A session at the 2014 Digital Mobilisation Skillshare explored ways that organisations are promoting and supporting grassroots-led campaigning to achieve bigger results. Brian Fitzgerald of Greenpeace International talked about one supporter’s actions against the use of unsustainable hardwood.

Online support from Greenpeace staff and volunteers was all a committed supporter needed to take up an issue with a company and change their practices.

What was the problem?

Long-time supporter Anne Novek had been very involved in Save the Whale campaigns, and took an interest in rainforest wood products as a result of her engagement with the online discussion community, the Greenpeace CyberCenter.

When she posted a message saying that a well-known company, despite their claims of ethical sourcing, was using an endangered tropical hardwood in its patio furniture, the organisation didn’t have the resources to pick up the issue at this specific, small-scale level.

However, via the CyberCenter she was able to get input and advice from both Greenpeace staffers and other volunteers about how to approach and influence the company directly. Encouraged, she got a journalist on board to expose the issue, sent emails and involved others, and eventually got the CEO’s direct phone number and called him. Persistently.

The company finally agreed to change its sourcing practices, and their next catalogue featured FSC certification for all their hardwood products.

What was people-powered about this campaign?

While Greenpeace was working on rainforest issues, it couldn’t resource campaigning at the scale of contacting individual small companies.

Anne Novek had found out about the tropical hardwood issue through her contact with Greenpeace, and got the encouragement and support from the community to take up the issue herself. This allowed her to create her own story and do the real work of pushing the company to change its practices.

While the CyberCenter was retired years ago, the service it provided has now moved closer to the centre of Greenpeace’s mission: to provide resources and online spaces where supporters can self-organise, take advantage of organisational learning and toolkits and take their own actions for a green and peaceful future.