On November 30, the National Whistleblower Center (NWC) released its Annual Report, which highlights the work that the organization has done in the past year and outlines the direction it will take in 2022.
The report highlights Executive Director Siri Nelson’s appointment to the role on June 1 and the annual National Whistleblower Day celebration, which was virtual this year and hosted by NWC. The report also celebrated NWC’s work in promoting education about climate whistleblowers and whistleblowing, submitting comments to government and regulatory bodies about the importance of whistleblowing, and providing advice to European Union (EU) Member States in their implementation of the EU Whistleblower Directive.
NWC states that in 2021, it worked with the National Whistleblower Legal Defense Fund “to build a dedicated climate intake form” and also produced education materials for individuals who might have information about “illegal timber sales, emissions misrepresentations, and other climate-related frauds.” According to the report, “[t]hese efforts resulted in nearly 50 potential whistleblowers coming forward—that we know of—who otherwise might’ve remained silent about their climate-related concerns.”
NWC also reported that its engagement in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s World Conservation Congress led to “the successful passage of commitments to fostering climate whistleblower protections and several formal resolutions supporting whistleblower protections and rewards for whistleblowers who report environmental crimes and wildlife trafficking,” among other accomplishments.
Additionally, NWC established a Wildlife Pledge that urged the public to show their support for wildlife whistleblowers and wildlife whistleblower protections. “Signing the pledge allows NWC to spread the word directly to a network of people who care about the wildlife and the role whistleblowers can play in protecting vulnerable species,” the report states.
Looking to the year ahead, NWC writes that its focus “will build on the successes of 2021’s spotlight on climate crime whistleblowers while supporting the key role that whistleblowers play in cross-industry, cross-sector collaboration and enforcement.”
“I feel very enthusiastic and proud of what we have accomplished this year,” Nelson told WNN in an interview. “I feel excited and grateful for the support NWC has received. We have enjoyed the benefit of meaningful partnerships with organizations like IFAW and Whistleblowing International and had the support of generous donors who have helped us raise the profile on climate whistleblowers worldwide. I am honored by the trust the board has instilled in me.”
In thinking about the year ahead, Nelson expressed excitement about “forging ahead to normalize whistleblowing worldwide,” a “big part of the reason why we will continue pushing for National Whistleblower Day to be celebrated as a federal day of observation — where every federal agency will be required to educate their employees about whistleblower rights and celebrated whistleblower stories.” She emphasized that education “builds confidence” and a “big part of the reason” why The Utility Reform Network’s victory in a $51.5 million settlement with San Diego Gas and Electric was so important. The settlement, Nelson explains, requires “the utility to educate their employees about their right to blow the whistle.” Thinking more globally, Nelson expressed enthusiasm for “working with EU whistleblower advocates to continue fighting for the effective implementation of the EU Whistleblower Directive.”
Nelson is also looking forward to “expanding the concept of ‘climate whistleblower’ in the new year. “This will happen in a major way as the SEC rolls out its regulatory approach to climate disclosures,” Nelson tells WNN. “This will also happen as we start to understand tech workers like mechanical engineers, but also administrative staff, marketing professionals, who work at companies that make climate commitments or base their brands on efficiency (like Tesla) as potential climate whistleblowers. I am also excited to see how Bitcoin will be viewed as a climate issue and whether the SEC or CFTC will take the lead on enforcing possible representations made by so-called “green” coin offerings.”
“I am also passionate about continuing the fight for effective enforcement of MARPOL and the MSPB gaining quorum so federal employees who have faced retaliation after raising concerns at agencies responsible for climate enforcement can get their day in court,” Nelson notes. “Our Ethics Agenda has been fine tuned to reflect how all of our priorities relate to climate and I hope to continue making it clear that all whistleblower protections can be used to uphold climate standards and eliminate the misappropriation of funds dedicated to climate projects.”