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.
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.
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.
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.
Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.
We are citizens, not consumers.
Do something impossible.
Courage is contagious.
Do what scares you.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
“Everything's got a story in it. Change the story, change the world.” ― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky
We are consumers, not citizens. Someone else makes the big decisions while we define ourselves by the stuff we have, the stuff we want to buy and the stuff we wouldn’t be caught dead with. More money will make us more fulfilled. And the best way to express our values is by "voting with our dollars."
Of course, there are billions who own nothing and thus are worth nothing according to this myth. We would need many more planets to include everyone in this crumbling story.
Our creativity, our passions and our willingness to help others defines us. We identify ourselves by the ideas we come up with, the ideas of others we pass on and share and the acts we are bold enough to take. We don’t consume the coolest stuff, we create it. And happiness comes less from having than it does from sharing.
The new story is a reality Maker culture is growing rapidly. Open Source development is leading Internet evolution. There is increased interest in redefining "the good life." 3D printing is set to disrupt manufacturing in the same way mp3s disrupted music. Old gatekeepers (media companies, governments and pundits) are losing control.
Our well-being relies on an ever-growing economy. Though many of us have come to suspect that economic growth accelerates the consumption of Earth’s natural resources and enriches the global 1%, we’re still dependent on the opportunities and wealth it spreads around.
Our economy exists to serve people, not the other way around. Real wealth derives not from numbers on a stock ticker but on the health of the planet on which we all depend. Progress is defined by how many are lifted out of poverty and by shrinking inequality. People created the old measures of economic health — so people can create new ones.
The new story is a reality The widely predicted slowing of global growth within the next two decades is based on demographic and resource trends. Including: growing distrust in unbridled capitalism (evidence by broad public opinion polls); near consensus about the threat of climate change; and new measures of economic well-being are taking hold.
The world is a dangerous place and the only way to protect ourselves is to spend billions on high-tech weaponry, constant surveillance and occasional but consistent invasions of non-compliant countries.
There will never be enough tanks and spies to secure a world in which billions live in desperate circumstances — while billions more move in that direction thanks to environmental degradation. Terrorism and aggression rely on the fuel of injustice. It is far more effective to fight back with mutual support, opportunity and empathy born of the interconnection that has now become possible.
The new story is a reality Terrorism and cyber threats cannot be confronted with military might. New technologies make empathy at scale suddenly possible. Young people are increasingly rejecting homophobia, sexism, racism and nationalism. Despite some pockets of violent and highly spotlighted exception, many believe we now live in the most peaceful time in recorded human history.
Scientists are working hard on solutions that will allow us to keep living just as we do. Someone will find a way to take the carbon out of the air, rebuild the coral reefs, regrow the forests and deal with all our garbage. When the market demands these things, they will simply appear.
Human ingenuity is indeed capable of amazing things. But it only solves the problems that it’s applied to. It is up to all of us to direct that ingenuity to take on our world’s most pressing challenges, starting now. And that ingenuity is needed not just from the elite inventors of the world, but from parents, educators, communities — all of us.
The new story is a reality Alternative energy sources becoming price competitive with fossil fuels. Rise of crowd-solving and crowd-inventing. Kickstarter, Indiegogo, X Prize, Tesla Motors.
History is created by the inspired few who come along and change everything — be they in government, business or civil society (like Greenpeace). The role for the rest of us is to be followers and cheerleaders.
We live in a world where good ideas can cross the globe in seconds, building millions of supporters along the way. Our actions can be noticed by anyone, anywhere. And while our leaders will need to be part of the solution, it has become clear that we, the people, will lead and leaders will follow.
The new story is a reality The growing popularity of spending time and money in local economies. Exodus from disconnected, sprawling suburbs and new possibilities for collaboration and cross-pollination in urban centers. Global South rejecting old models of aid in favor of local solutions. Twitter toppling tyranny. Hackers inventing faster than corporations.
It’s an idea that’s been spread since the Bible’s story of The Garden of Eden. Humans have stepped outside of nature’s order and now exist apart from it. We are perverse and mean, incapable of sustained cooperation and altruism. Now that we’ve attained mastery over the Earth, any hope that we will leave behind greed and violence in time are fantasies of the naive.
Yes, we’ve shown our capacity for selfishness and short-sightedness. But humans have also been capable of enormous courage, altruism and evolution. Just as our problems accelerate, so too has our ability to understand each other, to collaborate on solutions and to influence the power structures that have limited us. These abilities are scaling exponentially. Fatalism about the future shows a very limited view of human potential.
The new story is a reality Young people are increasingly rejecting homophobia, sexism, racism and nationalism. Social media culture routinely makes altruism and pro-social behavior go viral. “Likes,” “Shares,” “Friends,” are the common parlance of a new communications culture.
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.
Not every communication will be a literal story, but when you do want to tell one, this formula can help.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Greenpeace will offer actions, trainings and communications that help millions systematically build their courage muscles.