Preserving the Environment

The Significance of a Classic Toy Severing Ties with Big Oil

October 16, 2014
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The Significance of a Classic Toy Severing Ties with Big Oil
After a viral protest conducted by Greenpeace, Lego won't renew its contract with Shell. Screengrab via YouTube
An anti-drilling campaign goes viral and the toy company responds.

From a Star Wars Death Star to Cinderella’s castle and every wonderful creation in between, LEGO’s colorful blocks offer endless possibilities. Brick by brick, these tiny toys inspire the imaginations of future architects, engineers, scientists and other problem solvers who want to build and shape the world for the better.

That’s why it’s so important that the beloved toymaker has recently decided to end its 50-year-long partnership with Shell following a viral Greenpeace campaign that targeted the oil company’s plan to drill the Arctic coast of Alaska.

Earlier this summer, the international environmental organization released an emotional video where our favorite plastic bricks and little yellow faces drown in slick black crude as a gut-wrenching rendition of “The LEGO Movie” theme song “Everything is Awesome” plays in the background. The message is this: “Shell is polluting our kids’ imaginations. Tell LEGO to end its partnership with Shell.”

Since its release, the video has chalked up nearly 6 million views, sparking protests around the world and garnering nearly 1 million petition signatures to stop LEGO from associating with a company that’s planning to exploit the polar region for more oil.

MORE: Discover what LEGO is doing in classrooms across America. Take Action

Remarkably, Greenpeace’s campaign succeeded. Following public pressure, LEGO will no longer have Shell’s logo on its toys, and the toy company will stop distributing free sets at Shell’s gas stations around the world, according to Salon.

LEGO’s departure really matters, as James Turner, the Head of Arctic Communications for Greenpeace writes, “By placing its logo in thousands of playrooms around the world, Shell tried to insulate itself against anyone who claims that oil companies have no long term place in our society. Children who grow up with Shell toys are less likely to criticize the brand in later life, and are more inclined to believe the company when it claims that spills, fires and accidents are just the cost of doing business.”

Turner points out that while LEGO’s bricks are made from oil, the Danish company is currently searching for “alternative, non fossil based materials for its bricks in the coming years” and pledges “to use only renewable energy across all of its factories and offices.”

LEGO President and CEO Jørgen Vig Knudstorp says in a statement following his company’s breakup with Shell, “We are determined to leave a positive impact on society and the planet that children will inherit. Our unique contribution is through inspiring and developing children by delivering creative play experiences all over the world.”

Meanwhile, Shell is still gearing up to drill the Arctic (so maybe everything isn’t awesome quite yet). However, more and more companies are distancing themselves from Big Oil, as Salon notes. LEGO is following in a wider trend of large companies such as Google, Facebook and the Rockerfeller family in cutting ties with corporations that exploit fossil fuels or worsen climate change. This kind of corporate responsibility is absolutely tantamount to protecting our fragile environment, as well as a safer world for future generations.

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