Shifting the Paradigm

Making the Radical Appear Reasonable

citi campaignBuilding on the success of the Home Depot campaign, RAN turned its sights to Wall Street,  recognizing that behind every environmentally-destructive logging, mining, or drilling project were financial institutions providing the capitol and underwriting to make them possible. In 2000, RAN set out to transform Citi (then Citigroup), the largest and most profitable bank in the world and the leading financier of some of the most environmentally-destructive projects on Earth. As the leader of the global financial industry, at the time, convincing Citi to adopt a serious environmental policy could help shift the marketplace toward ecological sustainability and human rights. 

The campaign was met with both resistance and skepticism – the banking industry had never been subject to environmental or social scrutiny before – but grassroots activism prevailed. After four years of relentless campaigning, including demonstrations outside of Citi branches across the country, banner hangs at the Wall Street headquarters, full-page ads in major newspapers and a television commercial featuring celebrities cutting up their Citi credit cards, in 2004 Citigroup announced a sweeping environmental policy that considered the environmental and social impact of its lending practices. It was a stunning victory that would dramatically transform the entire banking industry. Within the next year, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs all established policies that went even further than Citi’s.

This particular milestone affirmed RAN’s ability to shift entire sectors in order to change their policies and practices as well as compel them to become part of the solution – rather than part of the problem. RAN launched similar campaigns aimed at transforming the auto industry, U.S. agribusiness, and the publishing industry, establishing itself as a formidable force within the boardrooms of the world’s most powerful corporations. RAN’s successes moving corporate giants and entire industries gave them the expertise and leverage to deepen and increase campaign demands to include larger ecological imperatives. 


Photos: Dang Ngo; Andrew Stern; Jeremy Williams; Peter Holderness; Dan Miles; Carlos J. Ortiz

As the impacts of global climate change began to appear more rapidly, challenging America’s continued reliance on dirty fossil fuels became more urgent. Without governmental action leading the way, RAN was able to succeed once again by challenging industry leaders. In 2008, RAN’s campaign against the financial sector led to the formation of The Carbon Principles, a set of guidelines implemented by leading U.S. banks to limit the ability of utilities to secure funding for coal-fired power plants, the lead contributors to global warming. 

In addition, RAN’s forest work began to draw a bright line between deforestation and climate change. RAN highlighted the inescapable-but underexposed-truth: that you cannot solve the climate crisis without protecting the world’s remaining forests, just as tropical rainforests can never be fully protected without curbing the underlying causes of global warming.

RAN’s strategy continues to evolve to meet new challenges. With each new campaign comes innovation and improvement on the tools and tactics used to engage and pressure corporate targets and key decision-makers. With grassroots organizing at their core, RAN’s campaigns have allowed thousands of concerned citizens to take meaningful action and amplify the voices of Indigenous and frontline communities most impacted by environmental destruction. 

Blending banner hangs with boardroom negotiations and offline activism with online advocacy is the signature of RAN’s success, and it is what will enable RAN to continue challenging and changing the status quo in the years to come.

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Lindsey Allen is a world-class campaigner with more than a decade of experience and an unmatched track record pressuring and inspiring some of the world’s largest corporations to protect rainforests. Allen has spent her career preventing commodity expansion into globally critical forest areas, and has played a central role in achieving some of the most significant corporate policy commitments to protect forests over the past decade.
Rainforest Action Network campaigns for the forests, their inhabitants and the natural systems that sustain life by transforming the global marketplace through education, grassroots organizing, and non-violent direct action. The strength of this Network stems from the bold activists, engaged donors, dedicated online advocates, frontline allies and vigilant organizations that work with us to challenge corporate power and to stand for thriving ecosystems around the globe.