Controversy over sacking engulfs WWF

The director of WWF Switzerland, Carol Franklin Engler, was sacked by the board of trustees Keystone

The director of the Swiss branch of the World Wide Fund for Nature has been fired.

This content was published on November 1, 2001 - 15:20

The WWF's board of trustees sacked director Carol Franklin Engler, citing irreconcilable differences over management tactics and leadership style.

But staff at the WWF have reacted angrily, saying Franklin should be reinstated and that instead, the eight member board should leave office.

Franklin was only appointed to her position two and a half years ago, and at the time was seen as a controversial figure because she encouraged closer contacts between the WWF and big business.

But it seems that over time she gained the loyalty of the WWF's 130 staff members, who are now furious at her sacking.

At a media conference at WWF headquarters in Zurich, they called for her immediate reinstatement, saying the legality of the way she had been fired was questionable.

Longstanding differences of opinion

Franklin herself says the background to her sacking has less to do with her ability to do her job, and more to do with longstanding differences between the WWF staff and the board of trustees.

"The arguments have been going on for decades," Franklin told swissinfo. "One major difference was over whether we should invest more in international or in domestic projects."

"Our professional staff often wanted a more international emphasis," she continued, "while the board members, who are very regional and local, wanted to invest more in Swiss projects."

But Franklin claims these differences could have been overcome if the board members had been ready to discuss them.

"We asked for meeting after meeting," she said. "and the board always refused, or cancelled, or postponed. It was impossible."

Officially Franklin now has only two more days in her job, although she has told the WWF board that she would be willing to stay on.

Strong and professional organisation

The Swiss branch of the WWF currently has 230,000 members, and as such counts as one of Switzerland's most successful environmental protection groups.

In the year 2000 to 2001 the WWF's income increased by 37 per cent to over 41 million francs.

Franklin believes this is evidence that the WWF will continue to be a strong and professional organisation, despite the current row over her sacking.

"The WWF has professional staff, it has good and innovative projects, and a good strategy," said Franklin. "For these reasons I am convinced that the WWF will continue to go from strength to strength."

"The only pity is," she continued, "that the WWF doesn't have a board of trustees which understands what its job is."

The board of trustees have defended their decision to sack Franklin, saying her management style had undermined the traditional democratic structure of the WWF.

There is no indication as yet as to who Franklin's successor as WWF director might be.

By Imogen Foulkes

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