Last week, news that Lego is to end its relationship with Shell caused quite a stir. Initially this seemed like a major victory against Shell drilling in the Arctic. But when you start to dig under the surface this starts to look like a pretty hollow campaign. Promotion of these issues is of course important but it is also important to ensure effort actually goes into changing something. And let’s face it, this is not going to stop Shell drilling in the Arctic.
There are a number of issues that were not addressed in the initial reporting. Firstly Lego has only agreed that it will not renew its contract with Shell. But no-one knows when the contract is due to end. Secondly this doesn’t stop Lego relying on oil – its products are entirely plastic and plastic is produced from oil. Thirdly and most importantly, Shell doesn’t need Lego. It is the second largest company in the world with revenue of $459.6 billion in 2014. This is just a drop in the ocean for them.
The question has to be asked whether our efforts are much better placed tackling the problem by lobbying the governments who provide oil companies with permits to drill in the Arctic. We also need to address the issue by reducing our dependence on oil in the first place.
Vilifying oil companies doesn’t necessarily solve the problem. They are huge companies with a vast amount of resources, particularly when it comes to developing renewable technologies. Surely by taking advantage of this and working with these companies we can achieve more. This doesn’t mean excusing bad behaviour but it does mean realising they will be even less likely to respond when they are constantly being attacked. What we need is positive pressure.
There are definitely encouraging outcomes of this campaign, such as showing the power of social media to address companies and bringing awareness to the important issue of drilling in the Arctic. Greenpeace deserve an A for effort, but unfortunately they only get an F for long term impact.
Image: Greenpeace / Horacio Ríos