 staff worldwide.[3]

According to its annual report, the goal of Greenpeace over the next few years is to move beyond its supporter base in Europe, and for the organization to focus more heavily on donor recruitment and campaigns in countries of the Global South including India, China, and Brazil, as well as the United States. Greenpeace USA – which consists of partner 501C3 and C4 organizations – brought in a combined $37 million in revenue in 2010, spent $33 million on programs, and $4 million on fundraising.

Greenpeace spending is focused primarily on bolstering direct political action campaigns, pursuing strategies that mobilize activists, framing media coverage, shaping public opinion, and driving consumer preferences. And all spending areas are designed to pressure corporations and government leaders.

Along with staged media events, protest activities, and social media organizing, Greenpeace also releases analyses and reports that call attention to perceived environmental risks and provide political opposition research specific to targeted industry members and their allies.

In 2011, among major program areas, Greenpeace International spent €28 million on climate and energy campaigns, €12 million on efforts to stop deforestation, €9.5 million on ocean conservation, and €4.4 million to oppose GM agriculture and promote what the organization views as sustainable practices.

Apart from these major program activities, the resources spent on communication, media, and protest strategies are considerable, including €26 million on mobilization and citizen action, €22 million on media and communications, €11 million on public information and outreach, and €77 million on fundraising. These areas provide for direct communication and engagement on issues like climate, oceans, nuclear energy and food. When counting fundraising efforts, the annual communication-related activities of Greenpeace total €136 million or $189 million in U.S. dollars.

Though the communication budget of Greenpeace Worldwide is formidable, many of its industry opponents often spend more on image and issue advertising.  For example, news reports peg British Petroleum's global rebranding campaign in 2000 at US $200 million.  Apart from advertising and image campaigns, fossil fuel companies and biotech companies like Monsanto also spend considerable sums on insider lobbying and influence across countries. [4]

Here’s how Greenpeace defines its goals and activities across major program areas:

Combating Climate Change

Our goal is that greenhouse gas emissions peak by 2015 and decline thereafter. To achieve this we need to ensure a global energy revolution – moving away from fossil fuels and nuclear energy to renewable energy and energy efficiency; to see zero deforestation globally; and to ensure that an effort sharing framework exists for tackling climate change that is both equitable and has environmental integrity … Securing an internationally binding agreement to seriously address climate change remains a key focus for the campaign.

Opposing Nuclear Energy

Working with our office in Japan allowed us to show that the Fukushima nuclear crisis was man-made, albeit precipitated by a natural disaster. This work played a strong role in bringing about the nuclear phase-out in Germany and bringing in a vote against new nuclear build in Italy.

The Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan also dominated work by the campaign on nuclear energy. The reaction of Germany and Japan to Fukushima demonstrated how phasing out nuclear power will strengthen the development of renewable energy. Immediately after Fukushima, Germany closed about half its nuclear reactors and pledged to shut the rest within a decade; later, Parliament voted overwhelmingly for replacing nuclear with renewable energy. By the end of 2011, Japan had shut down most of its 54 reactors for testing.

Opposing Genetically Modified Agriculture

Our goal for our sustainable agriculture campaign is to see a halt to the expansion of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into the environment. As a priority in Asia and the Global South, we need to catalyse a paradigm shift from chemical-intensive agriculture to sustainable agriculture, by shifting policies and significantly reducing the use of chemical pesticides and fertilisers….

The industrial model of agriculture is destroying our future ability to produce food, as it is relying on toxic chemicals and synthetic fertilisers that strip the soil of its fertility. This contributes to the reduction of natural pest control and threatens the biological diversity of our crops with contamination by genetically engineered (GE) varieties. Building on our previous work in India, we started fighting the crop in the Philippines. Bt eggplant is genetically engineered to contain a built-in toxin to kill the fruit-and-shoot borer insect. It is currently not approved in any country including India, where the technology was sourced for use in the Philippines.

In February 2010, the Indian government passed a moratorium on Bt eggplant commercialisation, to protect the country’s agriculture. In its decision, the Environment Ministry said that the science behind Bt eggplant is inadequate to answer the concerns raised by civil society groups, and that the country’s GE regulatory system is inadequate. However this did not stop the Philippine government from starting field trials. A Greenpeace decontamination unit removed Bt eggplant from a field trial site in Barangay Paciano Rizal in Bay, Laguna, and sealed the experimental food crop in hazmat (hazardous materials) containers to prevent further contamination of neighbouring fields and the environment.

The activists were supported by organic farmers from Davao, who had participated in a similar operation carried out by their provincial government last year.

It took seven years and successive teams of young campaigners, but finally, in late September 2011, Beijing said it was suspending the commercialisation of genetically-engineered (GE) rice …


[1] Update: Regarding coal replacing nuclear, see counterargument offered on Twitter by energy analyst Alan Nogee.

[2] Euro to dollar comparisons are based on the exchange rate for March 2011.

[3] Update: Thanks to Graham Thompson of Greenpeace UK for pointing me in the direction of the annual report and figures for the WWF Network and its national affiliates.

[4] Update: Comparisons to the budgets and spending of industry members were added at the suggestion of several readers.


Nisbet, M.C. (2012, May 25). Squaring the Genetically Modified Crop Circle. New Scientist magazine.



Photo Credit: Greenpeace Australia


  • Personally I have found it bizarre to see Greenpeace co-authoring their energy reports with renewable industry energy lobbyist. Their energy reports are written together with european renewable energy council,European Photovoltaic Industry Association, and Global Wind Energy Council.For all practical purposes they seem to be an industry lobbying group pretending to be a NGO.

    By Jani-Petri Martikainen on 2013 03 15

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  • Well the fact is that most NGOs don’t object to industry per se—why should they? They object to industries doing bad stuff. So if Greenpeace likes what an industry is doing, it will support it. And no, I am neither a member nor a paying supporter of Greenpeace.

    By Lise on 2013 03 15

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  • I am afraid that this is not quite understood by the public. For lobbyist the primary thing is to ensure financial benefits for themselves. NGOs typically have a public image that is focused on bigger things. I am concerned that blindly going with the lobbyist has a corroding effect on those more important things.

    By Jani-Petri Martikainen on 2013 03 15

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  • Are you saying that NGOs do not lobby? Or should not lobby?

    By Hartog van den Berg on 2013 03 17

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  • I phrased my sentence poorly. Naturally NGO:s should lobby for their things, but for me it is of concern if they end up in cahoots with groups who lobby for financial interest of some companies. When NGO publishes together with industry lobbyist and get their information mainly from industry lobbyist, it blurs the line between industry lobbying and NGO. I do not think that this is healthy. Where is the line between astroturf industry groups and NGO:s? I am in favor of keeping groups lobbying for financial interest of their members as separate from the rest as possible. The boundary between the two sides is naturally somewhat gray, but in my mind GP, for example, should be classified as an industry lobbyist when it comes to their energy policies rather than on NGO.

    By Jani-Petri Martikainen on 2013 03 18

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  • Greenpeace total global income, 2011, in millions -            $336
    Arsenal Soccer Club total income, 2011, in millions -          $336
    Monsanto corporation, total income, 2011, in millions -      $11,800
    Royal Dutch Shell plc. total income, 2011, in millions -    $470,000

    So, if you’re worried about the sheer financial muscle of Greenpeace having too much power, then you can probably afford to relax. They need to increase their income by over 100,000% before they’re up there with the biggest bad guys.

    By gubulgaria on 2013 03 21

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    • By gubulgaria on 2013 03 21
      So, if you’re worried about the sheer financial muscle of Greenpeace having too much power, then you can probably afford to relax…

      You’re missing the point (and the financials).  Monsanto and Shell don’t spend all that money on issue advocacy or lobbying, just a small fraction.  Most of it goes into the products they sell, only the profit is available.  For Greenpeace, after they spend the money to raise money, all the rest goes into advocacy.  Look at a Monsanto annual report, and see how much is devoted to lobbying/advocacy - even their marketing budget is mostly about selling product, not corporate citizenship, etc.  I think you’ve find the comparison is much close than your smug and inaccurate posting above

      By taylor on 2014 12 27

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  • And what is the point of this article ? Members donate to Greenpeace, and Greenpeace accepts only donations made by individuals, to keep its independence, unlike other NGOs like WWF which have several corporate financed programs. Also, you compare worldwide Greenpeace budgets with USA budgets of other organizations. I have the impression the Breakthrough institute exists to tickle or tackle the environmental movement, what interest does it find in doing this ?

    By Philippe de Rougemont on 2013 03 21

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  • These figures are astounding but not surprising - the merger of government interests and those of non-profits working together must provide a lot of money to those making things happen.

    I have come to the conclusion recently that the best job for anyone is to start up a charity or non-profit group.  The overhead can provide a nice income for those on the board, and you can employ your family.  Imagine the compensation, both direct and indirect, that Greenpeace Founders enjoy…  it is astounding that in today’s world and the workplace, only government and the allied non-profits that work together with government provide the best compensation in the workplace for common people.  Are these people really that common or are they networked.  I can imagine that Greenpeace has many non-profit spinoffs that also enjoy nice inflows of tax free Ca$h - which really makes everyone feel good.

    By E Mac on 2013 03 22

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  • I could not agree more. Let me know when you start. I’d be happy to join. I am however worried about the power and influence Green Peace already wields, that with the aggressive language they use in their goal definition is quite scary.

    By Hartog van den Berg on 2013 03 22

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  • You can’t simply compare the amount of money that corporations spend on visible lobbying/PR vs. the budgets of NGOs that oppose them on the issues (although, even in this case, Greenpeace US had roughly 1/2 of the industry groups to which it was compared). The way that money is translated into political power also has a great deal to do with the jobs and infrastructure that corporations have in congressional districts/states/nationally, contributions to super PACs (which can’t be tracked), bullying/scaring employees into signing petitions, greater legal capacity, etc. If the point of this article is that the green movement is within striking distance of buying the political power of corporate polluters, then it is completely delusional.

    By Captain Obvious on 2013 03 28

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  • The worrying thing is GP’s guilt by association. Not just their budget but the influence in the ‘climate change religious organisations. To look at the flip-side have a look at the money that goes around:

    By Hartog on 2013 03 28

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  • It would cost much more to stand by as if climate change was not happening. Of course we can pretend everything is fine, climatologists are wrong, science is wrong, so we can conveniently continue business as usual. After all an orchestra was playing as the Titanic was sinking. But for sound financial couseling, read here (no worries, this is not Greenpeace !):

    By Philippe de Rougemont on 2013 03 29

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  • The disasters listed in your ‘do nothing scenario’ all list possibilities as certainties. There is growing evidence that nature is not complying and that science (not climate) and technology offer cheaper and more appropriate solutions to problems as they arise. Cheaper, cleaner energy. Cheaper (much) water.
    The closing paragraph on your link is a laugh when it says the we (americans?) are paying too much not to do anything. Have another look at the link I referred to earlier, showing how much america is wasting at trying to do the wrong thing.

    By Hartog on 2013 03 29

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  • You misunderstood me or I wasn’t clear enough: cleaner energy, and before that, chasing energy wastes (representing energy bills for no added comfort or service) are indeed the solution, definitely.

    By Philippe de Rougemont on 2013 03 29

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  • That is good. Cleaner is healthier, waste is never good. As long as we don’t pretend to be fixing the climate. That has looked after itself for millions of years.

    By Hartog van den Berg on 2013 03 31

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  • Let me summarize the author’s logic here: both nuclear power and genetic engineering are good—> Greenpeace is against them + Greenpeace’s global revenue is slightly higher than a baseball club—> “Inc.” ???

    The fact that people globally are willing to donate to Greenpeace (and yes it does not accept corporate and govt money, as Philippe de Rougemont has pointed out) somehow makes it a sin to have such resources? The author also failed to notice that Greenpeace is probably the only environmental group that is currently running a vocal campaign against coal power IN CHINA ( So the argument that an anti-nuke campaign is benefiting coal is also problematic.

    By TVhead on 2013 05 06

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  • I live in the Philippines and fully support everything that Greenpeace does. I give a small sum of about $15 monthly to support the efforts. #GMOFreePhilippines

    By Danny Christian on 2013 08 20

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  • “..To its credit, Greenpeace provides readily available and detailed information on its financial resources by way of its website and annual report…”

    They do?!? I don’t see even one iota of info showing on who is funding Greenpeace. How many $millions/yr from super-rich, big oil, bankster foundations? How many $millions/yr from anonymous super-rich plutocrat donations? The fact is Greenpeace is financed by the super-rich to destroy the free market and ensure global hegemony by the International Banking Cartel and their super-rich ilk. You know - the 0.00001 percenters.

    By fred on 2013 08 31

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  • great article, thankx

    By Pete on 2014 07 08

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  • nice post and worth of sharing for sure.

    By michal Clark on 2015 10 31

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