ASA Adjudication on Greenpeace UK Ltd
Greenpeace UK Ltd
16 May 2012
Internet (on own site)
Number of complaints:
Claims on "Redecorate a power station chimney" page on www.greenpeacegiving.org.uk on 30 December 2011 stated "Chimneys, they're a bit dull aren't they? We prefer them when they have statements written down them, like 'no new coal' or 'stupid', which say what we think about them. Actually we'd prefer them if they weren't there at all, because coal is the most climate-wrecking fuel there is, but we're working on that one. £80 Send this Gift. How this gift works ... Direct actions are about being there in person to stop an environmental crime from taking place. The proposed new power station at Kingsnorth in Kent would emit about the same amount of CO2 as the world's 30 poorest countries, and when we shut down the existing power station in 2007 we brought the issue of whether it needs to be built firmly to the front line. Shutting down dirty power stations is just one of the ways Greenpeace is working to secure a clean energy future, but painting down the side of giant chimneys cranks up the political pressure and throws a vital spotlight on one of the greatest threats to our climate". A photograph on the page showed a person in a climbing harness painting on the side of a power station chimney.
An internet user challenged whether the claims were harmful and irresponsible, because he believed they encouraged consumers to sponsor an illegal activity and encouraged and condoned anti-social behaviour.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
Greenpeace said they took non-violent direct action based on their intention to protect the planet from environmental harm and they did not aim to break the law. They believed, while the tone of the heading "Redecorate a power station chimney" was tongue-in-cheek, the example in the ad of the action taken at Kingsnorth power station was clear. They said those activists had not taken direct action with the intention of breaking the law and had subsequently been found not guilty of causing criminal damage.
Greenpeace said they did not promote anti-social behaviour, but did take socially responsible action and taking non-violent direct action was part of that. They said they would not take direct action unless they believed there was a clear and moral rationale and would not do anything without considering it carefully. They said their actions came from deeply held values, which they believed were for the good of society and therefore refuted the allegation that they would do anything anti-social.
The ASA noted Greenpeace took direct action without the intention of breaking the law, but understood that, although the Kingsnorth activists had been found not guilty of criminal damage, other similar activity might nonetheless lead to acts that were illegal or anti-social.
We considered that defacing property would generally be viewed as anti-social, and would in some circumstances be illegal, and considered that the claims "Redecorate a power station chimney" and "... We prefer them when they have statements written down them, like 'no new coal' or 'stupid' ..." and the photograph of a man painting slogans on the side of a chimney condoned such behaviour. Although we considered that the claims themselves were unlikely to influence the public to engage in such exploits themselves, we considered that the claim "£80 Send this Gift. How this gift works ..." sought donations in order to make it possible to finance similar direct action by others and thereby encouraged such behaviour. We therefore concluded that the ad was harmful and irresponsible because it encouraged and condoned anti-social behaviour.
The claims breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 (Social responsibility) and 4.4 (Harm and offence).
The claims must not appear again in their present form. We told Greenpeace to ensure that their advertising did not encourage or condone anti-social behaviour in the future.