Lego is putting sales above its commitment to the environment by partnering with Shell, according to Greenpeace, which is launching a global campaign to force the world’s biggest toymaker to end a deal that puts the oil company’s logo on the famous bricks.
On Tuesday the environmental group will target the Danish company, which has distributed more than 16m Shell-branded toys via petrol stations in 26 countries, hoping to pressure it through “creative action” and mobilising the 5 million “Arctic supporters” it has signed up online.
Greenpeace claims that Shell, which has suffered repeated delays in its attempts to drill in Arctic waters off Alaska, is putting the polar region’s unique marine environment at risk and exacerbating global warming.
Ian Duff, Greenpeace’s Arctic campaign team leader, said: “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. 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.”
Iris Worldwide, the advertising agency behind the 2012-14 partnership between Lego, Shell and Ferrari, estimated the deal’s PR value at $116m (£68m). A Shell spokesman said it had been “a very successful and productive relationship”. Lego and Shell would not comment on whether a new post-2014 deal was under discussion.
Lego has trumpeted its environmental credentials, recycling 90% of its waste and making its operations nearly one-third more energy efficient over five years. It has pledged to produce more renewable energy than the energy it uses by 2020, and is exploring an alternative raw material – currently crude oil – for its bricks.
Asked if its partnership with Shell was at odds with its CEO’s promise to leave a positive impact on the planet, a spokesman said: “We expect and are confident that Shell lives up to the legislation wherever they operate, including the Arctic, but we can only refer to Shell for comments on where and how Shell operates. We consider our biggest contribution in leaving a positive impact to be through inspiring and developing children as they experience the joy and learning opportunity that creative play provides.”
Lego’s partnership with Shell dates back to the 1960s, and ran into the 1990s with Shell-branded Lego sets, before the toymaker switched to a fictional oil company called Octan, which went on to feature as the corporation headed by the villain President Business in The Lego Movie.