Non-profit

World Wildlife Fund

Logo for the World Wide Fund for Nature or WWF (link)
Location:

WASHINGTON, DC

Tax ID:

52-1693387

DUNS Number:

93-179-6648

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Budget (2018):

Revenue: $256,825,626
Expenses: $258,037,473
Assets: $502,673,998

Formation:

1961

Formation:

Russel E. Train

President:

Carter Roberts

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF, also known abroad as World Wide Fund for Nature) is an international non-governmental organization that focuses on conservation and environmentalism efforts.

The majority of the World Wildlife Fund’s revenue comes in the form of grants and contributions from foundations, government grants, corporations, and individuals including the MacArthur Foundation, the Moore Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. [1]

The World Wildlife Fund has been criticized for its lack of action against human rights violations of anti-poaching groups that it funds, inconsistencies of its social policies and human rights commitments,[2] and for partnering with large businesses such as Coca-Cola,[3] which is accused of using the WWF brand to “greenwash” its projects. [4]

Founding

The World Wildlife Fund is an international non-governmental organization working in 100 countries around the world in the field of wilderness preservation, and the reduction of humanity’s footprint on the environment. Victor Stolan, reportedly inspired by newspaper articles written by Julian Huxley in the United Kingdom, claimed there was a need for the creation of an international organization to raise money for conservation efforts. The director-general of British government agency Nature Conservancy, Max Nicholson, drafted a plan in 1961 to assist the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) with funding initiatives. The plan became the basis of the WWF. [5]

The first three “national appeals” for the organization, which are now known as the national organizations, were founded in 1961 in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and the United States.

The World Wildlife Fund resided in the IUCN’s headquarters in Morges, Switzerland, and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands became the first president of the international organization. Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and spouse of Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom, was the first president of the WWF-UK; the first national organization of the World Wildlife Fund. The United States’ national organization was also founded in 1961, as was the creation of the Panda logo of the WWF. [6]

On December 1, 1961, the WWF named former President Dwight D. Eisenhower as its president of honor before promoting Ira N. Gabrielson as its sitting president and Russell E. Train as its sitting vice-president. [7] Despite being its first vice-president, WWF honors Russell E. Train as its “founder.” [8]

The World Wildlife Fund began awarding $50,000 annually in the form of the Getty Prize in 1974. The award was for “outstanding contributions to wildlife conservation,” and increased to $100.000 in 1999 while also shifting to focus on “the education of future conservationists.” [9]

Finances

Most of the World Wildlife Fund’s revenue comes in the form of grants and contributions from foundations, government grants, corporations, and individuals. It also receives a substantial amount from investments and royalties.

Revenues and Expenses

WWF reported total revenue of just under $250 million in 2016, with $225 million received in the form of contributions and grants, $2.2 million from investments, $11 million from royalties, and $7.7 million from the sale of assets. The organization’s total assets for 2016 amounted to $480 million, while its total liabilities amounted to $145 million. WWF had a total of just under $231 million for functional expenses, leaving the organization with a net income of $17.5 million for 2016. [10]

WWF reported a total revenue of just over $225 million in 2017. It had a drop in the form of contributions and grants with $213 million received, $2 million from investments, $5 million from royalties, and $5.7 million from the sale of assets. The organization’s total assets climbed by a small amount compared to 2016 with a total of $488 million, while its total liabilities dropped to $140 million. Functional expenses for WWF increased to $247 million, leaving the organization with a net income of -$20.7 million for 2017. [11]

WWF increased its total revenue in 2018 when it received just under $257 million. This increase likely came from receiving more contributions and grants in 2018 than it had ever received in previous years. WWF received $242.7 million in the form of contributions, another $2 million from investments, $6 million from royalties, and $4.3 million from the sale of assets. The organization’s total assets climbed in comparison to 2017 with a total of $502 million, while its total liabilities dropped to just over $139.5 million. Functional expenses for WWF increased to $258 million, leaving the organization with a net income of -$1.2 million for 2018. [12]

Salaries and wages are a substantial percentage of WWF’s expenses, and the amount paid is increasing each year. WWF paid just over $54 million in salaries and wages in 2016, $57.5 million in 2017, and just over $59 million in 2018. The organization also paid just under $4 million for “executive compensation” in 2016, which increased to $4.2 million in 2017, and $5 million in 2018. [13]

According to the World Wildlife Fund’s financial report for 2020, individuals’ donations equated to 37% of the organization’s operating revenue with just under $130 million contributed, government grants equated to 13% with just under $43.5 million contributed, foundations equated to 8% with $26 million contributed, and corporations equated to 4% with $15 million contributed. The report also notes that out of the total expenses for 2020, $288 million was spent on programs, $40 million was spent on fundraising, and $20 million was spent on “finance and administration.” [14]

According to WWF’s 2020 financial report, the organization contributed $3.3 million in grants to “domestic organizations and domestic governments,” $203,764 to “domestic individuals,” and $66.6 million to “foreign organizations, foreign governments, and foreign individuals.” This amounts to $70.1 million for all three areas of grants. [15]

WWF reports that it had a total of $71.5 million in expenses allocated to “other salaries and wages,” and just under $4 million in expenses allocated to “compensation of current officers, directors, trustees, and key employees.” WWF also accrued around $17.5 million in expenses for “other employee benefits,” not including the pension plan contributions of $4.7 million. [16]

The report also notes that the World Wildlife Fund’s current president, Carter Roberts, earned $1,009,165 in “reportable compensation from the organization.” Margaret Ackerly, the senior vice-president of WWF, earned $453,654 in the same category, while the lowest-earning officer of the organization received $200,698 in the same category. [17]

Funders

Multiple large private foundations have contributed to the World Wildlife Fund including the MacArthur Foundation, the Moore Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, created the Bezos Earth Fund in February 2020. Bezos endowed the Fund with $10 billion to be disbursed by 2030 to environmentalist projects aimed at combatting climate change. [18] Bezos announced 16 initial recipients of the $10 billion award in November 2020, giving over $791 million in funding to 16 left-of-center environmentalist organizations. One of the organizations that was chosen was the World Wildlife Fund, which received $100 million. WWF claimed that the $100 million would be used to restore and also protect mangroves from “climate-accelerated weather events,” as well as use the money to develop a market for a seaweed alternative to products based on conventional energy. [19]

The MacArthur Foundation has contributed a large amount of money to the World Wildlife Fund since 1986. The first grant it provided WWF was $225,000 over three years. The foundation then granted WWF $1 million in 1988 and has made grants to the organization every year excluding the year 2000. The largest single amount the foundation granted to WWF was $3 million in 2014 and has contributed an overall amount of $31,821,171 over 94 grants between 1986 and 2018. [20]

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, also known as the Moore Foundation, has also contributed a substantial amount to the World Wildlife Fund. Throughout 70 grants since 2002, the foundation has contributed a total of $170,323,710 to the WWF. The largest grant the Moore Foundation issued to the organization was $15,581,000 in 2002. [21][22]

The David and Lucile Packard Foundation has provided the World Wildlife Fund with grants since 2017. In total, the foundation has granted $6,465,355 to the WWF with all grants labeled as “conservation and science.” [23]

The Walton Family Foundation, the primary charitable outlet of the heirs to Sam Walton’s Walmart fortune, has provided the WWF with a multitude of grants. The foundation made its first grant of $355,285 in 2007. Between the first grant and its last grant in 2019, the Walton Family Foundation has granted the organization a total of $12,943,245. [24]

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund granted the WWF a sum of $400,000 in 2019. The grant, which was to be over two years, was focused on China and “evidence-based policies and practices” for WWF-China’s REpowering Asia: Coal to Clean Initiative. [25]

The World Wildlife Fund has also received money from entities such as the Coca-Cola Foundation, and HSBC.

The Coca-Cola Company, which is listed as being in partnership with the WWF,[26] used its foundation to grant the World Wildlife Fund $350,000 in 2019 for “Project Catalyst,” which “reduces the environmental impacts of sugar production on the Great Barrier Reef.” The Coca-Cola Foundation also made multiple other grants to WWF national organizations including World Wide Fund for Nature Pakistan, World Wildlife Fund Canada, WWF Central and Eastern Europe, WWF France, WWF‐Korea Foundation, and WWF‐UK. [27]

The British multinational bank HSBC also pledged multiple millions to the World Wildlife Fund in 2002. The HSBC “Investing in Nature” program granted the WWF $18.4 million to restore river basin habitats in the Amazon in Brazil, the Yangtze in China, and the Rio Grande in the US. [28]

Controversy

Human Rights Abuse Accusations

The left-of-center media organization Buzzfeed published multiple articles in 2019 alleging that the WWF provided support to park rangers who were committing human rights abuses against people that lived close to conservation areas in Central Africa and South Asia. These allegations were based on investigations completed by Survival International and the Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK). [29]

According to the first article in the series, one incident involved forest rangers of Chitwan National Park in Nepal, who were funded and equipped by the World Wildlife Fund. The rangers had allegedly imprisoned and tortured a farmer for approximately 11 days before he died of his injuries. The farmer’s wife told police that the rangers had put saltwater in his nose and mouth, and had “beat him mercilessly.” Seven eyewitnesses corroborated the wife’s story, and three park officials, including the chief warden, were charged with murder. [30]

According to Buzzfeed, WWF staff working in the area of the incident lobbied for the charges against the rangers to be dropped. The Nepalese government did drop the case, and the WWF continued to fund and equip the rangers, as well as hiring one of the rangers charged with the murder of the tortured farmer. [31]

The article also notes that the WWF equips, funds, and works with paramilitary forces that have been accused of assault, sexual abuse, torture, and murder. According to Buzzfeed, rangers at a park in Cameroon, which is funded by WWF, tortured an 11-year-old boy in front of his parents. [32]

Buzzfeed, during its yearlong investigation across six countries, accused the WWF of supporting anti-poaching units that have “sexually assaulted, shot, and murdered,” villagers; signing off on proposals to kill trespassers; providing paramilitary groups with “salaries, training, and supplies”; funding raids on villages; and creating, financing, and organizing a network of informants that provides park officials with information due to the organization using the motivation of “fear” and “revenge.” [33]

The World Wildlife Fund commissioned an independent investigation into the allegations. The investigation, led by a panel of human rights experts including a former UN high commissioner for human rights, found that in several cases staff members working for the WWF, including senior staff working in Nepal, Cameroon, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, knew of the human rights violations committed by rangers that were funded by the organization. [34]

The report also noted that in some cases, when WWF had taken action against violations, the “WWF decided not to publish commissioned reports,” or “to downplay information received,” to “avoid fueling criticism.” [35]

Although the report found no evidence of WWF providing weapons to associated anti-poaching groups, the report did note that the organization might have lobbied certain government entities to ensure “ecoguards” were properly equipped for anti-poaching activities.” The report also criticized WWF’s “implementation of its social policies and human rights commitments” as “inconsistent.” [36]

The report noted that although WWF field staff reported allegations of human rights abuses to senior WWF DRC officials concerning the Salonga national park in 2016, the senior management’s decision to investigate “was never implemented.” The report added that, despite the several rape, torture, and murder allegations filed between 2000 and 2020, there was “no formal mechanism in place for WWF to be informed of alleged abuses during anti-poaching missions” in Nepal. [37]

Corporate Partnerships

The World Wildlife Fund has been accused of “selling its soul” to corporations as it formed partnerships with large businesses that destroy nature and use the WWF brand to “greenwash” operations. [38]

The Silence of the Pandas, which was banned from being published in the United Kingdom until 2014 when it was revised and renamed Pandaleaks, claims that the WWF has received millions of dollars from corporations such as Coca-Cola, Shell, Monsanto, HSBC, Cargill, BP, Alcoa and Marine Harvest. The book also notes that the WWF runs an elite club of 1,001 of the richest people in the world, known as the 1001 Club. Although the members of the 1001 Club are largely kept secret, it is known that individuals such as Baron von Thyssen, Fiat boss Gianni Agnelli, and Henry Ford, and Alfred Heineken are members. [39]

It is noted that the World Wildlife Fund received approximately $7 million in corporate grants, in 2007. Partner-donors of the WWF in 2008 included Coca-Cola, Hewlett-Packard, and Johnson & Johnson. [40] Coca-Cola is still listed as a partner of the WWF alongside Domtar, Royal Caribbean Cruises, and the Green Climate Fund. [41]

Former president of the World Wildlife Fund, William K. Reilly was also a chairman of the ClimateWorks Foundation, a left-of-center “pass-through” funding entity that distributes funds from donors to environmentalist advocacy groups around the world; a director for the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, which supports environmental causes and population control programs; director of the cruise company Royal Caribbean; and the director of DuPont, a major chemical company. [42]

DuPont has been recorded having to pay $249,631,316 in penalties for violations since 2000, $153,098,610 of that penalty total is due to environmental-related offenses. In total, DuPont is recorded as committing 166 environmental-related violations, the latest of which occurred in 2020. [43]

Multiple current and past members of the World Wildlife Fund have also been affiliated with other organizations and groups including, Richard C. Blum, a board member of WWF and husband of United States Senator Dianne Feinstein, who was also a director for Northwest Airlines[44] and affiliated with TPG Capital, and URS Corporation. [45]

Other organizations that are interlocked with the World Wildlife Fund through current and past members of the organization include the World Resources Institute, the World Bank Group, CIT Group, Bank of America Corporation, and Royal Dutch Shell. [46]

References

  1. “Funding and Financial Overview,” WWF (World Wildlife Fund), accessed March 29, 2021, https://www.worldwildlife.org/about/financials. ^
  2. “EMBEDDING HUMAN RIGHTS IN NATURE CONSERVATION: FROM INTENT TO ACTION ,” WWFInternational, accessed March 29, 2021, https://wwfint.awsassets.panda.org/downloads/independent_review___independent_panel_of_experts__final_report_24_nov_2020.pdf. ^
  3. “Partnerships,” WWF (World Wildlife Fund), accessed March 29, 2021, https://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/partnerships. ^
  4. John Vidal, “WWF International Accused of ‘Selling Its Soul’ to Corporations,” The Guardian (Guardian News and Media, October 4, 2014), https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/oct/04/wwf-international-selling-its-soul-corporations. ^
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  11. Sisi Wei Mike Tigas, “World Wildlife Fund Inc – Nonprofit Explorer,” ProPublica, May 9, 2013, https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/521693387. ^
  12. Sisi Wei Mike Tigas, “World Wildlife Fund Inc – Nonprofit Explorer,” ProPublica, May 9, 2013, https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/521693387. ^
  13. Sisi Wei Mike Tigas, “World Wildlife Fund Inc – Nonprofit Explorer,” ProPublica, May 9, 2013, https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/521693387. ^
  14. “Funding and Financial Overview,” WWF (World Wildlife Fund), accessed March 29, 2021, https://www.worldwildlife.org/about/financials. ^
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  18. Glenn Gamboa, “Bezos Plans to Spend $10 Billion by 2030 on Climate Change,” AP NEWS (Associated Press, March 9, 2021), https://apnews.com/article/climate-climate-change-jeff-bezos-bee1aea9cffc377400048dcb5b7405f0. ^
  19. Annierpalmer, “Jeff Bezos Names First Recipients of His $10 Billion Earth Fund for Combating Climate Change,” CNBC (CNBC, November 16, 2020), https://www.cnbc.com/2020/11/16/jeff-bezos-names-first-recipients-of-his-10-billion-earth-fund.html. ^
  20. “World Wildlife Fund – MacArthur Foundation,” RSS, accessed March 29, 2021, https://www.macfound.org/grantee/world-wildlife-fund-804/. ^
  21. “World Wildlife Fund Inc.,” Grantee Detail, accessed March 29, 2021, https://www.moore.org/grantee-detail?granteeId=107. ^
  22. “Grants,” Grants, accessed March 29, 2021, https://www.moore.org/grants?showAll=true&granteeId=107. ^
  23. “Search Our Grants,” The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, May 10, 2017, https://www.packard.org/grants-and-investments/grants-database/?grant_keyword=world%2Bwildlife%2Bfund&program_area=&award_amount=&award_year=. ^
  24. “Get Social,” Walton Family Foundation, accessed March 29, 2021, https://www.waltonfamilyfoundation.org/grants-database?q=world+wildlife+fund&s=1&p=1. ^
  25. “World Wildlife Fund, Inc.,” Rockefeller Brothers Fund, December 17, 2019, https://www.rbf.org/grantees/world-wildlife-fund-inc. ^
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  27. “2019 Coca-Cola Charitable Giving List,” coca-colacompany.com, accessed March 29, 2021, https://www.coca-colacompany.com/content/dam/journey/us/en/policies/pdf/the-coca-cola-foundation/The-Coca-Cola-Foundation-Charitable-Giving-List-2019.pdf. ^
  28. Geospatial World -, “HSBC Announces $50 Million Partnership to Fund Conservation Projects,” Geospatial World, April 13, 2016, https://www.geospatialworld.net/news/hsbc-announces-50-million-partnership-to-fund-conservation-projects/. ^
  29. “Report: WWF Knew about Rights Abuses by Park Rangers, but Didn’t Respond Effectively,” Mongabay Environmental News, December 14, 2020, https://news.mongabay.com/2020/12/report-wwf-knew-about-rights-abuses-by-park-rangers-but-didnt-respond-effectively/. ^
  30. Tom Warren, “WWF Funds Guards Who Have Tortured And Killed People,” BuzzFeed News (BuzzFeed News, December 10, 2019), https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/tomwarren/wwf-world-wide-fund-nature-parks-torture-death. ^
  31. Tom Warren, “WWF Funds Guards Who Have Tortured And Killed People,” BuzzFeed News (BuzzFeed News, December 10, 2019), https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/tomwarren/wwf-world-wide-fund-nature-parks-torture-death. ^
  32. Tom Warren, “WWF Funds Guards Who Have Tortured And Killed People,” BuzzFeed News (BuzzFeed News, December 10, 2019), https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/tomwarren/wwf-world-wide-fund-nature-parks-torture-death. ^
  33. Tom Warren, “WWF Funds Guards Who Have Tortured And Killed People,” BuzzFeed News (BuzzFeed News, December 10, 2019), https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/tomwarren/wwf-world-wide-fund-nature-parks-torture-death. ^
  34. “Report Clears WWF of Complicity in Violent Abuses by Conservation Rangers,” The Guardian (Guardian News and Media, November 25, 2020), https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/nov/25/report-clears-wwf-of-complicity-in-violent-abuses-by-conservation-rangers. ^
  35. “EMBEDDING HUMAN RIGHTS IN NATURE CONSERVATION: FROM INTENT TO ACTION ,” WWFInternational, accessed March 29, 2021, https://wwfint.awsassets.panda.org/downloads/independent_review___independent_panel_of_experts__final_report_24_nov_2020.pdf. ^
  36. “Report Clears WWF of Complicity in Violent Abuses by Conservation Rangers,” The Guardian (Guardian News and Media, November 25, 2020), https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/nov/25/report-clears-wwf-of-complicity-in-violent-abuses-by-conservation-rangers. ^
  37. “Report Clears WWF of Complicity in Violent Abuses by Conservation Rangers,” The Guardian (Guardian News and Media, November 25, 2020), https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/nov/25/report-clears-wwf-of-complicity-in-violent-abuses-by-conservation-rangers. ^
  38. John Vidal, “WWF International Accused of ‘Selling Its Soul’ to Corporations,” The Guardian (Guardian News and Media, October 4, 2014), https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/oct/04/wwf-international-selling-its-soul-corporations. ^
  39. John Vidal, “WWF International Accused of ‘Selling Its Soul’ to Corporations,” The Guardian (Guardian News and Media, October 4, 2014), https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/oct/04/wwf-international-selling-its-soul-corporations. ^
  40. Marc Gunther, “Corporate Ties Bedevil Green Groups,” CNNMoney (Cable News Network), accessed March 29, 2021, https://money.cnn.com/2008/11/13/news/companies/corporate_green.fortune/index.htm. ^
  41. “Partnerships,” WWF (World Wildlife Fund), accessed March 29, 2021, https://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/partnerships. ^
  42. “William K. Reilly,” William K. Reilly, accessed March 29, 2021, https://www.williamkreilly.com/. ^
  43. “DuPont De Nemours: Violation Tracker,” DuPont de Nemours | Violation Tracker, accessed March 29, 2021, https://violationtracker.goodjobsfirst.org/prog.php?parent=dupont-de-nemours&order=pen_year&sort=desc. ^
  44. Chronicle Staff Writer Susan Sward, “Critics Question Impartiality of SFO Runway Study / Feinstein’s Husband Part-Owner of Firm Conducting Report and Has 6% Stake in Northwest Airlines,” SFGATE (San Francisco Chronicle, August 6, 2012), https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Critics-Question-Impartiality-of-SFO-Runway-Study-2755460.php. ^
  45. “World Wildlife Fund, Inc.,” LittleSis, accessed March 29, 2021, https://littlesis.org/org/37529-World_Wildlife_Fund,_Inc./interlocks. ^
  46. “World Wildlife Fund, Inc.,” LittleSis, accessed March 29, 2021, https://littlesis.org/org/37529-World_Wildlife_Fund,_Inc./interlocks. ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Robert Litterman
    Board Member
  2. Lawrence Linden
    Former Board Chair
  3. Carter Roberts
    President and CEO - United States
  4. Sarah Christensen
    Former Senior Program Officer

Child Organizations

  1. We Are Still In (Non-profit)
  See an error? Let us know!

Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: June - May
  • Tax Exemption Received: August 1, 1991

  • 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
    2018 Jun Form 990 $256,825,626 $258,037,473 $502,673,998 $139,602,016 Y $242,705,727 $570,889 $2,199,377 $5,004,897 PDF
    2017 Jun Form 990 $226,396,387 $247,189,949 $488,571,414 $140,402,662 Y $213,838,919 $94,033 $2,098,753 $4,207,051 PDF
    2016 Jun Form 990 $248,630,952 $230,955,849 $481,710,624 $145,153,698 Y $225,837,994 $868,592 $2,284,735 $3,929,512 PDF
    2015 Jun Form 990 $218,083,765 $225,035,121 $471,481,440 $134,447,867 Y $204,312,607 $1,307,731 $1,682,359 $4,524,424 PDF
    2014 Jun Form 990 $227,675,082 $220,790,782 $491,558,242 $133,704,323 Y $217,482,602 $810,369 $1,428,645 $4,171,652 PDF
    2013 Jun Form 990 $229,248,747 $203,731,525 $450,932,452 $132,113,971 Y $215,817,911 $568,448 $1,883,265 $4,104,754 PDF
    2012 Jun Form 990 $208,495,555 $191,549,257 $412,075,560 $140,380,980 Y $195,342,694 $752,916 $2,692,203 $3,704,209 PDF
    2011 Jun Form 990 $182,067,246 $184,039,636 $400,489,841 $132,496,415 Y $171,452,553 $583,515 $3,014,345 $3,650,764 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    World Wildlife Fund

    1250 24TH ST NW
    WASHINGTON, DC 20037-1124