Greenpeace Takes On LEGO
July 5, 2014

Greenpeace Takes On LEGO

Recently, the global advocacy group Greenpeace launched a new major global campaign against the world’s largest toy company, LEGO. Greenpeace claims that LEGO is “putting cash before kids.”

That’s sort of obvious isn’t it? It is sort of like suggesting that McDonald’s puts profits ahead of nutrition or General Motors puts profits ahead of the safest car you could ever expect to drive. I’m poking fun of course, but let’s be honest: for-profit companies exist to make money.

Greenpeace’s campaign against LEGO is a bit more complicated. According to its press statement, which ran on Arctic Journal, Greenpeace “called for LEGO to stop making toys with oil giant Shell’s branding on, because Shell is threatening the Arctic and the unique wildlife that depend on it. It warned Shell is using LEGO to neutralise controversy over its climate impacts and highly dangerous plans to drill for oil in the Arctic.”

In other words, Greenpeace is targeting the beloved toys because of a marketing promotion! It gets more complicated by the fact that according to the LEGO Wiki, Shell only offers the exclusive promotional sets at its stations — in Europe!

There had been a number of Shell-themed sets, but most of these were discontinued in the 1990s according to

The LEGO Wiki noted: “The first Shell sets were released in 1966. These were only available in Europe though. In the US, only sets with Exxon livery were released. Beginning in 1986, Shell sets were also released in the US. With the introduction of Octan in 1992, no regular Shell sets were released anymore, except the occasional promo sets. In 2012, Shell will release new LEGO promotional sets featuring Ferrari vehicles, currently exclusive in Hong Kong and Macau.”

Yet as this reporter noted, as cited in the official press statement, “Greenpeace… launched a major new global campaign targeting the world’s biggest toy company.” So, because of a regional promotion for very limited toys that even hardcore LEGO collectors would have to go out of their way to get, Greenpeace is called for a campaign against the company!

It gets more complicated because Greenpeace claimed Shell made the sets available at petrol stations in 26 countries and this made Shell a major contributor to LEGO’s global sales. Yet according to what this reporter found online, the sets are still only promotional and, as noted, don’t include new Shell-themed sets.

As for Shell being a “major contributor” to sales — well, that just seems farfetched, to be honest. compiled a list of the top selling LEGO sets earlier this year and it included Superman, Disney Princess, Star Wars and Mindstorm sets in the 10 top. There was NO mention of a Shell set anywhere.

For its part, LEGO responded to Greenpeace’s campaign and noted: “We work on the manufacture of LEGO products at our own factories close to the markets we serve, as we believe it makes sense to produce close to where the products are sold and used. This enables us to serve our markets better, as well as reduce the environmental impact from transportation. All manufacturing sites are certified according to the environmental standard ISO 14001 and at each site, we apply environmental best practice that is appropriate to the regional area.”

Now in farness, this is a case where the real shame is that both sides can’t lose. I grew up with LEGO, but I also grew disenchanted by LEGO as well. LEGO has, in fact, become too much of a promotional marketing machine that instead of encouraging creativity in its playsets, now is very much about uniformity. Kids today learn to follow instructions to build the kit instead of using their imagination to create something unique.

Moreover LEGO — and for the record its competitors, including Kre-O and Mega Bloks — are today about theme sets ranging from Star Wars to Harry Potter to Halo and even Call of Duty.

It is almost surprising there isn’t a Greepeace set from one of these companies — which could be a fun way for Kre-O’s G.I. Joe line to go up against the new Rainbow Warrior. But then again, maybe that would be in bad taste.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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Peter Suciu is a freelance writer and has covered consumer electronics, technology, electronic entertainment and the fitness sports industry for more than 15 years. In that time his work has appeared in more than three dozen publications including Newsweek, PC Magazine and Wired. His work has also appeared on,,, and Peter is a regular writer for

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