Five Greenpeace campaigns against corporations: Lego, Barbie and Shell | Guardian of sustainable business

In 1971, when a small team of activists set sail to protest nuclear testing near Alaska, the independent organization Greenpeace was formed. Over the next four decades, the activist group campaigned on environmental issues around the world, with the name becoming synonymous with large-scale action against some of the world’s biggest corporations, raising the profile of issues that could otherwise escape the public consciousness.

Greenpeace’s goals are broad. Early campaigns were aimed at the international whaling community and the organization helped secure a global ban on trading practices for signatories. He has also taken on major corporations and brands on issues such as deforestation, pollution, ocean wellbeing, and more.

The campaigns have been more or less successful, with some companies promising to make sweeping changes while others remain steadfast in their current practices despite pressure from Greenpeace. We take a look at five of the most high-profile and innovative campaigns launched by Greenpeace, and the results.

Lego and shell

As part of its Save the Arctic campaign, Greenpeace’s most recent action has targeted Lego over its partnership with oil company Shell, which continues to drill in the Arctic.

The campaign was highly publicized, starting with an animated Lego-style video, coming in the wake of the hugely popular Lego Movie. The initial video, which featured a Lego arctic paradise slowly flooded with oil, has already racked up more than 5 million views on YouTube since it was uploaded last month.

The campaign has so far not recorded any official success. Shell has reaffirmed its commitment to the Arctic as an oil resource and Lego remains unrepentant about its involvement with Shell, and pledges to continue the partnership.


In another well-documented action under the Save the Arctic campaign, Greenpeace is targeting Russian energy supplier Gazprom. The September 2013 peaceful protest outside the new Arctic Prirazlomnaya oil rig, which Greenpeace says is unprepared for an oil spill, resulted in the arrest of 30 members, dubbed the “Arctic 30”, while Russian soldiers stormed the group’s ship. Those arrested were finally released after more than two months in prison.

As part of the campaign, Greenpeace also made its presence felt at sporting events. As the main sponsor of the UEFA Champions League, Gazprom targeted high-level football matches. During the Shalke 04 (also sponsored by Gazprom) game against Basel, a giant Greenpeace banner was lowered from the roof of the stand, reading ‘Gazprom: don’t pollute the Arctic’. A ‘Show Gazprom the red card’ banner was also used at a Real Madrid press conference, surprising the Spanish club’s manager and players.

So far, more than five million people have signed up, with Greenpeace just a short shy of the petition’s goal of six million signatures. The action against Gazprom is ongoing, as the company has taken no action on the charges to date.


In response to a successful Volkswagen commercial campaign featuring a tiny Darth Vader, Greenpeace adopted a Star Wars theme as it campaigned for VW to cut its CO2 emissions and stop lobbying against the Climate Change Act by Europe.

Along with a campaign video of Episodes I and II, Greenpeace staged a protest that saw stormtroopers take to the streets of London and Berlin.

The campaign was a success for Greenpeace, with over 520,000 people signing the petition against VW. As a result of the action, the automaker pledged to comply with EU laws by 2020, legislation it had previously lobbied against.

Detox mode

Greenpeace has taken a different approach in its action against fashion brands such as Burberry and Primark, trying to get them to take action against dangerous chemicals.

He staged a three-day “social media storm”, which involved sending more than 10,000 tweets to Burberry, as well as concerted action via Facebook and Instagram. It worked in tandem with street action, which saw volunteers in six countries campaigning outside Burberry stores.

The desired effect has been achieved, with Burberry pledging to rid its manufacturing process of toxic perfluorinated chemicals by 2020, as well as increasing supply chain transparency. Primark made the same pledge two weeks later.

Sports and fashion brand Adidas also made the 2020 pledge after Greenpeace published a report on toxic chemicals in FIFA World Cup merchandise, along with 18 major brands such as H&M and Zara .

Asia Paper and Pulp (APP)

Greenpeace ran a campaign against the paper and packaging giant, APP, targeting companies that bought from it. One of the most high-profile suits against toymaker Mattel focused on Barbie.

The campaign included a video showing Barbie’s longtime boyfriend Ken dumping her when he discovered she was involved in deforestation. The breakup played out on social media, eventually causing Barbie’s official Facebook page to be shut down for comments. There was also a scavenger hunt for the “Barbie Chainsaw” all over the UK. After the campaign, Mattel promised to remove rainforest paper from its supply chain, with Greenpeace calling the move a victory.

The same result was achieved when Greenpeace turned to KFC UK, whose parent company Yum stopped sourcing paper from APP.

Nine months after the Greenpeace action began, in February 2013, APP announced a forest conservation policy that included a moratorium on all further forest clearing by all of APP’s Indonesian suppliers. As a result, Greenpeace has indefinitely suspended all action against APP.

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