Greenpeace and pragmatic solutions

Last edited 4 November 2010 at 4:32pm

Technical Director of DDK Scharfenstein Reinhard Penzis with the ozone-friendly fridge that the company has developed

The Greenfreeze refridgerator is just one of the many solutions to environmental problems we've developed in collaboration with corporations

We're always trying to find solutions, and sometimes that means working in alliance with corporations or governments that we have criticised in the past. When business is ready to seriously tackle a problem, we are ready to join forces. These are just a couple of the solutions we are proud to have played a key role in developing.


When the dramatic discovery of the ozone hole in 1986 forced the banning of chlorofluorocarbons (CFC's), the refrigeration industry switched to something also environmentally irresponsible -hydrofluorocarbons (HFC's) - which contribute to climate change. So we came up with an alternative.

When two scientists told us how to avoid HFC's we found an old fridge factory, appealed to our supporters to pre-order enough units to finance a refit, and launched Greenfreeze. Today there are over 100 million Greenfreeze refrigerators in the world, and the technology is now produced by all the major manufacturers.

While Greenfreeze technology gradually gained a foothold in the domestic market in the late 1990's, large commercial users continued to use refrigeration that caused climate change.

We needed a big partner to help us break Greenfreeze in the commercial sector. So in the run up to the Sydney Olympics in 2000 we went to the biggest refrigeration user in the world - Coca Cola. 

Coke quickly agreed to switch the technology they were using after a bit of pressure from our members worldwide and bought green refrigeration units for the 2000 Olympics. In Beijing, Coke installed no less than 6,350 climate-friendly coolers, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 4,500 metric tons.


Delivering vaccines in poorer regions of the world is often hampered by a lack of cooling technology because of either an absent or unreliable electricity supply.

We began talking with the UN Environmental Programme and World Health Organisation about developing an environmentally friendly solution to this problem. 

We wanted to use the Greenfreeze technology to produce refrigeration without climate damaging chemicals, but it also needed to have a reliable and independent power supply that didn't rely on hazardous lead-acid batteries so it would work in poorer regions.

With the help of the Danish Technology Institute the SolarChill project emerged in 2001. It is solar powered and stores excess cooling as ice - which can provide effective cooling for up to 5 days without further power. The devices have been trialed in Indonesia, Senegal and Cuba and earlier this year the World Health Organisation licensed it for use in vaccine programmes. SolarChill project partners, including Greenpeace, make no financial gain from its development. 

Greenpeace and McDonalds Team Up to Protect the Amazon

We value our independence. We do not take money from corporations or governments, and this enables us to speak out against environmental abuse no matter who the culprit is. But we are also willing to make alliances with some of the most unlikely characters in order to bring about solutions to protect the planet.

Perhaps none more unlikely and surprising than when we teamed up with McDonalds in 2006 to stop rainforest destruction in the Amazon.

After a three year investigation we uncovered a supply chain from soy plantations in the Amazon, one of the key drivers of deforestation, to fast food restaurants in Europe. The demand for soya was accelerating rainforest destruction with an area the size of a football field being cut down every ten seconds.

McDonalds commanded a large slice of this market and thus the influence in the market to change practices on the ground. When we publicly released our investigation we also began to put consumer pressure on McDonalds -  including sending two-metre-high clucking chickens to McDonald's restaurants across the country. By the time the last of the chickens had been unchained by police, Ronald McDonald had come to the table.

The company very quickly agreed to get Amazon soya out of its chicken feed. But more than that, it formed an alliance with other UK retailers - including ASDA, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer - to put pressure on agribusiness interests operating in Brazil, including Cargill, to stop destroying the rainforest. 

Eventually the alliance of Greenpeace and European retailers led to a moratorium on multinational traders buying soya from newly deforested land in the Amazon rainforest. The signatories included the US-based multinationals Cargill, ADM and Bunge, the Brazilian Amaggi group, and French-based Dreyfus - between them, they are responsible for most of the Amazon soya market. The moratorium is still in place today.

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