Climate Activism – Greenpeace and Coca-Cola Co.

While conducting some background research on virtual and physical activism this weekend, I found a very creative form of activism which I have already met (you probably did too), but which I did not know by name until now. It is called culture jamming and I find (after a short research) that activists, on the net and off, have been using it very effectively.

Culture jamming aims at turning company logos into a social and/or environmental critique against the corporations they represent by transforming them slightly, giving them some new meaning.

During their 2000 campaign against Coca-Cola, aiming to make a point against the company’s practice of using refrigerating units containing HFCs, Greenpeace turned the Coca-Cola logo and slogan into a climate change message.

In its effort to spread the message (the image), Greenpeace used various tactics to alert activists worldwide. They released a report that exposed the company’s practices, which they sent out by mail and in electronic version distributed by email. In collaboration with Adbusters Media Foundation, they put up a website ( which featured the climate change bears advertisement.

Coca-Cola Co. moved swiftly to introduce more sustainable practices.

With the use of the Internet to spread the message, culture jamming has become a powerful activist tool. One reason mentioned in the article is that NGOs (even small ones) are able to make use of the Internet, as well as ‘having an increasing capacity to compete with multinational corporations on the brand-name level’.

I think, that the success lies in the image itself. It is self-explanatory: everyone knows Coca-Cola and almost everyone has heard of climate change. It is easy to make the connection. The nature of the message (easy to understand and creative) and the fact that this image can be sent anywhere in the world in the matter of seconds must make CEOs think hard about the consequences a similar campaign is likely to have on their company’s image.

4 Responses to “Climate Activism – Greenpeace and Coca-Cola Co.”

  1. sieber says:

    One of the first users–maybe the first user–of culture jamming was Adbusters, a nonprofit organization in British Columbia.

  2. gizmo says:

    A look on the Adbusters website shows that one of the campaigns they are currently working on is to revolutionize the neo-classical economic departments of universities, to promote a more environmentally and socially just economic system. Aside from the obvious difficulty of this proposition, I am curious to know how neo-classical economics are presented in relation to the holistic teachings of most environmental thinking, in particular for any environmental economists out there…

  3. liam says:

    Indeed an interesting technique. I would imagine the power would be magnified for consumer level companies (such as Coke) selling luxury goods, which it would seem rely heavily on a sort of positive ephemeral brand consciousness to make sales.

    I would be surprised if a campaign against a corporation like Stelco or even oil companies would succeed in doing much other than allowing them to present their marvelous public relations department with something to do.

  4. magyar says:

    Yes, culture jamming would certainly help pressure Coca-Cola, McDonalds and the likes.

    I have seen on the net a couple of images targeting SUVs, but since these cannot be identified with a particular company, they do not have quite the same punch.