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WWF was the original acronym for the "World Wildlife Fund", an international environmental organization. WWF International is the international umbrella organization for the affiliated national organizations. It is considered a member of the Big Green environmental groups. It is a member of Natural Resources Council of America.

As the organization diversified its focus beyond wildlife and into broader environmental issues it changed its name in 1986 to World Wide Fund For Nature. As an international organization, however, agreeing on a name change required the approval of its national organisations. The national divisions of World Wildlife Fund in the United States and Canada refused to change their name. However, after the resolution of a legal battle with the U.S-based World Wrestling Federation, the universally adopted name became WWF.

However it is important to realise that the National Organisations re all separate legal entities, responsible to their own Boards and accounable to their own donors. The WWW International is an umbrella organisation who's Board and committees are drawn from the Boards and CEOs of the National Organisations.

Historical confusions

While it is one of the largest international environmental organizations, in many countries WWF is viewed as amongst the most conservative environmental groups -- to the point where some critics maintain that it functions mainly to perform as a "green-washing" machine.

Who were the founders?

  1. The claims are that the organisation was founded by Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands appears to be highly unlikely. Wikipedia says that he "helped found" the WWF and became its first President in 1961.[1] but other web-sites give the Duke of Edinbugh priority, and others discount both equally. There is no doubt that Prince Bernhard exerted influence over the organisation in the decade after 1968 with the financial backing of Dr Anton Rupert.
  2. Another claim is that it was founded by Sir Peter Scott in England (son of Scott of the Antarctic. But Wikipedia just says he was "one" of the founders, and that he designed the Panda logo. [2] This is almost certainly correct
  3. In the tobacco industry, the claim is made that the funder/founder of the organisation was the South African multimillionairre owner of the Rembrandt/Rothmans (Rupert Group) of tobacco companies, Dr Anton E Rupert. However, he took control later and ran the International umbrella group behind the scenes from the 1970 period on, with the help of his friend Prince Bernhard. They turned it into a backroom Bilderberg group.

    [Bildeberg participants are between 120 and 150 political leaders, experts from industry, finance, academia and the media - mostly from Europe with the rest from North America; one third from politics/government (with a few secret service executives) and the rest, bankers, politicians, directors of large businesses and board members from large publicly traded corporations, including IBM, Xerox, Royal Dutch Shell, Nokia and Daimler]

Dr Anton Rupert

A document from the Philip Morris archives at a time they were buying the company called the Rembrandt Group (September 15 1981 -- Which has now become now RESTRICTED) was a resumé of Rupert, which originally revealed

As a chemistry lecturer Dr Anton Rupert started making cigarettes in his garage. In 1952, he purchased Rembrandt which grew to become a major South African conglomerate. Dr Rupert has paid a great deal of attention to environmental conservation and his company has been prominent in funding fine arts. He has also played an important role in the Small Business Development Corporation (SBDC). Dr Rupert's personal interests include music, drama and historical buildings. He is celebrated for starting the World Wildlife Fund

Philip Morris

Philip Morris had substantial licensing agreements with Rembrandt/Rothmans, who owned part of their Australian operations. The initial idea to purchase a share in Rupert's Rembrandt Group of tobacco and liquor businesses (July 1977) was made by Australian Philip Morris executive (later CEO) Geoffrey C Bible. The project was known within Philip Morris by the codename '"FOX"', and Dr Anton Rupert became Dr. Fox. The basic Bible document which assessed the company at this time has not been Restricted, but it makes no mention of his WWF involvement: 39 page document

It is certainly not inconceivable that Philip Morris ended up with some margin of control or influence over the WWF, since they were conducting many similar secret operations aiming at exerting public influence over health and environmental issues at the time. Their chief strategist/lobbyist in New York at this time was another Australian (a Norwegian migrant) Andrew Whist who claims to have headed important moves to conserve wild-life while he was working as the chief lobbyist for the Australian tobacco company.

The November 1978 "Call News" internal newspaper of Philip Morris carries a long article in praise of the WWF.[https://www.industrydocumentslibrary.ucsf.edu/tobacco/docs/plyj0103 "Wildlife & US". It says that

"Philip Morris has taken WWF-US under its wing and given it a New York homebase for its Corporate Support Campaign which is chaired by Mr Cullman ( Joseph F. Cullman 3rd was the Emeritus Chairman of Philip Morris Companies (which included Kraft, General Foods, Miller's Beer, etc.)

It is not even surprising that this is the first time any conservative organization has ever undertaken a national corporate solicitation program. Director of Corporate Development for WWF-U.S., Laurie Staub, says the creation of both the New York operating base and the national campaign itself are the result of Mr Cullman's belief that "corporations must begin to recognize their responsibility to a planned conservation management program to preserve the quality of life."

[snip] World Wildlife Fund U.S. is the American affiliate of World Wildlife Fund International which works in conjunction with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) -- a group consisting of more than 700 scientists from government and nongovernmental bodies around the globe -- to maintain the plant and animal ecosystems that are essential to human life.

Founded 17 years ago by Sir Peter Scott of England, WWF is headquartered in Morges, Switzerland near PM Europe's headquarters in Lausanne and is currently represented in 27 countries around the world.

The article also reveals that Julius Potocsny's (PM Manager Corporate Relations Presentations) film "Unfinished Symphony" for the World Wildlife Fund was an award finalist in the 21st Institute of Film & TV Festival of New York. On the adjacent page there is an article about how the Australian Philip Morris Wildlife Fund which was established in 1977 (under Andrew Whist), served (it says) to protect the dingo and the spinifex-hopping mouse and reintroduce the brush turkey into the State of Victoria.

The company's Swiss subsidiary known as FTR (Fabriques De Tabac Reunies) also recognised the need and the PR value and established an agency devoted to the preservation and protection of Swiss wildlife, which they named after a popular FTR cigarette, "Fondation Bruneite". The two top executives scientists of FTR (Helmut Gaisch and Helmut Reif) were Philip Morris's main scientific lobbyists in Europe. [3] [4]

The Philip Morris head office gave generous grants to various charitable organisations that they usually controlled (such as the International Tennis Hall of Fame) while allowing their top executives to receive 'bonus' payments from these 'charities' in the form of director's fees. Joseph F Cullman 3rd, as Chairman Emeritus of Philip Morris Companies, was also a tennis fanatic, so naturally he was a Director, Chairman and head of the Executive Committee of the International Tennis Hall of Fame ... and received directors fees (1993) of $29,500. Two other PM executives also received the same in directors fees in this year and 1994 (at least). Also in 1993 Cullman recorded receipt of directors fees from the World Wildlife Fund (The Conservation Foundation) of $62,500. [1]

[Joseph F. Cullman, 3rd was still on the board of the World Wildlife Fund-U.S. in January 1994]

The above document also lists Philip Morris executives taking directors fees from phantom organisations which the company funded for use in conducting illicit and underhand operations (mainly giving junkets to politicians for visits to exotic locations, as a form of bribe). The American-European Community Association (AECA) was a joint operation to infiltrate the European Parliament, conducted jointly with Sir David Nicolson, of Rothmans and Andrew Whist. Hamish Maxwell the 1993 chairman and CEO of Philip Morris, received $250,000 in directors fees from the AECA, and another $180,000 from the equally fictitious New York Society for international Affairs (NYSIA).

WWF's published history

1947 The Conservation Foundation, a precursor to the WWF was founded in New York City "in support of capitalism-friendly ecological practices." [5] It merged with the WWF in 1990.

1954 May 29-31 An international conference was held at the Hotel de Bilderberg in the Netherlands with leaders from European countries and the United States. They decided to come together each year as the Bilderberg Group (120 to 150 elite businessmen and politicians) Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands led the group and became the first Chairman. Funding came from the large corporations who had a seat at the table.

1960 British biologist, Sir Julian Huxley, as the first Director General of UNESCO and co-founder of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN - now the World Conservation Union)

1960 Dec Businessman Victor Stolan proposed the need for an international funding organisation in reaction to a Julian Huxley article in the Observer newspaper on environmental crisis in Africa. Huxley advised him to contact ornithologist Max Nicholson, Director General of Britain's Nature Conservancy and a key member of the Politics and Economic Planning think tank. (provided business funding for progressive projects).

1961 April 29 Meeting of 16 of the world's leading conservationist (representing IUCN and other conservation groups) at Morges on Lake Geneva in Switzerland, This was the base of the IUCN (the Vice President of IUCN was Peter Scott). They created the Morges Manifesto.

1961 Sep 11The WWF was established as a Swiss Foundation/charity registered in Zurich. Opened its first office in Morges at the IUCN villa. American business aviator, Godfrey A Rockefeller (Bell Hellicopters) from the Conservation Foundation established this office and assembled the staff.

1961 Sept 28 Launch date in London. Key members were Peter Scott, Max Nicholson, Guy Mountfort and Julian Huxley. Logo was a Rhino.

1961 Oct 6The UK Daily Mirror run a "Shock Issue" with 7 pages devoted to the African wildlife emergency.

1961 Nov 23WWF launches its first UK appeal with HRH The Duke of Edinburgh as President

1961 Dec 1 Only a few months later this was the American launch of WWF-U.S. Inc. in Washington DC

1962-78 Fritz Vollman, a journalist with economic credentials became the head of the WWF-International. The organisation set up 16 national organisation under his leadership.

1966 The famous panda symbol was devised (Chi Chi). Scottish naturalist Gerald Watterson made a preliminary sketch, and Peter Scott designed the finished logo. (different to the one used today)

1968 One of the richest men in South Africa (and a lifelong friend of Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands), Anton Rupert, (Rothmans/Rembrandt cigarettes) established a South African branch of the WWF under the name Southern African Nature Foundation (SANF). [6] He became President of the SAFN and a board member and trustee of WWF International (serving until 1990 - despite the 3 year limit on terms). From this period on, Rupert dominated the International division by funding many of the administrative functions. [7]

1970 At the urging of Anton Rupert, Prince Bernhard set up a US$10 million fund known as The 1001:A Nature Trust. This was done by recruiting a elite group of a thousand wealthy businessmen (modelled on Prince Bernhard's Bilderberg Group) with each donating $10,000.

1971 Anton Rupert donated the services of Charles de Haes, an executive of Rothmans International, who was seconded to the Swiss International organisation as its Director General in charge of fund-raising for the endowment fund. The 1001 Club became almost the Bilderberg Conference group under another name. Club members consisted of the elite executives from the banking sector, general business sectors, intelligence, the military, and heads of states -- with special emphasis on Anton Rupert's business associates from South Africa. Private Eye magazine in the UK later managed to get a list and published them. Lists for 1972 and 1987 were also leaked and published.

The 1001 Club was used by the South African business community as a way to dodge the UN Boycott over apartheid and it closely resembled Berhnard's own circle of acquintances. It was described as

"an association where European royalty rubs shoulders with leading industrials but also with some distinctly dubious figures from the worlds of grand corruption and secret intelligence. Membership of elite international networks and societies" enabled African leaders "to link global elites in a discretion they find congenial" (It is a secret societies where) "membership provides opportunities for doing political deals unobserved by the mass of the population and for forming bonds of solidarity that go beyond the ordinary."[2]

1975 Charles de Haes achieved the goal of raising the $10m trust fund (as a basic endowment) and became Joint Director General of the WWF-International. He was co-director with Fritz Vollman until 1977 Then he was to remain as the sole Director-General at WWF International until 1993. The Endowment fund was devoted to administration.

In this year the Lockheed bribery scandal also implicated Prince Bernhard for having received a $1.1 million bribe. This led to a constitutional crisis in the Netherlands. He was forced to resign from the WWF-International, but Anton Rupert remained for another decade,

1977-1993 Charles de Haes was sole Director General

Presidents and Chairmen

  • Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, WWF (Europe) first president [8]
  • Peter Scott, first chairman and logo designer: WWF (London) Sept 28 1961 (launch)

• Godfrey Rockefeller Executive Director o WWF (1972-1978)

  • Ira N Gabrielson, first President WWF-U.S. (1962)
  • Russell E Train, first Vice President WWF-U.S. (1962)

Former Director General's

Accessed February 2012: [3]

Various WWF Branches

Environmental Criticism

The WWF has been criticised for being sponsored by a number of industrial companies that are actively involved in deforestation and other environmental abuses. In December 2002, WWF appointed Linda Coady, a former Weyerhaeuser Co executive to the position of vice-president of its Pacific regional office [9].

From the same article:

But the panda cash machine isn't the group's only source of money. The World Wildlife Fund also rakes in millions from corporations, including Alcoa, Citigroup, the Bank of America, Kodak, J.P. Morgan, the Bank of Tokyo, Philip Morris, Waste Management and DuPont. They even offer an annual conservation award funded by and named after the late oil baron J. Paul Getty. It hawks its own credit card and showcases its own online boutique. As a result, WWF's budget has swelled to over $100 million a year and its not looking back. [10]

See J. Paul Getty Wildlife Conservation Prize.

A recent investigation by The Unsuitablog [11] found that WWF were unwilling to commit that they would pull out of a rainforest funding agreement with the global bank HSBC if it transpired that HSBC had renaged on their own environmental policies. The value of the agreement is estimated to be around £1 million per year.


"In 1961, a limited number of organizations around the world – such as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) and The Conservation Foundation – were trying to meet conservation needs, but were desperately short of funds.

"A small but influential group of Europeans—scientists, naturalists, business and political leaders—rose to the occasion: on September 11, 1961 World Wildlife Fund was formed and soon set up shop at IUCN’s headquarters in Morges, Switzerland. H.R.H. Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands became the organization’s first president.

"Several leaders arranged the key organizational meeting for the new venture. Those involved include noted biologist and African wildlife enthusiast Sir Julian Huxley, IUCN vice president Sir Peter Scott and director-general of the British Nature Conservancy E. M. Nicholson. The decision was made to establish World Wildlife Fund as an international fundraising organization that will work in collaboration with existing conservation groups to bring substantial financial support to the conservation movement on a worldwide scale. The new organization will raise funds through national appeals and, using the best scientific advice available from IUCN and other sources, channel the money to appropriate organizations. The first call for broad support was the Morges Manifesto, signed in 1961 by 16 of the world’s leading conservationists. The Morges Manifesto stated that while the expertise to protect the world environment existed, the financial support to achieve this protection did not, and that these conditions supported the development of a nongovernmental organization that would work to protect the world's environment.

"H.R.H. Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, became president of the British National Appeal, the first national organization in the World Wildlife Fund family. The second national organization to be formed was World Wildlife Fund, Inc. (WWF) – the U.S. appeal. Incorporated in the District of Columbia on December 1, 1961, WWF named Dwight D. Eisenhower its President of Honor. Ira N. Gabrielson and Russell E. Train were the first president and vice president, respectively." [4]

Nigerian Oil

1998 Sep The Mother Jones magazine carried a short piece on the Royal Dutch/Shell and its "dirty dealings in Nigeria, where the company has extracted billions worth of oil. On the other side of the globe, the Canadian arm of the World Wildlife Fund nominated the oil giant for the 1997 British Columbia Minister's Environmental Award. [12]

Case studies

Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch articles


  1. https://www.industrydocuments.ucsf.edu/docs/lkgk0191
  2. Stephen Ellis, & Gerrie ter Haar, Worlds of Power: Religious Thought and Political Practice in Africa. published by Oxford University Press. (2004)
  3. WWF DG Bios, organizational web page, accessed February 21, 2012.
  4. History, WWF, accessed October 5, 2008.

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