Greenwash Inc.: Israeli Nature Authority Taking Dirty Donations From Top Polluters

Over a year ago, a Shomrim investigation revealed that among the companies donating money to the Israel Nature and Parks Authority were several with dubious ecological records – including the Israel Chemicals Group, Nesher Israel Cement Enterprises, and several companies drilling for gas. And guess what? Nothing has changed. These donations continued to flow in 2020, along with rampant greenwashing and potential conflicts of interest. The INPA in response: "We have introduced a rigorous procedure for donations, with a special eye on companies that pollute." A Shomrim investigation in cooperation with Kan Channel 11

Over a year ago, a Shomrim investigation revealed that among the companies donating money to the Israel Nature and Parks Authority were several with dubious ecological records – including the Israel Chemicals Group, Nesher Israel Cement Enterprises, and several companies drilling for gas. And guess what? Nothing has changed. These donations continued to flow in 2020, along with rampant greenwashing and potential conflicts of interest. The INPA in response: "We have introduced a rigorous procedure for donations, with a special eye on companies that pollute." A Shomrim investigation in cooperation with Kan Channel 11

Over a year ago, a Shomrim investigation revealed that among the companies donating money to the Israel Nature and Parks Authority were several with dubious ecological records – including the Israel Chemicals Group, Nesher Israel Cement Enterprises, and several companies drilling for gas. And guess what? Nothing has changed. These donations continued to flow in 2020, along with rampant greenwashing and potential conflicts of interest. The INPA in response: "We have introduced a rigorous procedure for donations, with a special eye on companies that pollute." A Shomrim investigation in cooperation with Kan Channel 11

Nurit Malkin

Photos: Reuters, Shutterstock

June 15, 2022

Summary

A little over a year ago, in March 2021, Shomrim and Ynet published an investigation that revealed the identities of companies donating money to the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, the body which, among its other roles, is responsible for safeguarding nature in Israel. The investigation revealed that, alongside the friendly inspectors who are stationed in its national parks and its vaguely environmental agenda, the INPA has no problem taking donations from companies that behave in an environmentally problematic manner. For example, among the list of companies donating to the INPA between 2017 and 2019 were several companies that drill for gas – Nobel Energy, Delek Drilling, Ratio Energies and Energean – as well as the Israel Chemicals Group, Nesher Israel Cement Enterprises and a long list of companies that are all involved in water desalination. The total donated to the INPA during that period was around 7.4 million shekels.

In response, the INPA said at the time that "any allegation of conflict of interest is baseless." Still, there are many unanswered questions about the relationship between the organization responsible for Israel's natural assets and some of the companies at the center of the bitterest environmental struggles in the country and which have been accused of trying to greenwash their public image.

So, what has changed since then? Not a lot, it seems. Recently published figures for 2020 show that the INPA continues to receive donations from companies whose core business is far from environmentally friendly. In some cases, the organization continues to be engaged in activities that could raise concerns about conflicts of interest, either at the time the donation was made or at some future date.

Nesher Israel Cement Enterprises, for example, continued to donate money to the INPA in 2020. It donated a total of 150,000 shekels last year, following on from donations totaling 300,000 shekels in previous years. During that exact period, the INPA was dragging its feet over a decision to declare the Ayalon Cave – a large limestone cave of huge international importance – as a national park. The cave happens to be located in the heart of Nesher's quarry near Ramle. Likewise, the INPA has refused to step in and preserve similar caves in the quarry since such action could restrict the operations of Nesher. In response to a question submitted in the past to the INPA over the delay in declaring the Ayalon Cave a national park, the organization blamed human error.

It is also worth noting that the INPA is an observer on the official inspection and supervision committee responsible for implementing Israel's official policy on mining and quarrying.

In recent years, that committee was asked to rule on a request filed by Nesher to expand one of its quarries in the Beit Shemesh area – a request that local residents objected to, fearing it would harm their health. Moreover, as revealed by Shomrim, the minutes of a discussion held by the Committee for Protecting Open Spaces, of which the INPA is a member, confirm that its representatives were also part of an inter-ministerial team that visited the area and examined various alternatives until one that was acceptable to both sides was found.

One would think that a situation whereby the INPA is directly involved in the interests of its donors would be unacceptable and would create severe conflicts of interest for the organization. And what about the greenwashing? It's worth noting that, in the same year it donated to the INPA, Nesher was third on the list of most polluting Israeli companies as the Ministry for Environmental Protection drew up. In 2019, it was second. According to the pollution report, in 2020, the Nesher cement factory emitted pollution at a total external cost of 817 million shekels.

This is a summary of shomrim's story published in Hebrew.
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