about

Welcome to the Greenpeace Story & Content Guide!

Margaret Mead famously said:

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has."

For decades, this belief has driven our small band of activists to shoulder the responsibility for changing the world.

But today’s world is too interconnected, too beset by urgent challenges and evolving too quickly for us to continue to believe that our team, acting on behalf of our supporters, really can change the world alone. Our effectiveness will not be determined by how powerful Greenpeace can be but by how powerful we can inspire millions of citizens around the world to become.

What does this mean for us practically? We will make regular, everyday people our heroes. It means that we will not create actions that make people feel like change is in the hands of the insanely committed few, rather we will help them see themselves as agents of change. We will stop thinking about “supporters” and “donors” and start thinking about millions of partners.

Every communication we create and every action we take must reinforce this core insight. Our moral is what we stand for, our theory of change and our mantra.

How to use this guide

The first time you view this Guide, please read through the Docs section. This will introduce you to our messaging strategy, values and voice. Understanding how we wish to present ourselves to the world will orient you to what’s behind the brand tools that follow, and make sure your work reinforces the brand we are building together.

The Stories section documents the competing narratives our audiences are surrounded by every day. They have both informed the brand elements we’ve created and must feel present and accounted for in any external messaging created.

Other guides to look at

The Planet 4 Style Guide will help us have visual consistency in our web communications. When all NROs and GPI integrate the basic common elements in this guide, we strengthen our message and increase its effectiveness. International and national/regional office websites should share enough common elements to be immediately identifiable as belonging to the same organisation.

The Story as a Theory of Change page points to examples, workshop materials and practical guides to help illustrate what this actually means, how to start living the new story of Greenpeace, and how to craft better stories. Internal Documentation | Public Resources.

Our Greenpeace forest campaign binds tropical and temperate, biodiversity and people. We must communicate in a powerful and unified way to mobilize the millions needed to win more and bigger victories. This style guide highlights the interconnectedness of all that we do.

We think that the Arctic deserves to be protected for all life on earth. One of our greatest strengths is the simplicity and power of our message. Let’s communicate it clearly. Our visual style should be simple, powerful and uncluttered. Let’s echo the clean lines and crystal beauty of the Arctic, but keep things playful, creative and human too.

attitude & tone

dogmatic defender to champion of the impossible
From Dogmatic Defenders to Champions of the Impossible

We Are the Champions of the Impossible

Champions of the Impossible are optimistic, bold and playful. How else can we hope to achieve the impossible? These five guidelines will help you master the tone of voice that a Champion of the Impossible speaks in:
  • Be Human. Write as you would speak. Be Informal, direct, personal and use short sentences. But be respectful. Sometimes, it's appropriate to be slightly formal, for example when we phrase our demands to companies or political leaders.
  • Be Bold. What you say should scare you a little bit. If you’re not putting yourself out on a limb, you’re not trying hard enough. If it doesn’t take a little courage to publish what you just wrote, it won’t inspire courage in anyone else.
  • Get Cheeky. The earnest, fact-based battle between good and evil just isn’t getting people’s attention anymore. We need to be as savvy as the brands we’re facing off with in terms of using humor, pop culture references and unexpected language if we want to get noticed. Yes, our cause is dead serious, but to win, we can’t afford to be dead boring.
  • Smile.Seriously. As you write or create, try putting a smile on your face. When you look back on what you’ve created, see if that smile holds. If not, perhaps you don’t really believe that what you’re asking people to do will lead to a win or tap into their passions. Rethink what you’re asking.
  • Be Badass.We’re rebels here. So while we’re out to make people feel optimistic, we’re never fluffy or frivolous. Be bold about naming the bad actors, getting to the heart of problems and demanding change. Champions of the Impossible don’t pull punches.

Aim to Inspire

Here is some example phrasing you can use for inspiration.
Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.
We are citizens, not consumers.
Do something impossible.
Courage is contagious.
Do what scares you.
dogmatic defender to champion of the impossible
Optimistic, bold, playful and fun. The world has enough negativity and fear in it.

audiences

We Are Heroes Among Heroes

The stories we live by, often without even knowing they exist, define for each of us our sense of what’s possible and what’s not.

Today’s stories tell us to dream small, keep safe and to constantly strive for shiny but meaningless tokens because our real aspirations, those childhood dreams of slaying dragons — well, they’re for children.

With this limited view of what’s possible, the future for those who dare consider it, is a dreary place indeed. Full of the invincible dragons of climate change, a dying planet, human greed. And the only logical thing to do is turn away.

But we have a different view. We are the Champions of the Impossible. And we smash culture’s debilitating stories, challenging our heroes to rethink possible.

From our original naïve-seeming adventure into a nuclear test zone that rocked the world’s consciousness to our takedowns of billion dollar corporate polluters we’ve never listened to anyone else’s definition of what can be. We’ve never believed that humans are inherently bad or that one person’s actions can’t spark a million more.

Now, to save the world, we’re going to get a billion other people to smash their own impossibles.

We will tell stories using language that is optimistic, bold and includes a humorous wink. We will rebel against convention and make beauty in the face of dreary and stale.

For more information see the Attitude and Tone section of the External Brand Guidelines.

Courageous Citizens Everywhere

The world we aspire to will not be created by a single organisation or by a handful of professional activists. Change depends on the individual and coordinated actions of millions. The true heroes of our story are the citizens we inspire to action.

They are inspired, angered, irrepressible, unconforming and in love with life. Like everyone else, those who embrace their power and responsibility as citizens feel fear — fear of speaking out, fear of failure and fear of belief in the future. But our citizen-heroes face their fears because they have learned that life begins at the edge of their comfort zones. And they know that anything worth doing takes courage.

We will remind our citizen-heroes of the problems of the world. But we will leave behind the tired notion that we can motivate them only through fear. We’re not going to change the world with frightened petition signers. To win, we need to embolden these citizens to commit their acts of courage — acts that will ripple through their communities and encourage countless more. We need to make them believe a better world is possible.

lone hero
From Lone Hero
hero among heroes
To Hero Among Heroes
Supporters
From Supporters
Change Agents
To Change Agents

Greenpeace Activists

Inspiring courageous action takes role models willing to put themselves on the line on behalf of the planet. Greenpeace activists are the "heroes among heroes." They are role models who fortify people’s belief that one courageous act can be contagious and that people really can change the world.

Greenpeace staff are just like our Courageous Citizen heroes. They just happen to make courageous action their full time gig. In practical terms, this means that Greenpeace staff should not be shown as superhuman daredevils with a drive to do what everyday people could never do. We’re past the era of “give us money and we’ll save the world.” And if stories of Greenpeace activists make Courageous Citizens say “I could never do that” too many times, we won’t inspire a billion acts.

Instead, Greenpeace Activists should be shown as human. They are Change Leaders and Culture Shapers. They are adventurers, artists, hackers and engineers. They are mothers, fathers, athletes, retail clerks, baristas, farmers, welders. They are concerned but hopeful. They are capable of outrage but also of love. They are driven by a vision of a far better world.

Other NGOs

Decades from now, nobody will look back and say that "The Greenpeace Revolution" changed the course of history. They will point to a networked movement of many organizations and, more importantly, millions of people acting for a thriving future.

In our story world, other NGOs are our fellow travellers, each bringing their unique skills and assets to the table. We celebrate their efforts, offer support in real time and expect support for our work in return. We train activists who work under other banners in the art of courageous action.

Sure there are other NGOs who work for the dark side. But they rarely appear in our story. Our story universe is populated with organisations working with us in joint purpose to form a global movement.

Other Critics

Corporations

Corporations can wear the masks of friendly or edgy or sexy individuals. They appear in our lives as friends, confidants, role models. The people who work for them may be all of these things. But the corporations themselves have been enabled to grow so powerful that it’s no longer clear if they serve us (as we intended), or if we now serve them.We may occasionally find ways to enlist corporations as allies as they pursue their self-interest, or seek to be the culture change levers that move us towards the more beautiful world we see. But whatever their motives, we must remind our citizen-heroes that corporations do not belong in our governments, political processes and personal lives, and that Profit as a bottom line is far from adequate if People and Planet do not feature prominently. We must remind them that there is a legion of change makers ready, willing and able to reorient them to greater service should they forget.

Governmental Leaders

Governmental leaders are too often beholden to special interests and corporations or just downright corrupt. In the democratic world, these leaders are the products of a civil society that has too long ceded its power.

Our leaders have utterly failed to act to protect our climate, stop biodiversity loss and ensure civil liberties because the pressures on them from the forces of destruction have been so much more powerful than the pressure from the forces of good. That’s changing. Our heroes have shown what social media can do to tyranny and what people-powered movements can do to shock incumbents. Our leaders fear their elite masters, but they will come to respect the courageous voices of millions even more.

Among this crowd of mostly tired puppets and oppressive dictators, we find glimmers of hope. Some of our own, citizenheroes, have risen to the halls of power. We will celebrate these few and make sure more like them succeed.

Our Imagined Critics

Climate deniers. Pessimistic fatalists. Those who insist people are too lazy to be anything but passive consumers. Those who say Greenpeace can never change. The purists who say that if we’re not perfect, we’re worthless.

Sure, these characters exist in the world, but it’s time to stop giving them so much oxygen. The best way to kill an idea is to view it through the lens of the worst-case-scenario narrated in the voice of your worst critics. Our imagined critics will not occupy space in our story universe.

When crafting campaigns and communications, imagining the objections from the minority, or those we’ll never be able to engage anyway, decreases our penchant for courageous action. We don’t need everybody in the world on board. One billion acts is an ambitious goal that only takes a small slice of the global population. Our story is for those alive and well enough to say “count me in.” It is not meant to re-awaken the dead.

stories

from reinforcing old stories to building new ones
From Reinforcing Old Stories to Building New Ones

We're all natural storytellers.

  • Good Communications is Storytelling: Stories are how we make sense of the world. They shape peoples’ behaviour and their belief in what’s possible.
  • Storytelling is also a path to change: The story Greenpeace tells, and has always told, is that a better world is possible, and brave individual and collective actions can make it a reality.
  • The moral of our organisational story: Every Greenpeace campaign & every Greenpeace action can be boiled down to this – a billion acts of courage can spark a better tomorrow.
“Everything's got a story in it. Change the story, change the world.” ― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

Create a myth gap for your campaign

The crumbling stories above are far from comprehensive of all those we might address — and over time, new core stories will be called into question. The myths presented represent a starting place, but individual campaigns may use this format to identify and address others.

  1. To do this, begin by thinking about your target audience. What stories and attitudes offer them meaning, explanation about how their world works and rituals to live by? Capture one of these stories in a headline.
  2. Now look for trend reports, pieces of pop culture or news events that call that story into question. Don’t worry if the myth hasn’t been 100% debunked. The idea is not to find stories that are truly dead. Nobody cares about those. What you’re looking for is the open space between the old way of thinking and something new. This is where most great persuasion campaigns find their power.
  3. It’s not enough to point out what’s wrong with the old way. Calling an old story into question only gets people excited if you offer something to replace it with. New stories don’t just appear out of thin air. They are produced over time by many cultural forces working together. So new stories we seek to spread shouldn’t be born out of our own heads. We must look outward to find stories that are taking hold and that we can help amplify with our campaigns. Again, trend reports, pop culture and current events make fertile ground for discovering new stories to amplify.

Not every communication will be a literal story, but when you do want to tell one, this formula can help.

  • Choose a protagonist. Every story needs a specific protagonist. He or she should be someone your audiences can identify with or aspire to be.
  • Identify the problem and villain or obstacle.Your protagonist should have a clear problem she is trying to solve — and someone or something should be standing in her way. You don’t need to villainize specific people or groups for your story to have a good villain. The villain can be a cultural attitude (consumption without question, believing people don’t have a voice) or even come from within the protagonist herself (fear that one person can’t make a difference, feeling overwhelmed by the scale of a problem). If there’s no villain or obstacle, the problem will be too easy to solve and there will be no drama.
  • Show the breakthrough. Breakthroughs should come when our protagonist acknowledges her fear, decides to act anyway and does something that takes courage.
  • Identify the "boon to society." The benefit of overcoming the obstacle is not just a happier, more powerful or richer hero, but a better world. Paint a picture of how the hero’s success makes for a more vibrant, wider community or world.
  • Choose your sequence. You can start the story anywhere: with the unsatisfied hero facing a problem, looking back from the perspective of a “healed world” or at the moment of breakthrough. No matter where you start, each of these elements should make an appearance for the story to feel complete.
Symptoms
From Symptoms
Root Causes
To Root Causes

values

From Secretive to Open Source
From Secretive to Open Source

Successful organizations evolve from a set of core values. They drive and prioritize activities that align with those values. From culture to relationships, brands can provide benefits to their audiences by identifying shared values. There are two types of values: those that we inspire in our audiences and those that we use to operate our organisation.

Courage

We believe: Life starts at the edge of your comfort zone and that the future is waiting for us to speak up.

So: We call on everyone to bravely stand up for what they believe in and to take action for a better world.

Connectivity

We believe: Everyone holds a piece of a better world and that the antidote to organised money is organised people.

So: We embrace a diversity of visions, catalyse collaboration and encourage the exploration of new ideas and possibilities.

Hope

We believe: The positivity of action is better than cynicism and despair.

So: We will get up off the sofa and express ourselves through our actions, knowing that our example inspires hope and action in others.

The values by which we operate

Personal Responsibility & Nonviolence

We take personal responsibility for our actions, and we are committed to nonviolence. These principles are inspired by the Quaker concept of ‘bearing witness,’ which is about taking action based on conscience – personal action based on personal responsibility.

Independence

We ensure our financial independence from political or commercial interests. We do not accept money from either companies or governments. And we mean any money. Individual contributions, together with foundation grants, are the only source of our funding.

No Permanent Friends or Foes

In exposing threats to the environment and finding solutions we have no permanent allies or adversaries. If your government or company is willing to change, we will work with you to achieve your aims. Dither, backtrack or turn around and we will be back.

Promoting Solutions

We seek solutions for, and promote open, informed debate about society’s environmental choices. We don’t work to manage environmental problems, we work to eliminate them. It’s not enough for us to point the finger; we develop, research and promote concrete steps towards a green and peaceful future for all of us.

Our Role

To function as mentors to our heroes — and to truly be Champions of the Impossible — we will play a very specific role in this story.

Our job going forward is to:

  • EXPAND POSSIBLE — We will lead by example with our own heroic acts: adding real value to the broader movement by doing those things that no one else can, breaking new ground, and pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable or seen as possible.
  • INSPIRE ACTION — We will debunk the myth that courage is for the lucky few and provide specific tools, events and relationships that give people a deeper belief in their ability to go outside their comfort zones (see Brand Gift section for more details).
  • PROVIDE A PATH — We will share our skills, such as non-violent direct action and strategic thinking; and provide meaningful ways for people to take action as part of our campaigns, leveraging their unique skills and encouraging them to dream big.
  • CATALYSE— Diversity is strength, so we will embrace a symphony of visions, catalyse collaboration between unlikely partners, and encourage the exploration of new ideas and possibilities, helping to redirect our unlimited ingenuity as humans toward the creation of a better world.
  • AMPLIFY — Every time people experience something that doesn’t fit with an old story, it weakens it, disrupts it, and makes space for something new. We’ll lend our reputation, name and energy to repeat and celebrate stories of contagious courage from inside our own network and beyond; from our local environment to the other side of the world; knowing that these stories have the power to inspire hope, courage and action in others.
from fearing failure
From Fearing Failure
To Fearless Innovation
To Fearless Innovation

What we offer

Greenpeace will offer actions, trainings and communications that help millions systematically build their courage muscles.

We will do this by providing people with:

  • PURPOSE – A bigger story that gives reason to believe my action will matter
  • ROLE MODELS – Examples of courageous heroes – succeeding and failing
  • SOCIAL PROOF – A community to connect to online and through events so people don’t feel alone
  • SKILLS – Practical tools to help build the courage muscle
  • A TRIGGER – Specific calls to courageous action