LEGO putting cash before kids, says Greenpeace as it kicks off global campaign

Feature story - July 1, 2014
Greenpeace has launched a major new global campaign targeting the world’s biggest toy company, LEGO. The campaign will mobilize more than 5 million Arctic defenders and thousands of activists to take creative action in six continents as part of the campaign. There have already been high-profile protests just this morning at LEGOLAND in the UK.

In a new report, released today, Greenpeace accuses LEGO of putting sales above its commitment to the environment and children’s futures.

The report calls on LEGO to stop making toys with oil giant Shell’s branding, because Shell is threatening the Arctic and the unique wildlife that depend on it. It warns that Shell is using LEGO to neutralize controversy over its climate impacts and highly dangerous plans to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean.

Since 2012, Shell’s Arctic program has faced fierce criticism from environmental NGOs and regulators. In that same period 16 million Shell-branded LEGO sets were sold or given away at petrol stations in 26 countries, making Shell a major contributor to LEGO’s global sales.

Shell’s PR company valued the most recent two-year deal at $116 million, and reported that Shell achieved a 7.5 per cent bump in worldwide sales during the promotion. LEGO has confirmed to Greenpeace that further co-promotion between Shell and LEGO will commence this year.

Big Ben Legoland Protest © Jiri Rezac / Greenpeace

This morning, the campaign kicked off with a surge of pocket-sized protests in the UK. Staff at LEGOLAND in London, England, was baffled as outbreaks of LEGO Minifigure protests spread throughout the popular theme park. From the UK’s Big Ben to the Eiffel Tower in France to a World Cup football stadium in Brazil — no part of miniland was spared. The mini-protesters hung mini-banners saying ‘Save the Arctic’ and ‘Block Shell’. More protests will be happening at LEGOLAND throughout the day, before the protests spill out into the real world.

In Canada, Arctic Campaigner Farrah Khan said:

“Shell is trying to hijack the magic of LEGO to hide its role in oil exploitation. It is using LEGO — the world’s largest toy company — to try to clean up its image and divert attention from its dangerous plans to raid the Arctic for oil. It’s exploiting kids’ love of their toys to build life-long loyalty it doesn’t deserve. It’s time for LEGO to finally pull the plug on this deal. We’re calling on LEGO to stand up for Arctic protection, and for children, by ditching Shell for good.”

Commenting on the new campaign, Susan Linn, a psychologist at Harvard Medical School and author of Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood, said:

“Children form strong emotional attachments in childhood that last a lifetime, and companies know that all too well. Adverts aimed at children are bad enough, but branding their favorite playthings gain companies like Shell many hours and even days of their dedicated time, energy and love. We need to protect children’s imaginative play from branding for many reasons, including the important need for them to explore their own ideas and develop their own world view.”

Tell Lego to cut ties with Shell and save the Arctic