Greenpeace. Organization, Legal Foundation, Trends and Risks

Essay, 2019
11 Pages



The term NGO (non-governmental organization) was first developed in 1945 following the United Nations’ (UN) need to differentiate its charger between the various participating rights of the specialized intergovernmental agencies and the various private international organizations (Gray, 1999). The NGO structures vary significantly based on the activities of the NGO. The paper will focus on Greenpeace – an international NGO that focuses on the environment and sustainability. The paper provides an overview of the organization, the legal foundation, trends, capacity, potential, and risks.

Organization Overview

Greenpeace is an NGO that is composed of independent organizations whose core mission is to support a change in behavior and attitudes, conserve and protect the environment, as well as promote peace in the world. Greenpeace is made up of 26 independent regional and national organizations in more than 55 countries throughout Africa, Europe, the Pacific, Asia, and the Americas. The organization is independent of corporate and political interests as it does not accept political or corporate donations to undertake its various programs (Stichting Greenpeace Council, 2017). The various campaigns of the NGO use creative confrontation and non-violence as a means of exposing the environmental problems in the globe as well as promoting the development of solutions to such problems. The solutions that are developed by the organization are focused on achieving a peaceful and green future. The main goal of Greenpeace is to ensure that the earth has the ability to effectively nurture its diversity. Also known as Greenpeace International (GPI), the NGO was registered in Amsterdam, Netherlands. GPI undertakes a number of roles, such as coordinating the campaigns, developing policies and standards, and well as support the various national and regional organizations (NROs) through technical support and grants.

Legal Foundation

The legal foundation of Greenpeace includes the Right to Protest, which had been upheld by many courts throughout the world (Hayman, Lawo, Crack, Kontinen, Okitoi, & Pratt, 2013). For example, the protests of 29 activists from Greenpeace were not convicted of trespass after breaching the nuclear plant and exposing the dire security. The judge in the case argued that the right to protest through direct non-violent action is to be protected and valued if modern democracy is to survive. The other legal foundation is the right to expression, especially the right to free speech in the defense of the environment (Beauclerk, Pratt, & Judge, 2011). The other legal foundations of the operations of Greenpeace include the protocols signed by nations, such as the Kyoto Protocol, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and The Environmental Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty, amongst others (Greenpeace, 2019)


There are a number of trends that currently characterize the work of Greenpeace. The trends include the changes to the way people think about consumerisms. Greenpeace has held over 186 events that showcase how the products can be used to make something else. The campaigns were dubbed Make SMTHING. The other trend is that of Rethink IT, which is focused on ensuring that the IT sector changes its process of production to ensure that IT wastes are recycled rather than be dumped. The other trend is food with love, which aimed at preventing the use of pesticides, overconsumption, and the impact of the cow industry on the environment through the adoption of eco-farming processes and practices. Moreover, there is the Break free from the plastic trend that is aimed at ensuring a plastic-free future. The trend is drawn from the impacts that plastics have on land as well as oceans. The other trends include climate justice, among others (Greenpeace, 2017).


The organization has significant capacity in terms of the people power. The NGO currently has millions of supporters of the various causes. This massive support for the various programs of GPI ensures that the organization is able to shed light on the various issues at hand, especially focusing on fighting global warming, defense of democracy, and promotion of sustainability of foods, protecting the oceans and forests, prevention of toxic substances, and saving nature, such as the Arctic. Currently, the community of supporters of Greenpeace is approximately 72 million. This number includes the volunteers, the donors, the people who follow the social media activity of Greenpeace, as well as those who took actions, such as signing petitions (Greenpeace, 2017; Ezbawy, 2012). Furthermore, over 3 million people have supported Greenpeace in terms of financial aid with over 80 percent of the donations from the supporters being long-term in nature. This allows GPI to plan for the future. The Greenpeace is, therefore, not able to work without dedicated donors, volunteers, and staff. The NGO has a dedicated staff due to the safe, inspiring, inclusive, and diverse workplace created in the organization.

The other capacity of the organization is to harness the power of people in the form of fundraising. The activities are funded almost in entirety through donations provided by various people from all over the world. The NGO focuses on seeking donations from people who care about the earth and are bent on creating long-lasting change. The organization has also been able to develop partnerships with private foundations that have similar values to those of the GPI. The capacity of independence allows GPI to undertake effective campaigns without interference from intergovernmental organizations, political parties, corporations, and governments. Due to the capacity to be transparent, the NGO has been able to undertake various investigations, which are at the core of its mission without any external influences (Greenpeace, 2019). The donations received by the organization allows it to be independent while making the various campaigners and activists the main core of the activities needed to bring about the changes.

The other capacity of the organization is the responsible and respectful use of the donations and gifts from the supporters. The gifts and donations are used by GPI to create the greatest possible impacts in the manner in which the funds are invested in the campaigns. Therefore, the organization focuses on balancing the costs against the results that are achieved. The other capacity of the organization is linked to the various internal principles. The internal principles of the organization, especially those linked to fundraising, comply with the good practices of fundraising in the countries in which the NGO operates while also complying with the various professional codes (Greenpeace, 2019). Additionally, Greenpeace has the capacity to track the donations that are intended for specific purposes so that it is able to report on the amounts that are raised for the given purpose as well as how the funds from the specific campaigns are spent. The ability to track the donations ensures that the funds are only used for specific purposes.

The organization also has the capacity for research and development (R&D). Unlike the traditional organizations whose research and development department are focused on innovation, the R&D at GPI is undertaken though strengthening and underwriting the various campaigns evidence base. The science unit of the GPI undertakes research and development through the use of oversight and provision of stable and good scientific research and service as well as the effective communication of the technical and scientific trends, issues of quality control, anticipating the future risks and issues as well as starting the debates that link the society to the science (Stichting Greenpeace Council, 2017). The organization’s R&D also engages in how the new ways of work can be undertaken, such as through the use of policy action and research (Stichting Greenpeace Council, 2017).


The NGO has the potential to include social impacts in all the aspects of its operations. The organization is a signatory of the INGO Accountability charter thus it has the potential to ensure that its activities remain transparent and accountable. The other potential of the organization is to increase the scope of the organizations and NGOs in its network. An increase in the number of organizations in the network will ensure that more people can be mobilized to campaign for a more peaceful and green future (Development in Practice, 2013). The NGO also has the opportunity to develop more innovative ways that the activists and campaigners can use to better challenge the corporate abuses, and use of government power in the destruction of the environment as well as the creation of insecurity (Greenpeace, 2017). New media, such as Twitter, Instagram, as well as Facebook and websites, are increasingly being used to raise awareness about the state capture by corporations as well as political corruption.


GPI faces a number of risks that include both in terms of operational and strategic risks, amongst others. The strategic risks include the closing of civic space through government actions and lawsuits (such as the two lawsuits that are currently facing Greenpeace USA and GPI) through the judicial systems in the countries (Stichting Greenpeace Council, 2017). The lawsuits are intended as a means through which the GPI and its partner organizations can be intimidated from exposing the corporate power abuses that lead to biodiversity loss and environmental degradation in large scale (Loveluck, 2013).


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