We are all agents of change

The Greenpeace ship MY Arctic Sunrise on an expedition to the Arctic to document the lowest sea ice level on record.09/12/2012 © Daniel Beltrá / Greenpeace

At Greenpeace, we are agents of change. We see the way we are consuming our world, and we neither accept it, nor the status quo that drives it. 

Our impatience with finding ways to make our planet better includes our impatience with finding ways to make our organization better, and 2013 was a year in which Greenpeace struggled with change and the need for change, both within and without.  

But while we’ve been busy renewing our organisation – while we continue to evolve – we haven’t stopped delivering campaigns which change the world. We’ve documented some of the highlights of the year that you, our supporters, have made possible in our just-published Annual Report for 2013. Here are just a few of those highlights. 

  • The number of people who follow, “like”, donate, volunteer, or otherwise subscribe to Greenpeace swelled to more than 30 million people worldwide. 

As you can see, our financial position is strong, and for that we thank you. Bolstered by increased supporters and income from India and our Asian offices, and despite the fact that we suffered unnecessary financial losses as a result of a well-intentioned but unauthorised and inadequately supervised attempt to protect us from currency fluctuations, we received 7% more income from 3 million financial donors. This allowed us to fund the operations of three ships, 70 offices, and 2,500 permanent staff, all while refusing to accept government or corporate donations.  

Our independent auditors have given Greenpeace International’s finances a clean bill of health. 

  • In 2013 our supporters turned the seizure of our ship, the Arctic Sunrise, by Russian authorities, and the arrest of 30 activists for interfering with the madness of Arctic oil drilling, into a global cause. 40,000 of you turned out on the streets, 2 million of you emailed Russian ambassadors, and you recruited celebrity support via Twitter and Facebook that reached millions of people around the world with the demand to release our activists and #SaveTheArctic. Thirty people owe their freedom to you. And they thank you.
  • From Zurich to Mumbai to Beijing, a campaign to save the bees sparked removals of some pesticides from retailer shelves, legislative efforts to ban others entirely, and began wider conversations about how we feed our world and protect our insect friends – not just our friends, of course, but our allies in feeding the world. We only learned the power of the bee to carry our message of sustainable food when a small group of volunteers in Switzerland improvised the first Greenpeace bee campaign, which then spread from flower to flower.    
  • Five years of supporter efforts to pressure Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) to stop destroying Indonesian Rainforest paid off at last in 2013, with a “No Deforestation” commitment to complement palm oil producer Wilmar’s promise to do the same. South Korea dropped plans for a scientific whaling programme, while pressure from Greenpeace, Avaaz and others stopped the trade of Icelandic whale meat through Dutch ports. We successfully challenged coal companies in China, added major fashion brands like Victoria’s Secret, Benetton, and Valentino to commit to zero discharges of toxic chemicals from their supply chain alongside brands you already brought on board like adidas, Levi’s, Nike, Puma, and Zara. The combined power of citizen advocacy and big brand purchase power has swayed production processes and regulatory practices in China, Mexico, and Taiwan. 

We’re proud of all the work we’ve done and the battles we’ve won. But we have recognised for some time now that we’re not winning the war for a sustainable future. Not for a lack of trying! In 2013 we began to change the way Greenpeace is structured to meet our ambition to fundamentally transform, rather than merely adjust, our relationship to the planet.  

That starts with where we put the majority of our resources. The battle for the future will not only be won or lost in Europe, where we currently have a majority of our money and people. We’ve agreed to shift staff and investment resources to so-called emerging economies like Indonesia, China, Brazil, Russia, Africa, and the US.

As a consequence we’re streamlining Greenpeace International. Our office in Amsterdam will have fewer staff. But a global organisation needs a strong coordinating body. Greenpeace International will focus its energy on providing a strong strategic backbone for all of our campaign work around the world. It will ensure our policies are consistent and effective. It will concentrate on monitoring, supporting, and evaluating our campaigns, as they are designed and delivered as close to the source of the problem and solution as possible. Greenpeace International will ensure that we learn from our successes and mistakes, that we invest in training for all of our people so that we can be the best Greenpeace possible, no matter where we are in the world – so we can be the global organisation we all need us to be.

But, it’s not entirely about us. We’re aligning all of our work toward more effectively engaging the millions of people all over the world who share our sense of urgency and fierce commitment to change. This will mean building arenas of collaboration and toolkits that will allow our 30 million subscribers to co-create campaigns and communications, to organise in their local communities, to recruit more people to our common cause, and to unleash their passion and ingenuity to tackle the forces that are holding back a bright and sustainable future for all.  

Change is never easy. While we remain true to our core values of non-violence, political independence, and our refusal to accept corporate or government funding, we are changing the way we work. That will mean changes in who we employ, where we ask them to work, and the nature of their jobs. In an organisation full of headstrong people who question authority for a living, this will never be a smooth process. We are making every effort to look after our people, to continue our collaborations where possible, and to smooth the path toward new directions where not. 

Thank you for making this journey with us. Together, we can rise above the old ways of thinking that threatens our world today, and build a world that future generations will be glad to inherit, and which generations alive today will be proud to pass along. 



Mike Townsley is the communications director of Greenpeace International

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