Profiles in Activism: Ann Novek

Feature story - 22 April, 2005
Ever think that one person can't change the world? Greenpeace cyberactivist Ann Novek is proof otherwise.

Ann Novek, Greenpeace cyberactivist and volunteer from Sweden.

In April of 2004 she was looking at an ad for outdoor furniture from Sweden's biggest retailer, Asko-Möbler. 

Ann is a Greenpeace Cyberactivist, and she had been following events in Indonesia where our ship, Rainbow Warrior, had been highlighting forest crimes in the Pacific, and participating in weekly chats about what more our supporters could do to help. 

So she was surprised and dismayed to see that Asko-Möbler sold products made from Keruing wood.

She knew that Keruing is the name given to around 70 commercially harvested timberspecies, more than half of them listed as critically endangered or endangered, and that most Keruing is logged illegally.

Ann gets active

Ann started a thread at the Action Forum asking for advice on how to pressure the company. She got the email address of the CEO and wrote to him asking if he knew where the Keruing wood came from, and whether he had assurances that it was legal and/or sustainably grown.

He promised to send certificates documenting that the wood was legal. He never did so.

She talked to a spokesperson on the phone. She asked if she knew about the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and its programme of certifying sustainably grown wood. The spokeswoman told her that the FSC label was being phased out, which was simply not true.

Ann lobbied for a Greenpeace cyberaction against Asko-Möbler, she informed other environmental groups in Sweden, she raised the issue in chats and threads and posted the email address of the CEO at the Action Forum.

She was also in touch with the biggest environmental group in Sweden, which coincidentally sent a questionnaire to all major garden furniture companies, and asked about FSC-certification. Ann noted and publicised the fact that Asko-Möbler didn't reply.

Victory!

After nearly a year of persistance, Ann opened her morning newspaper to see the Spring furniture line from Asko-Möbler was being advertised.  She was astonished to see not only was there no Keruing wood in it, but ALL the garden furniture was labelled FSC-certified.

While converting one furniture supplier to sustainable purchasing may seem a small victory, consider this: Ann is just one of 190,000 international cyberactivists from 122 countries and territories, everyone of them just as capable of changing a small part of our world.

It's proof again of the wisdom of Margaret Mead's words:

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."


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