Friends of the Earth International
Formation1969 (55 years ago) (1969)
Area served
75 national member groups
Key people
  • Karin Nansen
  • Jagoda Munić
  • Hemantha Withanage (chair)
  • Choony Kim
  • Asad Rehman
  • Godwin Uyi Ojo
  • Kwami Dodzi Kpondzo
  • Silvia Quiroa[1]
Some 5,000 local activist groups

Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) is an international network of grassroots environmental organizations in 73 countries. About half of the member groups call themselves "Friends of the Earth" in their own languages; the others use other names.[2] The organization was founded in 1969 in San Francisco by David Brower, Donald Aitken and Gary Soucie after Brower's split with the Sierra Club[3] because of the latter's positive approach to nuclear energy. The founding donation of $500,000 (in 2019 USD) was provided by Robert Orville Anderson, the owner of Atlantic Richfield oil company.[4] It became an international network of organizations in 1971 with a meeting of representatives from four countries: U.S., Sweden, the UK and France.[5]

FoEI currently has a secretariat (based in Amsterdam, Netherlands) which provides support for the network and its agreed major campaigns.[6] The executive committee of elected representatives from national groups sets policy and oversees the work of the secretariat. In 2016, Uruguayan activist Karin Nansen was elected to serve as chair of the organization. Sri Lankan activist Hemantha Withanage has served as chair of FoEI since 2021.[7]

Campaign issues

Friends of the Earth International is an international membership organisation, with members spread across the world. Its advocacy programs focus on environmental, economic and social issues, highlighting their political and human rights contexts.

As per its website, the current campaign priorities of Friends of the Earth International are:[8] economic justice and resisting neoliberalism; forests and biodiversity; food sovereignty; and climate justice and energy. The campaign priorities of FOEI are set at its bi-annual general meeting. Additionally, FOEI also plans campaigns in other fields, such as waste and overcomsumption, international financial institutions, ecological debt, mining and extractive industries, and opposition to nuclear power.[8][9] FOEI has campaigned for the closure of the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant in California.[10] FOEI also supports campaigns from the regions or member groups, such as the one on the consumption and intensive production of meat (Meat Atlas) by Friends of the Earth Europe.[11]

FOEI claims that it has been successful as it has eliminated billions in taxpayer subsidies to corporate polluters, reformed the World Bank to address environmental and human rights concerns, pushed the debate on global warming to pressure the U.S. and U.K. to attempt the best legislation possible, stopped more than 150 destructive dams and water projects worldwide, pressed and won landmark regulations of strip mines and oil tankers and banned international whaling.[12] Its critics claim that the organization tries only to obtain media attention (as by releasing the song "Love Song to the Earth"), but does not stay with locals to actually solve complicated problems, and that it prevents development in developing countries. They have also been critical of its policy to accept high levels of funding from companies and charities related to oil and gas.[13]

One of Friends of the Earth's most recent campaigns and legal battles was the "Shell Case", led by Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth Netherlands). In 2021, a court in the Netherlands ruled in a landmark case that the oil giant Shell must reduce its emissions in 2030 by 45% compared to 2019 levels. This was the first time that a company had been legally obliged to align its policies with the Paris Agreement.

Structure of the network

The member organization in a particular country may name itself Friends of the Earth or an equivalent translated phrase in the national language, e.g., Friends of the Earth (US), Friends of the Earth (EWNI) (England Wales and Northern Ireland), Amigos de la Tierra (Spain and Argentina). However, roughly half of the member groups work under their own names, sometimes reflecting an independent origin and subsequent accession to the network, such as Pro Natura (Switzerland), the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement, Environmental Rights Action (FOE Nigeria) and WALHI (FOE Indonesia).

Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) is supported by a secretariat based in Amsterdam, and an executive committee known as ExCom.[14] The ExCom is elected by all member groups at a general meeting held every two years, and it is the ExCom which employs the secretariat.[15] At the same general meeting, overall policies and priority activities are agreed.

In addition to work which is coordinated at the FoEI level, national member groups are free to carry out their own campaigns and to work bi- or multi-laterally as they see fit, as long as this does not go against agreed policy at the international level.


The Meat Atlas is an annual report on the methods and impact of industrial animal agriculture. The publication consists of 27 short essays and, with the help of graphs, visualises facts about the production and consumption of meat. The Meat Atlas is jointly published by Friends of the Earth and Heinrich Böll Foundation.[16]

Notable supporters

Member organizations

We are fed up
We are fed up!-protests: Friends of the Earth Germany is part of the coalition which organizes the demonstration.[18]



North America


See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ "Excom". Friends of the Earth International. April 2014. Retrieved 2017-02-15.
  2. ^ Organisation
  3. ^ Thomson, Jennifer (2017). "Surviving the 1970s: The Case of Friends of the Earth", Environmental History. Vol. 22(2), p. 235
  4. ^ Shellenberger, Michael. "Why Renewables Advocates Protect Fossil Fuel Interests, Not The Climate". Forbes. Retrieved 2019-06-18.
  5. ^ "History". April 2014. Archived from the original on 12 April 2014. Retrieved 25 May 2016.
  6. ^ "Friends of the Earth ticked off over claims in anti-fracking leaflet". The Guardian. 4 January 2017. Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  7. ^ "Executive committee - Friends of the Earth International". 2021-03-04. Retrieved 2023-08-14.
  8. ^ a b "Home - Friends of the earth international". Archived from the original on 25 March 2014. Retrieved 25 May 2016.
  9. ^ Meyer, Jan-Henrik (2014). ""Where do we go from Wyhl?" Transnational Anti-Nuclear Protest targeting European and International Organizations in the 1970s". Historical Social Research. 39 (1): 212–235. doi:10.12759/hsr.39.2014.1.212-235. Retrieved 25 May 2016.
  10. ^ Milman, Oliver (2024-03-20). "A nuclear plant's closure was hailed as a green win. Then emissions went up". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077.
  11. ^ "Home - Friends of the earth international". Archived from the original on 7 March 2014. Retrieved 25 May 2016.
  12. ^ "United States of America - Friends of the Earth International". 8 November 2013. Retrieved 18 January 2017.
  13. ^ "Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth hit back over 'out-of-touch' criticism". The Guardian. 13 June 2011. Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  14. ^ "International secretariat". Archived from the original on 23 May 2010. Retrieved 25 May 2016.
  15. ^ "Home - Friends of the earth international". Archived from the original on 9 April 2010. Retrieved 25 May 2016.
  16. ^ Meat Atlas, Friends of the Earth, download Meat Atlas as pdf
  17. ^ Harry, Bill (2003). The George Harrison Encyclopedia. London: Virgin Books. pp. 28, 85. ISBN 978-0753508220.
  18. ^ "Friends of the Earth Europe, We are fed up: 30,000 march in Berlin, 19 January 2014".