Shell Issues 'Inappropriate' Gag Order at Children's Greenwash Festival

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Shell's gag order

Shell has ditched a youth-targeted “Generation Discover” festival in the Hague amid controversy around a ‘gag order’ visitors were asked to sign.

Generation Discover is an annual five day festival of Shell aimed at 8 -14 year olds according to Shell “to inspire kids in science and technology”. Visitors were asked to agree to: “keep all details about the content of the project confidential” and sign-over all image rights to the company.

Campaigners have condemned the contracts as “inappropriate” for a youth-focused festival and are calling for the company to declare them invalid.

Gag Order

Children and parents that visted the festival were asked to sign a document that said: “I agree that I won’t publish information concerning the project, give an order to publish information concerning the project or that I will announce information concerning the project in any other way.”

Part of the gag order seen by DeSmog asks the signatories to: “give Shell permission to use my name, resemblance and image in the contribution, in all media and formats and on every territory. I also refrain from the right to see and approve the result of the contribution.

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Shell has the right to process every part of the contribution, including however not limited to use, exploitation, change, distribution, storage and sublicense for every goal (including but not limited to advertisement goals), and this in every way, in all media and formats on every territory”, it said.

Femke Sleegers, Campaign Coordinator, from campaign group Fossielvrij Onderwijs (Fossil Free Education) told DeSmog UK:

“We were shocked when parents showed us this contract. Also kids told us about the ‘ludicrous’ contract, while we were handing out flyers in front of the festival. This gag order proves: this festival is not for the benefit of children, this festival is for the benefit of Shell. In return for a visit to a free festival, kids pay with their smiling faces. With the images of happy children, Shell will appear to be a trustworthy company that looks out for the interest of youngsters. While Shell actually does the opposite: Shell’s 98% fossil fuel business model seriously harms their future. Shell should declare these contracts invalid.”

She continued:

Shell can use the images of these kids globally for ads and everything they deem fit. Kids can see themselves as a posterchild for a 98 percent fossil fuel-based multinational that is on a collision course with their future. If kids or their parents object to that they will have to go to court in England. Shell must declare these contracts invalid and destroy all images of the kids.”

Etienne Prins from Utopie Lawyers stated: “This contract is inappropriate at a festival aimed at kids. It allows Shell to sue parents for breach of contract if their kids tell grandma or post on social media about the festival and kids give up their portrait rights. Everybody is free to enter into a contract within the boundaries of the law, but this doesn’t fit a festival aimed at kids.”

Shell were aproached for comment but didn’t respond. According to our Hague contacts Shell said that it was an unfortunate mistake and they asked children to sign an outdated contract. However, DeSmog can reveal that last year Shell used exactly the same contract, which also caused protest from parents.


Generation Discover is part of the international campaign Make the Future, that also consists of the Eco Marathon.

Fossielvrij Onderwijs suggested the Hague event is little more than greenwashing and child-targeted marketing.

Shell’s Make the Future festival in London earlier this year faced a barrage of protest. And The Hague event has seen three years of protest including a group of 38 elementary schools in The Hague which have publicly boycotted the festival.

The city council of The Hague also cancelled a three-year subsidy it granted to Shell to organize the event. Furthermore, The Hague cut all ties with the festival as did the renowned musea Museon and Van Gogh Museum.

Shell being forced to abandon The Hague is a major victory for Fossielvrij Onderwijs who have campaigned every day of the festival handing out flyers and stickers to kids, teachers and parents.

Fossielvrij Onderwijs, which led protests against the festival announced the withdrawal as: “A crowning achievement to our campaign in which we fight the child marketing and greenwashing of 98% fossil fuel multinational Shell.”

Shell states that the festival will leave The Hague ‘to elsewhere inspire even more young discoverers of the future’. The company is looking at other cities to host their festival.

But campaigners say they will continue their work: “Wherever Shell will build the festival, there will be protests”, says Femke Sleegers, of Fossielvrij Onderwijs. “With its 98% fossil fuel business model, Shell is at a collision course with the future of the very children it invites to its festival. The fossil fuel era is over, the greenwashing must stop.”

The collapse of the event in The Hague follows huge protests in the UK where the company have been forced to abandon other sponsorship events. Earlier this month Shell abandoned its twelve year long sponsorship of the National Gallery in London, while in 2016 BP ended its sponsorship of the Tate Gallery.

Make the Future, Eco Marathon and Generation Discover are projects which are are managed by PR Agency Edelman, which also worked previously on climate science denial and as PR for tobacco companies.

Updated 02/11/2018: It was clarified that both parents and children signed the gag orders.

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