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Greenpeace last week initiated a global campaign to force the world’s biggest toy manufacturer Lego to remove Dutch oil giant Shell's company logo from its toy bricks.
Shell and Lego have had a commercial relationship since the 1970s. But now that "cozy" partnership, as Greenpeace describes it, is leading to protests around the world as parents and activists say Shell’s drilling activities in the Arctic make it an unsuitable brand for children’s toys.
Greenpeace recognizes the importance of Lego as one of the world's top ten most reputable toy companies, having inspired children’s play and creativity for more than 50 years. The environmental organization’s approval of Lego only turned sour when the manufacturer started branding Shell’s logo on a special set of toys as part of a co-promotion.
The joint promotion, which began in 2012 and will continue through 2014, involves approximately 16 million Lego Ferrari-branded toy cars being distributed at Shell petrol stations around the world. It is estimated the Shell/Lego relationship is worth around $116 million.
Since 2005, the Dutch oil and gas giant has spent approximately $4.5 billion probing for oil off the Alaskan coast. Earlier this year, Shell suspended its Arctic drilling program – which hit a low point when its Kulluk tanker ran aground there on New Years Eve in 2012 – after experiencing a 71% fall in profits.
The Greenpeace Plan
In order to “break down the relationship” between Shell and Lego, Greenpeace has said it will mobilize five million “Arctic defenders” in countries around the world.
In June, Arctic activists targeted Legoland, the Lego-orientated theme park in the south of England, where they staged a series of protests including unfurling a banner on the Lego Houses of Parliament and placing Lego protestors on the park’s model Parliament Square.
“Everyone loves Lego, but by letting Shell put their logo on its toys it’s helping Shell avoid scrutiny and seem like a family-friendly company. It’s about time Lego stood up for Arctic protection and future generations,” she said.
Ian Duff, an Arctic campaigner with Greenpeace, spoke about how the Shell and Lego collaboration is undermining children’s fascination with the Arctic.
“Children love the Arctic and its unique wildlife like polar bears, narwhals and walruses that are completely dependent on the Arctic sea ice,” [Duff said] (http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/greenpeace-protest-against-lego-dea... told reporters).
Meanwhile, "climate change is an enormous threat facing all children around the world, but Shell is trying to hijack the magic of Lego to hide its role."
In response, Lego has stated it has no intention of terminating its agreement with Shell, claiming it is an issue for Greenpeace and Shell to resolve themselves.
“The Greenpeace campaign focuses on how Shell operates in a specific part of the world. We firmly believe that this matter must be handled between Shell and Greenpeace,” said Jorgen Vig Knudstorp, CEO of Lego.
Effectiveness of Protests?
The question remains: how effective can a series of protests by the environmental organization be in breaking down Lego and Shell relations?
“This sort of Greenpeace activism to get businesses to change their activities is usually very effective, so I wouldn’t be surprised if their protests work and convince Lego to drop the Shell logo,” Louise Bateman, editor at GreenWise, told Occupy.com.
Bateman, whose publication serves as a resource for UK businesses helping to grow the green economy, highlighted a similar case in 2011 when a Greenpeace protest against toy-makers Mattel effectively convinced the toy giant to stop buying packaging linked to rainforest destruction.
As more people see the benefits – and the climate necessity – of using renewable energy, big investors will increasingly move their investments away from unsustainable fuels and companies like Shell, Batemen believes.
“It is right that Lego should think long and hard about its decision to partner with Shell," she added, a company that is clearly beginning to “lose the fossil fuel argument.”
Naturally, the oil giant tells a different story. Occupy.com spoke with a Shell employee who said the Shell/Lego relationship is a harmless instance of dual branding – and to surmise that Lego is keeping bad company with Shell is “daft.”
“The Shell logo is exactly that: a logo. Are [Greenpeace] going to target Ferrari or Formula 1 as they also use the logo?” asked the employee, who chose not to be named.
The employee was quick to point out that Lego is made out of plastic, which is made out of polymers – a product of the oil refining process.
“If [Greenpeace] started acting on things like that as opposed to tenuous links such as using the Shell logo, then they would perhaps get my attention from time to time, and no doubt the attention of others, too,” the Shell worker said.
Meanwhile, Greenpeace vows it will not give up, announcing plans to stage more protests and elevate its message at Legolands around the world in the forthcoming weeks.
You can sign a petition here telling Lego to dump Shell.