A recent campaign by environmental advocacy organisation Greenpeace, aimed at Shell and LEGO, has shown how effective activism can sway corporations and bring about concrete change.
The campaign, "Stop playing with the Arctic", begun three months ago, focused on persuading Danish toy company LEGO to sever ties with oil giant Shell.
Greenpeace's objections centre on Shell's intention to drill for oil next year in the fragile environment of the Arctic.
Shell, says Greenpeace and other critics, has been cynically allying itself with well-loved brands like LEGO to maintain a veneer of respectability as public opposition to its proposed exploitation of the Arctic grows.
LEGO toys branded with Shell and Ferrari
Shell and the LEGO Group joined forces to produce LEGO toys branded with the Shell logo. Most recently, the two companies teamed up with Ferrari to produce four Ferrari car models; a Shell station with a Scientist LEGO Minifigure; and a Ferrari Engineer LEGO Minifigure.
On 9 October, largely as a result of public pressure brought about by the Greenpeace campaign, LEGO announced it would not be renewing the co-promotion contract entered into with Shell in 2011.
Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, CEO of the LEGO Group, said in a previous statement that nonetheless they did not approve of Greenpeace using LEGO in protests against Shell:
"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".
'Fantastic news for LEGO fans and Arctic defenders'
Ian Duff, Arctic Campaigner at Greenpeace UK, says "This is fantastic news for LEGO fans and Arctic defenders everywhere. And it's a huge blow to Shell's strategy of partnering with beloved brands to clean up its dirty image as an Arctic oil driller."
Unpacking how the campaign has been so successful, Duff says that Greenpeace's youtube video of the campaign was a highlight.
The video, which has gone viral with close on 6.5 million views, shows an arctic landscape made entirely of LEGO, complete with sad polar bears, being steadily engulfed by a rising tide of oil. It concludes with the slogan: "Shell is polluting our kids' imaginations."
Watch: Greenpeace viral video: "Everything is NOT awesome."
The campaign was also marked by worldwide protests - dubbed the "LEGOlution" - often using LEGO bricks and protesters dressed to look like LEGO figures at international landmarks to call attention to the toy company's partnership with Shell.
Greenpeace reports that the campaign also spurred over one million people worldwide to email LEGO to ask it to end its deal with Shell.
says Duff: "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."
Greenpeace will continue its campaign against Shell's actions in the Arctic. Concerned members of the public can sign the petition to create a global sanctuary around the North Pole, and ban offshore drilling and destructive industry in the Arctic.
This is not the only case where Shell been criticised by environmental activists. The oil company has recently come under fire in South Africa for wanting to extract natural gas from the Karoo via the controversial fracking (hydraulic fracturing) method.
While proponents of extracting the gas, locked in large natural deposits in Karoo shale, say this could be an economic boost to poor populations in the area, critics point out that mining could have a devastating impact on the Karoo ecosystem and water supply, which, as an arid area, is especially vulnerable and has low resilience.
Follow the campaign on Twitter #savethearctic and Facebook
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Olivia Rose-Innes is Health24’s EnviroHealth Editor. Read more of her columns and articles or post a question to her expert forum.