Environmental group apologizes for record losses last year after employee lost campaign funds on international currency markets
Greenpeace International last year lost €3.8m (£3m) of donations through speculation on currency markets.
According to a statement released on Sunday, an employee at the environmental campaign group’s Amsterdam headquarters had in the second half of 2013 taken out currency exchange contracts that speculated on a weak euro. As a result of the euro strengthening later in the year, Greenpeace had to file record losses when closing accounts at the end of the year.
Its 2013 annual report will show a budget deficit of €6.8m.
“We offer a full apology to our supporters for the series of errors that led to the loss”, said the group’s statement. “We further wish to reassure people that every possible action is being taken to avoid the possibility of such a loss ever occurring again in future.”
Greenpeace says the staff member, who worked in its international finance unit, had not been acting for personal gain but had failed to obtain authorisation from senior management. He had since been released from his contract.
With an annual income of €72.9m in 2013, last year’s loss of €3.8m represents a significant hit for Greenpeace International, though the organisation said none of its current campaigns would be affected.
With combined funds from over 40 national organisations, Greenpeace International has a global budget of around €300m. The most significant damage may be to the trust of its supporters: 90% of the organisation’s funding comes from small donations of under €100.
Greenpeace’s International programme director, Pascal Husting, told the Guardian that the organisation did not generally use its funds to make investments or speculate on the stock market , but kept money in deposit accounts where it could be withdrawn quickly when needed, such as when 28 of its activists were arrested after staging a protest at a Russian offshore oil rig last year.
The organisation claims to only invest in property where it is considerably cheaper to buy than to rent, such as in Moscow or London.
But Husting said that since Greenpeace received most of its donations in euros but had to spend them in other currencies, the organisation was highly exposed to currency fluctuations and took out exchange contracts to protect its assets.
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