Humanosphere is on hiatus. Many thanks to our web design, development and hosting partner Culture Foundry for keeping the site active while we plan our next move. Culture Foundry builds, evolves and supports next-level websites and applications for clients you know, and you couldn’t ask for a better partner to help you thrive in digital. If you’re considering an ambitious website design or development project, we encourage you to make them your very first call.

LEGO ditches Shell over oil drilling in Arctic

The opening scenes of “The Lego Movie” introduces the audience to main character Emmet Brickowoski, an average construction worker who lives in a world where “everything is awesome.” The upbeat pop tune, sung by Tegan And Sara featuring the comedy trio The Lonely Island, sets the scene for an awesome Lego world.

“Everything is awesome, everything is cool when you’re part of a team/ Everything is awesome, when you’re living on a dream.”

Contrast that against a new campaign from Greenpeace. A piano plays slowly as scenes of Legos in a winter wonderland flash across the screen. There are polar bears, an Eskimo fishing and a hockey game. As the singer begins to say, “Everything is awesome,” the scenes depict a large oil operation. The sea oil rig strikes oil that slowly overtakes the once idyllic setting, including the main characters from “The Lego movie.” The rising oil consumes everything until all that is left is a white flag with the words “Shell” and the oil company’s yellow and green logo.

“Shell is polluting our kids’ imaginations,” reads the text to the left of the flag and pants to the right saying, “Tell Lego to end its partnership with Shell.” Open_space_graphic_01 The campaign worked. Late last week the Danish toy company Lego announced that it was not renewing its contract with Shell. The previous partnership saw Lego toys bearing the Shell brand distributed in 26 countries. Greenpeace launched the campaign in July to urge Lego to put the environment ahead of its partnership.

“Climate change is an incredible threat facing all children around the world, but Shell is trying to hijack the magic of Lego to hide its role,” said an Duff, Greenpeace’s Arctic campaign team leader, at the time of the campaign’s launch. “It is using Lego to clean up its image and divert attention from its dangerous plans to raid the pristine Arctic for oil. And it’s exploiting kids’ love of their toys to build lifelong loyalty it doesn’t deserve. It’s time for Lego to finally pull the plug on this deal.”

Greenpeace appealed to Lego’s environmental streak. The company said 90 percent of its materials are recycled and its overall energy efficiency improved by one-third in the past five years. Greenpeace reasoned that the damaging oil drilling undertaken by Shell does not fit with Lego’s image.

Oil companies have increasingly turned to the Arctic as a source for the valuable commodity. Estimates put 90 billion barrels of oil in the region. Greenpeace is critical of the oil rush because of the spills that have taken place in the past three years. That is in addition to other damaged caused by the drilling, such as moving and melting icebergs. _Lego_Movie__Parody_is_a-d306f225acf602cc2ffcefcad96eacd5 “If we let them do this, a catastrophic oil spill is just a matter of time. We’ve seen the extreme damage caused by the Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon disasters – we cannot let this happen in the Arctic,” according to the campaign website.

The 3-months-long press against Lego proved a success. More than 1 million people joined the campaign, emailing the toy company to end its relationship with Shell. Lego relented to pressure by announcing it was not going to renew its contract with Shell. When its current contract expires is unknown, but it is a victory for Greenpeace; albeit one that left Lego with a sour taste in its mouth.

“As we have stated before, we firmly believe Greenpeace ought to have a direct conversation with Shell. The Lego brand, and everyone who enjoys creative play, should never have become part of Greenpeace’s dispute with Shell,” said Lego in its official statement announcing the end of its Shell partnership. That stands in contrast with the buoyant feelings expressed by Greenpeace. Block Shell Protest at LEGO Store in New York “We’re super happy Lego has finally decided to do the right thing. It’s a massive victory for the million people globally who called on Lego to stop helping Shell look like a responsible and caring company – rather than a driller intent on exploiting the melting Arctic for more oil,” said the environmental activists.

While both Lego and Greenpeace do not see eye-to-eye on how the campaign went, the bottom line is that Lego will soon no longer affiliate itself with Shell. Greenpeace got what it wanted.


About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]