Struggling hard just to survive
I WRITE regarding an article that appeared on December 17, in the South China Morning Post, implying that Friends of the Earth was somehow compromised because it accepted sponsorship from Henderson Land, a company it has publicly criticised over its proposed Nam Sang Wai development. We see no compromise here, nor anything new. FoE has always been open about the fact it accepts funding from companies who may be polluters or otherwise harm the environment. We split from FoE-International over this issue four years ago - an event that was reported in the Post.
Why do we accept this money? Ideally we would like to work with sponsors who have good track records in regard to the environment, but no company or person is environmentally-benign. Airlines, oil companies, fast food restaurants, newspapers, developers - all have an impact. We therefore have taken the decision to work with any company that simply wishes to improve the environment, although we refuse to endorse any products, service or commercial behaviour of any sponsor or donor.
Another crucial factor for accepting this money is survival. Green groups are not subvented by the Community Chest or the Government. Our annual membership fees do not come anywhere near covering our costs. We are competing for private sponsorship with hundreds of other charities, even government hospitals, and the fact we are a pressure group does not always attract sympathy. Ironically, as we fight to save the Earth, we are also struggling for our own survival.
So does this sponsorship compromise us? Our opposition against Nam Sang Wai speaks for itself, but this is not the only case. We have accepted funding from the Jockey Club in the past, even though we objected to the destruction of banyan trees in Happy Valley, the Kau Sai Chau golf course and the Hong Kong Stadium noise. We have also applied for funding from the Government's new Environment and Conservation Fund, yet we are critical of many government policies.
FoE is not alone in accepting assistance from such sponsors. Henderson Land also funds other green groups, and every year many schools, universities and community groups apply to green funds set up by Caltex and Shell, despite the fact the oil industry is by its very nature polluting. None of the thousands of recipients of Jockey Club money feel they are endorsing gambling by accepting the club's money. We apply the same principle in our sponsorship policy. If people want to help save us from extinction and the 'taint' of sponsorship money, we welcome them to join FoE and devote their time and ideas to making Hong Kong a greener, more pleasant place in which to live.
MEI NG, Director Friends of the Earth