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Greenpeace vs. Lego, was the outcome worth the effort?

News that Lego firmly rejects the Greenpeace campaign against it working with Shell emerged the other day.

See: here for the CEO statement.

The real upshot? 
Lego won’t work with Shell to promote Lego products to kids beyond the current deal.
That suits both Greenpeace and Lego. 
GP claims ‘victory’, whilst Lego says it hasn’t given in to brand blackmail and hasn’t broken a business deal with Shell. 
Shell, meanwhile, probably don’t care that much either way. 
Whatever the outcome, Greenpeace is going to continue to target them anyhow. 
I am a monthly donor to, and member of (if such a thing as membership exists beyond marketing) Greenpeace.
But I was not a fan of the recent Lego campaign. It struck me as dreadfully opportunistic and immature. And whatever the outcome, it won’t make a blind bit of difference to Shell. 
It was just another excuse to target a vulnerable brand with a small connection to a bigger target. 
Excellent for publicity. But also useful evidence for opponents to point out how Greenpeace can be very small minded and is consumer brand focused to the point of hysteria. 
I appreciate the campaign against Shell drilling in the arctic is a difficult one for Greenpeace. 
But there are surely better ways (safety grounds, spill responses, regulatory breaches, stranded asset arguments etc) than going after brands like Lego with the goal of changing Shell’s business plans. 
Greenpeace has built a lot of credibility with big business on issues such as deforestation/palm oil in recent years.
The international leadership needs to reflect on that, and the damage that may be done to their ability to change big business supply chains for the better (as they have helped do on soy, palm oil and forestry) if they lose brand trust (in both senses) by launching more tenuous campaigns such as that against Lego. 
Just because you have tools, that doesn’t mean you should always use them. 


  1. Anonymous

    One could also look at this as a warning shot across the bows to deter toy companies from accepting dirty money in return for exposing children to hidden propaganda.

    It may not move the needle this year or next, but if young children are allowed to grow up with toy companies implicitly teaching them that these kind of companies are "good", then well there will be no Greenpeace or climate campaigners.

    I mean why else do you think Shell would do this stuff? That's the entire point for them too. Companies like Shell dont do this randomly: they would do these kinds of things based on long term strategic plans to rid themselves of not only pesky opponents but also to cultivate a public that does NOT think. Thus us really insidious stuff.

    So actually good on Greenpeace for having the perception and courage to invest in the long term battle as well. As you yourself point out, it was an expensive battle to fight in many ways – but also an existential one.

  2. Corin Millais


    I tend to agree, and that's having worked at Greenpeace for some years. Its a lot of effort/noise for a minor, secondary target, when there are better prime targets around. Lego's role on 'planet saving' is all about their products. Brand wise, Shell has some more exposed flanks than Lego. And why annoy Lego for such little reward ?