Non-profit

Environmental Working Group (EWG)

This is a logo owned by Environmental Working Group for Environmental Working Group. (link)
Location:

WASHINGTON, DC

Tax ID:

52-2148600

DUNS Number:

00-272-3109

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Budget (2016):

Revenue: $10,514,660
Expenses: $10,889,968
Assets: $6,327,581

Type:

Environmentalist Organization

Formation:

1993 [40]

President:

Ken Cook

President's Compensation:

Reportable Compensation: $274,642

Other Compensation: $18,480

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a major player in the environmentalist movement, focusing on issues related to regulating chemicals, promoting organic food, and opposing modern agricultural practices. EWG aggressively opposes the use of certain common plastics and farming techniques and has reportedly aligned with trial attorneys involved in major class-action cases.[1]

EWG has a long association with Tides Foundation founder and left-wing philanthropist Drummond Pike, who sits on EWG’s board of directors.[2] Environmental Working Group began as a project of the Center for Resource Economics/Island Press, but was later taken under the wing of the Tides Foundation itself.[3] EWG receives substantial funding from progressive foundations including the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the JPB Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.[4]

Environmental Working Group has faced substantial criticism for its sloppy scientific methods and exaggerations of toxicological risks. A scientific study of pesticide levels in fruits and vegetables targeted as a “dirty dozen” by EWG found the Group’s methodology “lacks scientific credibility.”[5] Additionally, a survey of members of the professional association of toxicologists found that most who expressed an opinion on EWG believed it overstated chemical risks.[6]

EWG published a report calling into question the safety of vaccines in the mid-2000s.[7] The group has entertained the hypothesis that vaccines cause autism, which has been debunked by legitimate medical authorities.[8]

Background

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) was founded in the late 1980s as a project of the Center for Resource Economics/Island Press, a publisher of environmentalist books. Drummond Pike, a co-founder of the progressive Tides Foundation, was involved in EWG from its foundation.[9] From 1993 to 1999, EWG operated under the aegis of Pike’s Tides Foundation and Tides Center.[10]

After Tides spun off EWG, it was run by former aide to former Massachusetts Governor and 1988 Democratic Presidential nominee Michael Dukakis Kenneth Cook.[11] Cook has continued to lead EWG as president ever since.

EWG has focused its efforts principally into chemicals policy and organic food activism. The organization advocates against the use of common household products that use Teflon and other manmade materials.[12]

The group is deeply involved in the movement to advance organic food. In 2014, EWG partnered with the organic food trade group Organic Voices to host and operate the Organic Voices Action Fund. The Action Fund led the campaign “Just Label It,” which advocated for mandatory labels on non-organic foods declaring the presence of genetically engineered ingredients. Scott Faber, the senior vice president for government affairs of EWG, served as executive director of Organic Voices Action Fund and the Just Label It campaign.[13]

Scientific Criticism

Mainstream scientists have criticized Environmental Working Group for some of its campaigns. A poll of experts in toxicology—the study of the effects of potentially damaging chemicals—found that those familiar with EWG believe it overstates the risks of chemical uses.[14] In numerous areas, scientific authorities have taken stances opposite those of EWG or criticized EWG’s actions.

Antivaccine Activity

Environmental Working Group was certainly willing to entertain the widely debunked view, most prominently espoused by disbarred British ex-physician and alleged fraudster Andrew Wakefield, that vaccines produced before 1999 caused autism. In 2004, EWG published a report titled “Overloaded” that explored an alleged link between vaccines and autism and attacked the Institute of Medicine for concluding that no such link exists.[15] The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention categorically rejects the claim EWG entertained, asserting, “There is no link between vaccines and autism.”[16]

“Dirty Dozen” Produce Reports

Each year, EWG releases a report based on U.S. Department of Agriculture testing results on the twelve fruits or vegetables with the highest pesticide residues; EWG presents the results as a reason to switch to organic food.[17]

However, reputable scientific examination of EWG’s hyperbolic claims has found them scientifically lacking. A scientific study published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Toxicology found the Group’s methodology “lacks scientific credibility.”[18] The same study additionally concluded that “substitution of organic forms of the twelve commodities for conventional forms does not result in any appreciable reduction of consumer risks,” refuting EWG’s pro-organic implication.[19]

Others have criticized EWG’s emphasis on pesticides as out of proportion to the benefits of eating a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Science writer James McWilliams criticized EWG’s report, noting that EWG itself wrote, “[…] the EWG’s shopping guide is not built on a complex assessment of pesticide risks.”[20]

Commentators have also criticized the EWG “dirty dozen” list for needlessly spooking mothers.[21] Others have concluded that EWG’s list discourages people from eating any fresh produce.[22]

Genetically Modified Foods

Environmental Working Group is one of the leading pressure groups opposing modern agricultural practices including the use of gene technology to improve crop performance. This aligns with EWG’s close ties to the organic food industry, as organic food cannot use these technologies.

EWG’s ties to the organic food industry are substantial. One of the anti-genetic-technology movement’s most prominent recent campaigns, “Just Label It,” is run by Scott Faber, Vice President for Government Affairs at Environmental Working Group.[23] Just Label It is a project of Organic Voices Action Fund, which has EWG president Ken Cook and several organic food company executives on its board.[24] Organic company Stonyfield Farm reportedly contributed at least $100,000 to Organic Voices Action Fund.[25]

Environmental Working Group’s opposition to gene technology in food production is not shared by scientific authorities. While EWG claims the safety of these technologies is not proven, the National Academy of Sciences has found no difference in safety between ordinary foods and those produced using these technologies.[26]

Funding

Environmental Working Group does not fully disclose its donors. The organization provides a partial breakdown of its support on its website with a list of some foundation supporters and a pie chart showing support from individuals, foundations, and corporations and revenue from consulting and investments.[27]

EWG receives substantial support from foundations, including donor-advised funds. Tax records show that in 2014, roughly $5 million of EWG’s $10 million in revenues came from foundations.[28] Notable progressive foundations that have contributed to EWG include the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Marisla Foundation, the Popplestone Foundation, and the JPB Foundation.[29] The JPB Foundation is notable for its association with a major beneficiary of the frauds perpetrated by disgraced securities trader Bernie Madoff.[30]

Other foundation contributions to EWG pass through donor-advised funds, vehicles that donors may use to preserve their anonymity. In recent years, the donor-advised funds Foundation for the Carolinas and Silicon Valley Community Foundation have made substantial contributions to EWG.[31]

People

Ken Cook is the founder and president of Environmental Working Group. Before joining EWG and its predecessor organizations, Cook was a Democratic Party political aide who worked for the presidential campaign of Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis.[32] He has served as EWG’s president since the organization separated from Island Press in the early 1990s.[33] In addition to leading a prominent environmentalist group, Cook is married into environmentalist politics: His wife, Deb Callahan, formerly headed the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) and was a campaign aide to former Vice President Al Gore.[34]

Scott Faber is EWG’s Senior Vice President for Government Affairs. Faber has lobbied for environmentalist groups American Rivers and Environmental Defense Fund before taking a lobbying position with the Grocery Manufacturers Association.[35] He currently serves as President and CEO of Organic Voices Action Fund (OVAF) in addition to his position with EWG. In 2014, EWG and OVAF reported paying Faber a combined $259,191 in salary plus $22,466 in compensation.[36]

EWG’s board of directors includes numerous progressive activists, an organic foods executive, and two daytime-television doctors.[37] Among the members are Tides Foundation founder Drummond Pike, physician Mark Hyman, and CEO of progressive petition website Care2 Randy Paynter.[38] Hyman is notable for serving as personal physician to the family of former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and embracing scientifically dubious “functional medicine.”[39]

 

References

  1. Olson, Walter. “Oh, working for them.” Overlawyered. March 04, 2004. Accessed February 01, 2017. https://www.overlawyered.com/2004/03/oh-working-for-them/ ^
  2. Environmental Working Group. “Board Members.” EWG. 2017. Accessed February 01, 2017. http://www.ewg.org/about-us/board-members ^
  3. “Environmental Working Group.” Left Exposed. October 21, 2016. Accessed February 01, 2017. http://leftexposed.org/2015/11/environmental-working-group/ ^
  4. Data compiled by FoundationSearch.com subscription service, a project of Metasoft Systems, Inc., from forms filed with the Internal Revenue Service. Queries conducted February 2, 2017. ^
  5. Winter, Carl K., and Josh M. Katz. “Dietary Exposure to Pesticide Residues from Commodities Alleged to Contain the Highest Contamination Levels.” Journal of Toxicology 2011 (2011): 1-7. Accessed February 1, 2017. doi:10.1155/2011/589674  ^
  6. Bailey, Ronald. “Are Chemicals Killing Us?” Reason.com. May 21, 2009. Accessed February 03, 2017. http://reason.com/blog/2009/05/21/are-chemicals-killing-us ^
  7. Environmental Working Group. “Overloaded?” The Internet Archive. January 21, 2012. Accessed February 01, 2017. http://web.archive.org/web/20120121072507/http://www.ewg.org/book/export/html/8497 ^
  8. See Environmental Working Group. “Study makes the case for further CDC investigation: links between vaccinations and neurobehavioral disorders?” June 26, 2007. Accessed February 01, 2017. http://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2007/06/study-makes-case-further-cdc-investigation-links-between-vaccinations-and and Environmental Working Group. “”Meet the Press” Debates Mercury and Autism.” August 8, 2005. Accessed February 01, 2017. http://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2005/08/meet-press-debates-mercury-and-autism ^
  9. “Environmental Working Group.” Left Exposed. October 21, 2016. Accessed February 02, 2017. http://leftexposed.org/2015/11/environmental-working-group/ ^
  10. “Environmental Working Group.” Left Exposed. October 21, 2016. Accessed February 02, 2017. http://leftexposed.org/2015/11/environmental-working-group/ ^
  11. Center for Organizational Research and Education. “Kenneth A. Cook.” Activist Facts. Accessed February 02, 2017. https://www.activistfacts.com/person/2825-kenneth-a-cook/ ^
  12. Environmental Working Group. “Tip 6 – Skip the non-stick to avoid the dangers of Teflon.” EWG. Accessed February 02, 2017. http://www.ewg.org/research/healthy-home-tips/tip-6-skip-non-stick-avoid-dangers-teflon ^
  13. “Just Label It!: Pro-organic lobby group masquerading as charitable food information resource?” Genetic Literacy Project. September 1, 2015. Accessed February 02, 2017. https://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/glp-facts/just-label-it-campaign/ ^
  14. Bailey, Ronald. “Are Chemicals Killing Us?” Reason.com. May 21, 2009. Accessed February 03, 2017. http://reason.com/blog/2009/05/21/are-chemicals-killing-us ^
  15. Environmental Working Group. “Overloaded?” The Internet Archive. January 21, 2012. Accessed February 01, 2017. http://web.archive.org/web/20120121072507/http://www.ewg.org/book/export/html/8497 ^
  16. “Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. November 23, 2015. Accessed February 03, 2017. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/concerns/autism.html ^
  17. Christensen, Jen. “Pesticides in produce, aka ‘Dirty Dozen'” CNN. April 12, 2016. Accessed February 03, 2017. http://www.cnn.com/2016/04/12/health/dirty-dozen-2016-produce/ ^
  18. Winter, Carl K., and Josh M. Katz. “Dietary Exposure to Pesticide Residues from Commodities Alleged to Contain the Highest Contamination Levels.” Journal of Toxicology 2011 (2011): 1-7. Accessed February 1, 2017. doi:10.1155/2011/589674  ^
  19. Winter, Carl K., and Josh M. Katz. “Dietary Exposure to Pesticide Residues from Commodities Alleged to Contain the Highest Contamination Levels.” Journal of Toxicology 2011 (2011): 1-7. Accessed February 1, 2017. doi:10.1155/2011/589674  ^
  20. McWilliams, James. “Pesticide Politics.” Freakonomics. October 20, 2010. Accessed February 03, 2017. http://freakonomics.com/2010/10/20/pesticide-politics/ ^
  21. Splitter, Jenny. “My food paranoia wake-up call: The EWG wants us to be afraid of the food we feed our kids — here’s why I refuse.” Salon. February 6, 2016. Accessed February 03, 2017. http://www.salon.com/2016/02/07/my_food_paranoia_wake_up_call_the_ewg_wants_us_to_be_afraid_of_the_food_we_feed_our_kids_heres_why_i_refuse/ ^
  22. Rosenbloom, Cara. “A diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweighs the risks of pesticides.” The Washington Post. January 18, 2017. Accessed February 06, 2017. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/a-diet-rich-in-fruits-and-vegetables-outweighs-the-risks-of-pesticides/2017/01/13/f68ed4f6-d780-11e6-9a36-1d296534b31e_story.html ^
  23. Kelly, Julie and Henry I. Miller. “Government Favors And Subsidies To Organic Agriculture: Follow The Money.” Forbes. September 23, 2015. Accessed February 06, 2017. http://www.forbes.com/sites/henrymiller/2015/09/23/why-does-government-give-favors-and-subsidies-to-organic-agriculture-follow-the-money/#f312522578c4 ^
  24. “About Just Label It.” Just Label It. 2017. Accessed February 06, 2017. http://www.justlabelit.org/about-just-label-it/ ^
  25. Genetic Literacy Project. “Environmental Working Group, Gary Hirshberg And Organic Activists – All The Influence Money Can Buy.” Science 2.0. August 27, 2015. Accessed February 06, 2017. http://www.science20.com/genetic_literacy_project/environmental_working_group_gary_hirshberg_and_organic_activists_all_the_influence_money_can_buy-15697_. ^
  26. Center for Accountability in Science. “National Academy of Sciences Mows Down GMO Scaremongering.” Periodic Fables. May 19, 2016. Accessed February 06, 2017. https://www.accountablescience.com/national-academy-of-sciences-mows-down-gmo-scaremongering/ ^
  27. Environmental Working Group. “Funding.” EWG. 2017. Accessed February 07, 2017. http://www.ewg.org/about-us/funding ^
  28. Data for contributions to Environmental Working Group compiled by FoundationSearch.com subscription service, a project of Metasoft Systems, Inc., from forms filed with the Internal Revenue Service and author’s calculations. Queries conducted February 7, 2017. Total foundation contributions reported for 2014 tax years totaled $4,937,623. Data on revenue for EWG from Environmental Working Group, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (IRS Form 990), 2014, Part I Line 12. ^
  29. Data for contributions to Environmental Working Group compiled by FoundationSearch.com subscription service, a project of Metasoft Systems, Inc., from forms filed with the Internal Revenue Service. Queries conducted February 7, 2017. ^
  30. Vardi, Nathan. “Barbara Picower Is Back In Business As One Of The Nation’s Top Philanthropists.” Forbes. September 09, 2014. Accessed February 07, 2017. http://www.forbes.com/sites/nathanvardi/2014/09/09/barbara-picower-is-back-in-business-as-one-of-the-nations-top-philanthropists/#60e749c325f4 ^
  31. Data for contributions to Environmental Working Group compiled by FoundationSearch.com subscription service, a project of Metasoft Systems, Inc., from forms filed with the Internal Revenue Service. Queries conducted February 7, 2017. ^
  32. Jacobson, Louis. “LOBBYING: Small Package, Big Punch.” National Journal Magazine Archive. January 26, 2002. Accessed February 08, 2017. http://lobby.la.psu.edu/_107th/123_Farm_Bill/News_Stories/NationalJournal/NationalJournal_012602.htm ^
  33. Environmental Working Group. “Ken Cook.” EWG. 2017. Accessed February 08, 2017. http://www.ewg.org/node/264 ^
  34. Ghent, Bill. “Green Group Marks Candidates for Defeat in Tight Election Races.” The Washington Post. June 23, 1998. Accessed February 08, 2017. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/campaigns/keyraces98/stories/lskey062398.htm ^
  35. See American Rivers. Lobbying Report. Year-End 2000. Accessed February 8, 2017. https://soprweb.senate.gov/index.cfm?event=getFilingDetails&filingID=E3931777-7BD7-4B01-B66E-9D75B5C7424A&filingTypeID=9 ; Environmental Defense Fund. Lobbying Report. Year-End 2005. Accessed February 8, 2017. https://soprweb.senate.gov/index.cfm?event=getFilingDetails&filingID=8C5AE74E-50E2-4D69-A069-3FBDF443D506&filingTypeID=9 ; Grocery Manufacturers Association. Lobbying Report. First quarter 2011. Accessed February 8, 2017. https://soprweb.senate.gov/index.cfm?event=getFilingDetails&filingID=B8F1DF34-0B0B-43FB-BF39-262AE2CBDD46&filingTypeID=51 ^
  36. See Environmental Working Group, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (IRS Form 990), 2014, Part VII Section A Line 19 ; Organic Voices Action Fund, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (IRS Form 990), 2014, Part VII Section A Line 13 ; author’s calculations. Faber’s raw salary from EWG was $205,180; from OVAF was $54,011; and other compensation from the organization and related organizations was $22,466 all from EWG. ^
  37. Environmental Working Group. “Board Members.” EWG. 2017. Accessed February 08, 2017. http://www.ewg.org/about-us/board-members ^
  38. Environmental Working Group. “Board Members.” EWG. 2017. Accessed February 08, 2017. http://www.ewg.org/about-us/board-members ^
  39. Chozick, Amy. “He Tells the Clintons How to Lose a Little.” The New York Times. April 11, 2014. Accessed February 8, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/13/fashion/dr-mark-hyman-clintons-health.html?_r=0 ^
  40. “Environmental Working Group.” Guidestar. Accessed January 25, 2017. https://www.guidestar.org/profile/52-2148600 ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Kenneth Cook
    President
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: June 1, 1999

  • 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
    2016 Dec Form 990 $10,514,660 $10,889,968 $6,327,581 $546,066 N $10,261,640 $533,616 $11,257 $1,408,122
    2015 Dec Form 990 $12,312,231 $11,354,000 $6,868,256 $718,889 N $11,849,566 $893,510 $9,098 $1,534,039 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990 $10,289,614 $8,236,798 $5,685,706 $492,826 N $10,459,430 $148,139 $8,101 $1,328,320 PDF
    2013 Dec Form 990 $7,430,883 $7,279,612 $3,570,834 $424,508 N $7,348,926 $287,087 $7,810 $1,194,131 PDF
    2012 Dec Form 990 $6,748,150 $6,996,929 $3,424,252 $428,023 N $6,659,926 $136,181 $3,776 $1,138,196 PDF
    2011 Dec Form 990 $5,899,358 $6,229,106 $3,525,441 $280,401 N $5,761,475 $125,208 $5,537 $769,426 PDF
    2010 Dec Form 990 $5,566,100 $5,590,973 $3,853,551 $279,092 N $5,446,175 $155,948 $6,500 $1,145,102 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Environmental Working Group (EWG)

    1436 U ST NW STE 100
    WASHINGTON, DC 20009-3987