Non-profit

Corporate Ethics International

Website:

corpethics.org/

Location:

SAN FRANCISCO, CA

Tax ID:

75-3133181

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Budget (2017):

Revenue: $215,324
Expenses: $210,441
Assets: $30,443

Executive Director:

Michael Marx

Type:

Markets campaigns coordinator

Formation:

2003

Corporate Ethics International, known as CorpEthics, is an environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) advocate primarily focused on left-of-center environmentalist causes. CorpEthics is hired by other nonprofits to design social campaigns to pressure for-profit corporations into supporting left-progressive initiatives.

CorpEthics is best known for the Tar Sands Campaign it launched against efforts to drill in Canadian oil sands and build the Keystone XL pipeline. According to Canadian journalist Vivian Krause, the Campaign was funded by American environmentalists and oil producers to suppress Canadian oil production. CorpEthics was at the center of the campaign and received a tremendous increase in funding, peaking at almost $1.8 million in 2011. Restrictions on the exploitation of the oil sands caused by the Tar Sands Campaign may have cost the Canadian economy $100 billion per year. [1]

History

In 2003, Michael Marx founded Corporate Ethics International in response to perceived issues regarding the environment, healthcare, and animal rights. The organization was formulated to start and manage “markets campaigns,” or social campaigns to discourage for-profit corporations from engaging in allegedly harmful practices. CorpEthics soon formed the Business Ethics Network to coordinate between markets-campaigns organizations and encourage best practices. [2]

CorpEthics launched its first campaign in 2004 against Walmart based on the concept that if Walmart could be pressured to make changes, its corporate dominance would encourage smaller companies to follow its lead. At the end of the year, Walmart CEO Lee Scott agreed to meet with Marx and promised to commit Walmart to greater alignment with environmentalist efforts. Within six months, Walmart had created “sustainability networks” for 14 of its product lines. [3]

Tar Sands Campaign

In the mid-2000s, Canadian oil companies began planning to drill the Athabasca oil sands in a region the size of Florida. [4] Eventually, plans were drawn to build the Keystone XL pipeline, a transportation system to ship crude oil from the Canadian oil sands to American oil refineries. The plan was heralded by supporters as a major economic boon for the US and Canada and a step towards energy independence, but detractors cited environmental concerns and the violation of the sovereignty of indigenous groups whose land the pipeline would pass through. [5]

In 2008, CorpEthics joined activist groups in the US and Canada by launching the Tar Sands Campaign to oppose drilling in Canada’s oil sands and the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. The campaign consisted of various public awareness and outreach programs, including advertisements to discourage tourism to Alberta, Canada. [6]

In November 2015, President Barack Obama rejected permission to allow the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. [7] CorpEthics claimed partial credit for persuading the Obama administration through its advocacy efforts. [8] However, the Canadian oil sands continued to be drilled, and in January 2020, President Donald Trump approved the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline on American land. [9]

Controversy

Canadian journalist Vivian Krause has accused the Tar Sands Campaign of being a foreign-funded special-interest effort to suppress Canada’s global oil production market share. [10]

According to Krause, nearly all opposition to Canadian oil sand exploration and the Keystone XL pipeline has come from the Tar Sands Campaign. As its primary organizer, CorpEthics received $750,000 for the campaign in 2009, $1,450,000 in 2010, and $1,480,000 in 2011. Dozens of other organizations also received funding for the campaign or closely affiliated causes, including Greenpeace Canada, EcoJustice, Environmental Defence Canada, and the Sierra Club of Canada. [11]

All of this funding came from the Tides Foundation and its Canadian affiliate, the Tides Canada Foundation. Both serve as major pass-through organizations for left-of-center nonprofits and serve to conceal the true source of donor funding. In turn, the relevant funding for the Tides Foundation came from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, a client of CorpEthics and an outgrowth of the Rockefeller fortune, itself based on 19th– and 20th-century American oil production. [12]

By Krause’s calculations, between 2000 and 2013, the Tides Foundation and similar organizations like the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation poured $300 million into opposing oil sands drilling, the Keystone XL pipeline, and similar energy initiatives in Canada. The net effect has been to strangle Canadian energy production and strengthen America’s global market power, which Krause suggested major environmentalist groups will leverage to force the US, and by extension the global energy market, away from fossil fuels. [13]

Website Change

In January 2019, after a CBC report on the Tar Sands Campaign and Krause’s research, CorpEthics changed a section on its website about the Tar Sands Campaign to remove descriptions which indicated a broader economic motive. The original description attributed the creation of the Campaign to “two major U.S. foundations,” while the description as of 2019 provides no indication of support from other organizations. The older description also explicitly laid out the intention to “land-lock” Canadian oil production to cut Canada off from global markets, while the newer version omitted the section entirely. [14]

Finances

CorpEthics’ revenue in 2003, its founding year, was $77,000. By 2005, revenues had risen to over $600,000, and remained steady until 2009 when CorpEthics brought in over $1.6 million, primarily for the Tar Sands Campaign. Revenue remained at around the same level until 2012 when it fell to $62,000. In 2014, the organization switched its primary income stream from “contributions” to “program services.” From 2012 to 2018, CorpEthics’ revenue never surpassed $216 thousand annually. [15]

In 2018, CorpEthics received $148,258 in revenue entirely from service fees. The organization spent $194,662, prompting a $46,404 deficit, and a total net negative asset base of $16,901. [16]

Associated Groups

Clients

CorpEthics lists 21 clients, most of which are left-of-center nonprofits:[17]

NGO Partners

CorpEthics lists five NGO partners, all of which are left-of-center environmentalist nonprofits:[18]

References

  1. Staples, David. “David Staples: Krause leads fight against Americans who have landlocked oil sands.” Edmonton Journal. November 14, 2018. Accessed August 4, 2020. https://edmontonjournal.com/business/energy/david-staples-krause-leads-fight-against-americans-who-have-landlocked-the-oil-sands. ^
  2. “About CorpEthics.” CorpEthics. Accessed August 2, 2020. https://corpethics.org/about/. ^
  3. “The Big Box Collaborative Campaign.” Accessed August 2, 2020. https://corpethics.org/the-big-box-collaborative/. ^
  4. “The Tar Sands Campaign.” CorpEthics. Accessed August 2, 2020. https://corpethics.org/the-tar-sands-campaign/. ^
  5. “Keystone XL pipeline: why is it so disputed?” BBC. January 24, 2017. Accessed August 2, 2020. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-30103078. ^
  6. “Multi-year ad campaign urges American tourists to rethink visiting Alberta.” CISON. July 14, 2010. Accessed August 4, 2020. https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/multi-year-ad-campaign-urges-american-tourists-to-rethink-visiting-alberta-544820422.html. ^
  7. “Obama rejects Keystone XL pipeline.” Youtube. November 6, 2015. Accessed August 2, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=woc5ZOdOXM0. ^
  8. “The Tar Sands Campaign.” CorpEthics. Accessed August 2, 2020. https://corpethics.org/the-tar-sands-campaign/. ^
  9. Brown, Matthew. “Trump administration approves Keystone pipeline on U.S. Land.” PBS. January 22, 2020. Accessed August 2, 2020. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/trump-administration-approves-keystone-pipeline-on-u-s-land. ^
  10. Zinchuk, Brian. “Anti-pipeline campaign was planned, intended, and foreign-funded: Vivian Krause.” Pipeline News. June 25, 2019. Accessed August 2, 2020. https://www.pipelinenews.ca/news/local-news/anti-pipeline-campaign-was-planned-intended-and-foreign-funded-vivian-krause-1.23866860. ^
  11. Krause, Vivian. “The Tar Sands Campaign: >400 Payments via Tides to 100 Organizations in Canada, USA & Europe.” Rethink Campaigns. Accessed August 2, 2020. https://fairquestions.typepad.com/rethink_campaigns/tar-sands-campaign-400-payments.html. ^
  12. Zinchuk, Brian. “Anti-pipeline campaign was planned, intended, and foreign-funded: Vivian Krause.” Pipeline News. June 25, 2019. Accessed August 2, 2020. https://www.pipelinenews.ca/news/local-news/anti-pipeline-campaign-was-planned-intended-and-foreign-funded-vivian-krause-1.23866860. ^
  13. “Vivian Krause: Oil sands money trail.” Financial Post. January 17, 2012. Accessed August 2, 2020. https://financialpost.com/opinion/vivian-krause-oil-sands-money-trail. ^
  14. Krause, Vivian. “Corporate Ethics International REWROTE Its Website, REMOVING Admissions about “Land-Locking” Canadian Oil & Influencing Elections.” Rethink Campaigns. February 4, 2019. Accessed August 2, 2020. https://fairquestions.typepad.com/rethink_campaigns/2019/02/poof-gone-corporate-ethics-international-re-wrote-its-web-site.html. ^
  15. “Corporate Ethics International.” ProPublica. Accessed August 2, 2020. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/753133181. ^
  16. “Corporate Ethics International Form 990.” ProPublica. Accessed August 2, 2020. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/display_990/753133181/05_2019_prefixes_74-77%2F753133181_201812_990EZ_2019053016362340. ^
  17. “CorpEthics Clients.” CorpEthics. Accessed August 2, 2020. https://corpethics.org/clients/. ^
  18. “NGO Partners.” CorpEthics. Accessed August 2, 2020. https://corpethics.org/partners/. ^

Supported Movements

  1. Green New Deal (GND)
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: April 1, 2004

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2017 Dec Form 990EZ $215,324 $210,441 $30,443 $941 $0 $0 $0 $0
    2015 Dec Form 990EZ $181,468 $189,959 $2,824 $552 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990EZ $94,824 $101,673 $43,972 $30,755 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2013 Dec Form 990EZ $49,578 $108,739 $20,066 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2012 Dec Form 990EZ $62,020 $315,912 $102,826 $23,599 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2011 Dec Form 990 $1,812,005 $1,883,845 $467,901 $134,782 N $1,807,750 $0 $2,079 $127,782 PDF
    2010 Dec Form 990 $1,696,043 $2,109,421 $512,496 $107,537 N $1,690,000 $3,114 $2,298 $155,516 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Corporate Ethics International

    256 PRESIDIO AVE APT 6
    SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94115-1631