Monday 5 December 2011

Untangling the ownership of EarthHour

According to the 2011 Annual Report from WWF Australia, Earth Hour is a  "grassroots environmental campaign that had its humble beginnings in Sydney in 2007."

Grassroots? How can it be "grassroots" when it was conceived and run by a major multi-national media corporation and a huge muti-national environmental outfit?

WWF Australia Annual Report 2011

 According to Wikipedia:

Earth Hour was conceived by WWF and The Sydney Morning Herald in 2007, when 2.2 million residents of Sydney participated by turning off all non-essential lights.

The Wikipedia entry also notes that:

The Australian, a competing news outlet, said that journalists at Melbourne's Age newspaper claimed they had been pressured not to write negative stories about Earth Hour because of the parent company's sponsorship arrangement. The Australian went on to say that on April 10, a statement from the journalists claimed that "Reporters were pressured not to write negative stories and story topics followed a schedule drafted by Earth Hour organisers".

What exactly is the "sponsorship arrangement" that Fairfax Media has with Earth Hour?

A quick delve into a few years worth of Fairfax annual reports shows that it is a lot more than a "sponsorship agreement". Fairfax Media actually owns 33% of Earth Hour Limited.

Fairfax Annual Report 2011

 And Earth Hour Limited first showed up in the Fairfax annual report in 2009.

Fairfax Annual Report 2009

The annual reports don't provide any breakdown as to the revenue, expenses and assets of Earth Hour Limited.

Search result for Earth Hour annual report
And funnily enough, although "Earth Hour Limited" is listed as a company that Fairfax has an interest in, I can't find an annual report for it anywhere.

Whois Lookup for earthhour

The WWF registered the domain name, so I tried searching through their annual reports as well - no luck. They talk about Earth Hour as an event, but report nothing about it financially. 

WWF key management personnel compensation

What I did discover from searching the WWF reports is that the top three managers at WWF Australia took home total compensation of just under $500,000 between them last year - that's from a total income of $19.4 million for the entire organisation. In other words, the top three managers creamed off 2.5% of all donations. Also, they took home a whopping $65,000 more in 2011 than 2010 - a 19% pay rise.

If you divide the total package by three, it comes to an average of $165,000 each. However, we know that the CEO will be getting more than the other two, and by my reckoning, that puts him into the top 1% of Australians. Who knew that the ranks of the fat cats would include the CEOs of small environmental organisations like WWF?

Anyway, to get back on track, all we really know about Earth Hour limited is that it is 33% owned by Fairfax Media. Everything else about the company is secret squirrel. I wonder if the usual SMH blather about Earth Hour 2012 will include a disclaimer that Fairfax owns 1/3 of the operation?

I doubt it.


Anonymous said...

"And funnily enough, although "Earth Hour Limited" is listed as a company that Fairfax has an interest in, I can't find an annual report for it anywhere"

It files them with the regulator, ASIC.

A quick search on the ASIC site shows it has filed accounts for 08, 09 and 10, but has yet to file accounts for the 2011 financial year.

Boy on a bike said...

ASIC. Duh. Why didn't I think of that? I'll have a look tonight - thanks.

Ubique of Perth said...

Great work Boab.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget also that the WWF executives enjoy an FBT rebate which means that their after tax salary is much higher compared with someone (who doesn't enjoy the exemption) on the same gross salary.

pat_555 said...

Here is a link to the results of an ASIC search:

It shows that the company was first registered in January 2008. You can pay for a full search (about $20 from memory) and that will give you full details including director names and some financial information.

You can search for any company at this link:

Keep up the good work!

A Conservative Teacher said...

I don't know much about "Earth Hour", but I did put together a post on "Earth Day":

Wand said...

You can also always get more data from ABN look up - see here and that then leads to this entry .. ... where Earth Hour is a apparently a public charity!

Great stuff BOAB.

Anonymous said...

Earth Hour is one-third owned by WWF, Fairfax, and Leo Burnett (the advertising agency). I don't think anyone makes any money out of it. It just makes them feel all warm and gooey inside.

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that these guys would be getting FBT perks but it's the same media organisation who jumps up and down about groups like Hillsong getting the same. Bit like double standards huh?

Anonymous said...

$165,000 pa TAX EXEMPT !!!

Elizabeth (Lizzie) B. said...

Earth Hour is such a scam, in which the ABC has also been complicit. Their reportage of the number of lights 'turned off' for it was grossly inflated last year, and relied upon unscientific WWF 'research'. A disgrace for a government funded media outfit.

High Distinction for you in Investigative Journalism, BOAB.

Nick and Nora Charles said...

Great work BOAB!

Deadman said...

Could you apply your superb skills one day to DeforestACTION/TakingITGlobal? Registered as a charity in the US and Canada, TakingITGlobal rakes in a lot of money from credulous Australian schoolchildren at the urging of their awarmist teachers.

See my Defrauding Schools, Teachers and Schoolchildren”.

Palmerston North said...

This explains why the Manawatu Standard won't report in a meaningful way on the Turitea wind farm disaster Click Palmerston North for more info on this scam.

Fyodor said...

Awesome sleuthing. Well played.

Anonymous said...

You might also want to look into the relationship between the SMH and animal rights lobbyist group "Voiceless". SMH just did a highly complimentary puff piece, overlooking the damage Voiceless have been doing to Australian industry, while failing to disclose the full nature of their own relationship with that dubious group.

Voltigeur said...

Notice that the current (well paid) CEO is a certain Dermot O'Gorman. Would this be one of Lee Rhiannon's brood, I wonder? Back when she was plain Mrs Paddy O'Gorman, (before her reincarnation as a Welsh myth) Rhiannon had three children - if Dermot is one, he's certainly keeping up the family tradition.

Anonymous said... lists "David Gregory Bourne" as a director. A quick name search also shows a David Gregory Bourne a a Director of an Australian company called Carnegie Wave Energy, Australia's 16th largest utilities company,
A check of the company's website shows that he is past CEO of WWF Australia.

John in Canada said...

Every day is Earth Day in North Korea.

Anonymous said...

That's funny, I thought it was all the work of some dude who was just a random, everyday dude who cared about the earth. Or something.

What a surprise that this "grassroots movement" is really just a(nother) big, organised leftist scam.

High Treason said...

The influence of WWF is far in excess of all rationality.The long term goal is a complete end to humans! What sort of species seeks its own extinction-deliberately? A pretty stupid one. Our society has been selectively breeding idiots for the last 40 years-those too stupid to think for themselves, too stupid or lazy to look beyond the warm fuzzy images and look at reality. The reality will be that the whole world will be like North Korea. Who will then stand up for oppressed humans?