Greenpeace: Bitcoin Helps Us Promote Free Speech, Independence

Tanaya Macheel
Oct 5, 2014 at 14:05 UTC
Updated Oct 13, 2014 at 12:19 UTC

Greenpeace

Greenpeace, a non-governmental campaigning organisation focused on environmental issues, announced it would begin accepting bitcoin donations last month, becoming the latest not-for-profit group to embrace the digital currency.

The move, which followed a similar announcement by United Way, is especially notable because Greenpeace does not accept donations from governments or corporations – it relies largely on small donations from the public.

CoinDesk spoke with Greenpeace chief information officer Tom Camerlinck, who explained that there were many “practical things” that motivated the organisation to adopt bitcoin into its fundraising efforts – things like lower transaction fees, the privacy of its donors and having a payment channel that allows the fraud and security team to worry less.

Camerlinck explained to CoinDesk that due to the nature of its donor base, the organisation strives to diversify and add different communities into the mix of people that funds its work.

“We like to stay nimble and go after what we see is the next major thing that’s going to make the biggest difference,” he said.

In learning about bitcoin, though, it became evident that the community values seemed very much aligned with those of Greenpeace, he said, citing privacy as a frequent concern of its donors as well as independence, free speech, sustainability and “taking chances on innovation”.

Fighting corporations

When asked why Greenpeace chose BitPay as its payments processor, Camerlinck said: “We are Greenpeace and part of our independence is that we don’t tend to promote corporations because we spend a lot of time fighting corporations.”

He made no mention of BitPay’s competitors; namely Coinbase, whose merchant base includes corporate giants like Dell, Dish Network, Expedia and PayPal.

He added:

“Independence is really important to our donors and our supporters. They understand that money can directly or indirectly influence campaigns or actions of nonprofits. […] That’s important to our independence.”

Referring to the organisation’s goals of net neutrality, privacy, free speech and anti-government spying, Camerlinck said that free speech is an especially serious issue for Greenpeace.

“We take our free speech pretty seriously and we exercise our free speech quite a bit and its part of our campaign style,” he said. “I think that’s where a lot of the overlap is.”

Not excluding Greenpeace’s environmental focus, he concluded: “There’s the sustainability issue. The environment is everyone’s issue. We’re going to have an overlap if you live on this planet.”

Beginning steps

Greenpeace has many ongoing projects in countries and regions that many would argue have a much greater use case for bitcoin than the US and other developed areas. Right now, bitcoin fundraising is available only in the US due to the structure and separation of its regional operations.

While there isn’t a worldwide donation page, Camerlinck said he “would encourage” its other regional divisions to follow the US’s lead on bitcoin integration.

“If there’s an opportunity to do something innovative and be one of the first out of the door – anything that’s going to get more money for the mission, more people on the streets making change and doing good for the environment – we try to do that.”

Greenpeace doesn’t do a lot of directed donations, so any they do receive in bitcoin will go to its general fund, which Camerlinck explained is to avoid having money tangled up in various reserves when it needs access to it.

For the time being, the organisation will convert all bitcoin funds back into dollars. Joking that Greenpeace sometimes takes liberties with the law, Camerlinck explained that it is very conservative about its internal financial dealings and isn’t ready to commit to bitcoin beyond its current engagement.

Disclaimer: CoinDesk founder Shakil Khan is an investor in BitPay.

Images via Greenpeace

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