Why Does Greenpeace Think We Are Raising Our Children To Be Sheep?

I’m going to start this with a disclaimer. My wife gets Greenpeace information emailed to her and together we both donate to the organisation each year. We support many of their campaigns and believe they are a great organisation who is doing a worthy job. And we thank them for their drive to end the slaughter of whales. But their latest campaign leaves a bad taste in my mouth…

Have you seen the video that Greenpeace produced to promote their campaign to get Lego buying parents to stop buying the Shell branded products and protest against the relationship between these two companies?

I would have loved to embed it but Warner Bros and YouTube have blocked it because Greenpeace used a slowed down version of the song Everything Is Awesome for The Lego Movie over some “footage” of a stop-motion Lego Arctic being inundated with oil thanks the drilling in that area by Shell. It seems that Greenpeace did not get permission to use the song by Warner Bros Publishing company.

For those who know that I’m a stickler for obeying copyright rules (no I would NOT download a car) seeing that I have received income for my own copyright protected songs, one might assume that’s my beef with Greenpeace (beef might be a bad choice of words seeing that the cliché Greenpeace support is vegetarian or vegan). But that’s not why I am annoyed at them.

(Editor’s note; since I started writing this, Greenpeace have successfully uploaded it to Vemeo who are hosting it even though I don’t believe that Warner Bros have given permission for this to be used. I have embedded it below but by the time this is published, or by the time you read this, Vemeo might be force to take it down)

LEGO: Everything is NOT awesome from Greenpeace on Vimeo.

What Greenpeace want is for Lego to stop their relationship with Shell because they think that Lego is facilitating Shell’s desire to be seen as a family friendly and environmentally friendly company by teaming up with the child friendly Lego.

Now when I started plotting (not evil plotting, but you know, planning this as a blog post) my words to put into this, a debate was had between me and one of my fellow dad bloggers; Henry from the aptly titled Henry’s Blog. He beat me to the punch-line and released his “I agree with Greenpeace in this argument*” piece before I could finish this. (Hey, I’ve had a fairly busy July, okay?)

At the crux of Henry’s argument is this;

“In this day and age, does Lego really need a relationship with any company? I’d argue the answer is no, unless it aids sales. Sure, they have partnerships with major corporations like Disney, Lucasfilm, Twentieth Century Fox and others – but all of those are because the sets based on those brands sell well. Do Shell sets sell? Not likely.”

Please go and read his full post about it for a juxtaposed opinion. It’s really a good read even if I don’t agree with him. Henry has also linked in Greenpeace’s full explanation behind their rationale of attacking Lego. I was going to put that in mine but I think in the effort to encourage you to read his post for the opposing view, I’m not going to do that.

Now at the crux of my own argument is this; Why Does Greenpeace Think We Are Raising Our Children To Be Sheep? Yes, for those playing at home, that IS the name of this post and that phrase sums up in one line my own thinking here.

Lego has been manufacturing Shell branded products since the 1960s with some of their most prominent sets including the (Lego Set #6378) Shell Service Station being produced and sold from 1986 through to the early 1990s. I mentioned that set in particular because I owned that one. Yes, that’s right, someone who grew up playing with a Shell branded Lego set grew up to be someone who donated to Greenpeace and supports their causes.

And it doesn’t stop there. Shell have been a sponsor of many Ford drivers and teams within the Australian V8 Supercar competition for many years. Will Greenpeace expect that relationship to end? Many parents take their kids to watch those cars go round and round and round the track. The same can be said for their branding of Ford in the NASCAR Series as well. Shell also have a relationship with Ferrari that goes back many decades in the Formula One competition. Ask many young kids which car they’d own if they won the lottery and Ferrari will be the response by many kids.

Now sure, many of those kids WILL be dedicated to Shell and maybe they might use that brand of service station to refuel their cars when it’s their turn to become drivers. And maybe, like what happened with me this very morning, although I decided not to use Shell so that my conscience is clear for writing this article about my support for their continued relationship with Lego, I was forced to fill up at one of their branded petrol stations this morning because I was on the National Highway en route to our nation’s capital for work and my station of choice was unable to provide fuel due to a computer glitch so I was forced to use the Shell 57kms down the highway with 100kms of fuel to go and the next fuel stop was 112kms away.

What I am trying to say with this is, I don’t think that just because kids play with something that they will be brainwashed into “towing the party line” all the way through to their adulthood. They will learn about the world through reading and watching documentaries and listening to songs by artists who will help shape them into decent human beings.

Not every girl who plays with Barbie wants to conform to the negative stereotypes that Barbie’s distractors believe she promotes such as materialism, body image complexes or anti-feminism thoughts (remember that Simpson episode about Lisa Lionheart?)

So should I let my kids play with a Shell branded petrol station or will that brainwash them into liking Shell? Why not? They will drive past many Shell Shops in the back seat of my car. And they might even be in my car next time I am forced to stop at one of their service stations to refuel.

I know people who were devotee McDonald’s customers in their youth that now try to avoid taking their own kids to the Golden Arches. Somehow, even though THEY were customers eating at an “evil establishment” like that, they somehow discovered on their own that this “Family Restaurant” was not for them or their family.

But I wonder, when their own kids grow up, start hanging out with friends, will they be able to stop them from hanging out at Maccas with their peers? And even if those kids do end up eating fast food that their parents don’t want them to, will they at some point in time decide that junk food is no longer for them?

If Greenpeace’s campaign is successful and they do convince Lego to drop their friendship with Shell, does that mean anything in the scheme of things? Does it mean that the child that might have been bought a Shell branded Lego service station instead of Lego’s fictional petroleum gasoline brand of Octan will never stop at a Shell station? Chances are, not likely. And seeing that Lego produce more Octan branded sets than Shell (although Lego’s agreement with Shell is part of a wider deal that involves future Lego Ferrari sets that will carry the Shell logo on them), will that mean that kids will be on the lookout for the real life Octan service stations to fill their cars in the future? Of course not.

So I see this heavy handed approach by Greenpeace to prevent a business deal going ahead to be pointless and frivolous. And I truly wonder if a successful block of this deal will amount to anything.

What do you think? Should Lego ditch their friendship with Shell?

*That is not the title of Henry's post, I just write that as the link to his post.


4 thoughts on “Why Does Greenpeace Think We Are Raising Our Children To Be Sheep?

  1. Hey Darrell – thanks for the shout out! I thought I might as well continue our debate here, since you were so kind!

    I think you’ve missed the point of what Greenpeace are doing. I don’t think anybody believes this is a matter of brainwashing kids – Greenpeace state that fairly clearly in their FAQ.

    The issue is more that by aligning themselves with a globally-loved and quite CSR-focused brand like Lego, Shell are gaining a LOT more from the partnership than Lego stand to gain.

    If this were ten years ago, when the Lego brand was on the brink of collapse, I could understand the need for a financial boost from Shell. But now? They don’t need it, so why bother continuing it?

  2. Hey Darrell,
    Great read (as always).
    Whilst I agree with the sentiments of the Green Peace movement, I don’t believe their motives are completely altruistic and as a result I feel unable to support them for a two main reasons.
    Firstly their clipboard wielding recruiters seem to revel in attempting to make me feel guilty for not supporting them, and I’m too old to feel guilty for not giving them x amount a month and get a cruddy magazine four times a year (I am deliberately missing the point). These aren’t volunteers, but are working on commission to get you to sign up.
    Secondly, they are rapidly becoming (or already are) a multinational business. I don’t think that they can fairly be called a charity anymore, at best they are a lobby group. Their use of highly emotive (and poorly edited) language only helps them to prosper. Here in New Zealand they operate as a business not a charity, not that they would be in a huge hurry to let people know about it. A large portion of their received donations are spent on self promotion (much like Livestrong). This not withstanding, I think that Shell and Lego’s relationship are probably the thin end of the wedge. Both Starbucks and Coca Cola have a “placement” type relationship with Lego similar to Shell’s, and I think that it could probably be argued that these two companies have a less than awesome regard for the environment. Not only that but these companies are in the business of supplying an addictive substance to their customers (I’ve stopped short of calling it a drug). I would say that both of these companies have more to gain than Lego would have by using their brands, but perhaps Lego is just trying to make their toy’s world a little more realistic, whilst helping out their share holders.
    Whilst Shell’s plans with regard to drilling (or dilling on the Green Peace website), is probably irresponsible, but to for Green Peace to say that they are only doing it to improve their bottom line (which is essentially their argument), is a tad hypocritical.
    Sorry to rant, and again, a really interesting piece.

  3. I think that FIRST .. Greenpeace ought to end ITS relationship with SHELL or similar fossil fuel processing companies before it has any right to be calling the kettle black.
    I refer to the recent news that Pascal Husting, Greenpeace’s International Programme Director, was regularly taking the plane from his home Luxembourg to work in Amsterdam.
    Pascal is a senior exec in the organization. I mean it’s BAD for you and I and presumably the execs of LEGO to not move closer to our jobs so we can walk. But for GP execs… not so much. In THAT case a relationship with aviation fuel producers is a necessary evil.

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