Krupp, Fred

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Krupp, Fred


Executive Director of the Environmental Defense Fund

B orn March 21, 1954, in Mineola, NY; son of Arthur L. (a businessman) and Rosalind (a high school teacher; maiden name, Mehr) Krupp; married Laurie Louise Devitt (a public health nutritionist), August 21, 1982; children: Alexander Mehr, Zachary Devitt, Jackson O’Connor. Education: Yale University, B.S., 1975; University of Michigan, J.D., 1978.

Addresses: Home—Connecticut. Office—Environmental Defense Fund, 257 Park Ave. S., New York, NY 10010-7304.


G eneral counsel, Connecticut Fund for the Environment, 1978-84; partner, Albis & Krupp (law firm), 1978-83; partner, Cooper, Whitney, Cochran & Krupp (law firm), 1984; executive director, Environmental Defense Fund, 1984—.

Member: President’s Commission on Environmental Quality, 1991-92; President’s Council on Sustain-able Development, 1993-99; President’s Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations, 1994-2002; board, H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics, and Environment, 1999-2005; board, John F. Kennedy School of Government Environment Council; Leadership Council, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.


F red Krupp serves as executive director of the Environmental Defense Fund (EFD), a nonprofit environmental advocacy group that is one of the largest and most influential organizations of its kind in the United States. During a tenure there that has stretched more than a quarter-century, Krupp has gained a reputation as a pioneer in what is sometimes called third wave environmentalism, or attacking the issue of environmental degradation from an economic standpoint. The most famous example of this tactic came in the early 1990s, when Krupp convinced executives at McDonald’s that it would be more beneficial in the long term to phase out its foam containers, which were becoming a staple of landfills.

Krupp was born in 1954 in Mineola, New York, but grew up in Verona, New Jersey. His father, Arthur, ran a company that recycled waste rags into roofing materials, and his mother Rosalind was a history teacher at a local high school. Entering Yale University, Krupp was first mentioned in the media in November of 1972 on the day after the first federal election in which 18year-olds were allowed to cast their ballot in a presidential election. In an article that discussed the reaction on college campuses about lowering the voting age from 21 to 18, Krupp told New York Times reporter Michael T. Kaufman, “There is no sense of this being a historical occasion. Everybody just takes it for granted.”

The comment—used by Kaufman to begin the article’s first paragraph—seemed to foreshadow a future career in providing terrific sound bytes to the media on current events. After graduating from Yale in 1975, Krupp went on to earn a law degree from the University of Michigan. Moving to Connecticut, he went into private practice but also founded the Connecticut Fund for the Environment (CFE). In the late 1970s, the CFE filed a lawsuit against the Up-john Corporation, makers of fungicides, dyes, and other chemical products at its plant in North Haven, a suburb of New Haven. The lawsuit was aimed at halting the company’s decades of dumping toxins into the heavily polluted Quinnipiac River, and it eventually succeeded.

As general counsel for the CFE, Krupp came to the attention to the Environmental Defense Fund, which was closely following the CFE’s suit against Upjohn. The national nonprofit organization was founded in 1967 by several Long Island scientists who noticed that birds of prey, like eagles and raptors, were in sudden population decline. Investigating the matter, the quartet of researchers found that DDT, a highly toxic pesticide use to eliminate mosquito populations, was entering the food chain and causing the eggshells of the birds’ young to weaken to the point of uselessness. The EFD pushed for a federal ban on DDT, which went into effect in 1972. By 1984, the organization was searching for a new leader, and Krupp was offered the job as executive director. He was just 30 years old at the time, and accepted immediately, as he told Susan Reed in People magazine. “I thought if I waited, they might come to their senses,” he joked.

When Krupp took over at the Environmental Defense Fund, its informal motto was “Sue the Bastards,” according to Wall Street Journal writer David Wessel. This eventually gave way to a less adver-sarial approach, the third wave environmentalism, which relied on economic justifications to convince companies to adopt more earth-friendly practices. One of Krupp’s most notable successes came in 1990, when the McDonald’s Corporation—the world’s largest chain of fast-food restaurants—finally agreed to phase out its polystyrene clamshell, the plastic foam box that had been keeping Big Macs and other McDonald’s grill items warm since the mid1960s. Though the clamshell had long been the target of environmental activists, Krupp decided to investigate the matter one day when he was dining at a McDonald’s with his two young sons. “Alex and Zach were eating their Happy Meals and I was looking at all this packaging—six little Chicken Mc-Nuggets come in a big foam clamshell,” he told Connie Koenenn in an interview that appeared in the Albany Times Union. “My idea was that if McDonald’s made major changes they could help set a new environmental ethic of what is acceptable and what isn’t,” he told Koenenn. “I decided I would write a letter to McDonald’s, tell them they could solve these problems, and suggest that I talk to them about it.”

Krupp went on to have several more important coups at the helm of Environmental Defense. He brought together officials at FedEx and alternative-energy researchers to launch the courier company’s first fuel-efficient, low-emission delivery truck in its fleet. He has also served on presidential advisory commissions and councils under both Republican and Democratic administrations of the White House. Typical of his advocacy is a 2002 New York Times op-ed column on a significant new piece of California legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles in the state. The measure was the target of a massive, automotive-maker-funded public-relations campaign to overturn the new fuel-standard requirements, claiming that the new laws were aimed at eventually outlawing sport-utility vehicles. “What if, instead, the auto industry were to take the resources it will devote to waging political warfare on the new legislation,” Krupp wrote, “and use that money and the talents of its engineers to accelerate the development of technology to limit greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks? As in the past, automotive engineers are likely to prove far more ingenious in producing new technological answers than their bosses give them credit for.”

When Krupp began at the Environmental Defense Fund in 1984, its budget was $3 million, its New York City headquarters had 50 employees, and its membership rolls totaled 35,000. Twenty-three years later, Krupp oversaw a budget of $65 million, 300 employees, and a membership roster that was nearly ten times larger. He lives in Connecticut with his wife since 1982, Laurie Louise Devitt, and their three children. As Wessel wrote in the Wall Street Journal profile, “a 1991 Rolling Stone article described Mr. Krupp as ‘slightly nerdy but persuasive.’ His wife’s response, as he recalls it today, wasn’t exactly an ego booster: ‘I didn’t realize that [the reporter] actually met with you in person.’”


Albany Times Union, November 14, 1990, p. B12; May 22, 2005, p. B8.

New York Times, November 8, 1972, p. 98; July 20, 2002.

People, April 15, 1991, p. 61.

Time, April 3, 2006, p. 57.

Wall Street Journal, March 1, 2007.

—Carol Brennan

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