Greenpeace Uses Design to Instigate Corporate Change. Will It Work?


Earlier today, Greenpeace activists stuck it to the man by painting the words “Hazardous Products” in non-toxic children’s finger paint across an 11,500-square-foot swath on top of HP’s global headquarters in Palo Alto, California. The reason? HP’s postponed commitment to phasing out dangerous substances like brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) from its computer products. But is tagging a corporate headquarters really the best way to initiate change?

Actually, it might be. Apple’s newest line of computer products is free of both PVC and BFRs, thanks in no small part to pressure from Greenpeace in the form of its “Green My Apple” campaign. The project asked Apple fans to create campaign artwork that would pressure Steve Jobs into removing toxic components from computer products. Greenpeace’s request garnered over 1,000 quality designs from Apple fans in its GreenMyApple Flickr pool. The campaign was bolstered by in-person design-inspired protests like this one, which literally put a San Francisco Apple store in a green light.

The whole thing was helped by the fact that Greenpeace shamed Apple in its Guide to Greener Electronics, but much of the public attention on the Green My Apple project–and in turn, the public pressure on Apple–came from Greenpeace’s flashier actions.

It’s hard to say if Greenpeace’s HP campaign will have the same outcome. After all, HP doesn’t inspire the same rabid enthusiasm as Apple. Without public backing in the form of artwork, petitions, or otherwise, Greenpeace risks looking like just another crazy environmental group.


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