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Call it "Panda meets gas pump" PDF Print E-mail
Justice News
Thursday, 10 June 2004 18:00

The World Wildlife Fund of Canada, o­ne of the country's most muscular
conservation groups, has hired a veteran of the oil patch to be its new
president and chief executive officer.

Oil-patch veteran to head conservation fund

Monday, June 7, 2004 - Page A10

Call it "Panda meets gas pump."

The World Wildlife Fund of Canada, o­ne of the country's most muscular
conservation groups, has hired a veteran of the oil patch to be its new
president and chief executive officer.

The announcement is to be made today.

Mike Russill, who starts his new job in August, spent decades in a variety
of senior marketing positions with Sunoco Inc., Petro-Canada, and Shell
Canada Ltd. before he took early retirement in 2001.

After that, Mr. Russill, 59, managed his own investments and spent some time
as chairman of the board of the auto-parts recycling concern Aadco
Automotive Inc.

"I'm an oily guy," he said in an interview from his home in Oakville, o­nt.,
adding: "I'm sure there will be some people who say, 'I don't understand his
appointment. What direction is World Wildlife Fund going in?' "

Mr. Russill replaces Monte Hummel, who was head of WWF for more than a
quarter of a century.

Mr. Hummel built the organization from a two-person office in 1978 to 120
people today, with a who's who of corporate leaders o­n its board of

The organization had an operating budget of $15.7-million in 2003. Mr.
Hummel will stay o­n staff as WWF's president emeritus.

The move is designed to free Mr. Hummel to do more conservation work in the
boreal forest and the Arctic.

Mr. Hummel applauded the hire of Mr. Russill, even though he acknowledged
that it is "a bit of a mould-breaker."

But he said it's a signal that stereotypes about the conservation movement
are out of date.

"I think it says there are good people everywhere and the secret is to find
them and get linked up," he said in an interview. "No sector has got a
corner o­n righteousness."

Elizabeth May, executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada, which works
in collaboration with the corporate sector o­n conservation issues but which,
unlike WWF, does not accept corporate donations, said the appointment of Mr.
Russill has the potential to be "brilliant at creating links" between the
environmental sector and business.

But she warned that because the biggest threat to Canada's species and
habitat comes from global climate change, "alliances with the fossil-fuel
sector are a particularly slippery slope."

She added: "It's very important for environmental organizations to recognize
that our key mission is to shut it down."

Robert B. (Biff) Matthews, chairman of WWF's board of directors, said that
the hire of Mr. Russill is a signal about the current strategy of
conservation organizations.

More and more, he said, conservation successes will depend o­n bringing
together groups affected by environmental issues.

This includes aboriginal interests and corporate interests, particularly in
Canada's next big environmental debate, which is scheduled to heat up this
summer: a pipeline in the Mackenzie Valley.

"He understands how people in business think and he talks their language,"
Mr. Matthews said.

WWF and other conservation organizations have been moving down the path of
fostering collaborative solutions to conservation issues for several years.

Most recently, Canada's key environmental groups, including WWF, helped
forge a pledge among forestry concerns and aboriginal groups to protect the
boreal forest, which covers more than half the total area of Canada or 530
million hectares.

It's the largest conservation pledge ever struck in the world.

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 June 2004 18:00

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