Going Corporate

Show me the Money!

Wow, if John Muir could see his beloved organization now!

After so many years of hard and honest work, the Sierra Club went corporate, and in a big way.

The Sierra Club was grassroots funded until the emergence of the environmental alarmist movement in the mid- to late 1990s. When it became desirable for companies to “greenwash” their activities, these companies found it easiest and cheapest to seek endorsements from, and in return to fund, environmental groups, including the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club came late to this new nonprofit funding model, and it began slowly.  Confronted with a continuing funding shortfall, the Club’s management chose to go where the money was and followed the footsteps of other national environmental organizations – an alliance with big business.

But, they did not begin with management. They started with the other business deep pocket, labor unions.

The Sierra Club’s first effort at tapping into deep-pocket money was creation of the “Blue-Green Alliance.” Labor unions were losing clout and environmental organizations were short of money. Together they helped each other find, fund and campaign for candidates that supported both labor and green issues. They backed Ralph Nader in the 2000 Presidential election and later created a true political party, running Tom Moore for Minneapolis City Council. Moore earned 2.65% of the vote.

While the Blue-Green Alliance is still around, its focus is on green jobs and the unions don’t see the Sierra Club’s activities as doing much to create meaningful economic opportunity.  The Sierra Club, however, found its true Golden Goose: corporate money.  Below are links to two areas in particular where the Sierra Club’s corporate interest paid huge dividends.  The first is its colossal sell-out to Clorox, and the second is their more recent for-profit venture with Sungevity where the Sierra Club gets a $750 kickback on every solar product they sell.


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