An aggressive, meant-to-shock Facebook and YouTube campaign on behalf of Greenpeace has led food conglomerate Nestle to modify its policies regarding the use of palm oil.
Nestle announced early Monday that it has partnered with The Forest Trust, a nonprofit group that helps businesses develop practices to harvest forests sustainably. The partnership is designed to reduce the social and environmental impacts of Nestle’s corporate supply chain by severing ties to companies that contribute to deforestation. The first issue addressed will be its use of palm oil–the harvesting of which has been connected to the loss of rainforests and the animal species that inhabit them, as well as to greenhouse gas emissions.
Greenpeace considers this a major victory: two months ago, the environmental group targeted Nestle’s use of palm oil with a purposely unsettling video that compared eating Kit-Kat bars to snacking on the bloodied appendages of orangutans. When Nestle lobbied to have the video removed from YouTube, Greenpeace turned the heat up a notch and encouraged supporters to start posting comments in protest on Nestle’s Facebook fan page and to change their profile photos to modified versions of the Nestle logo (i.e. “Killer” instead of Kit-Kat”). The whole thing turned into a particularly ugly social-media mess for Nestle when the manager of the company’s fan page on Facebook started getting argumentative and rude. The commenters grew more vocal, even after the page manager apologized.
Nestle’s announcement on Monday makes no mention of the digital smackdown that pressured it into making this change, but Greenpeace was quick to highlight the role of social media and the more traditional forms of grassroots lobbying.
“With nearly 1.5 million views of our Kit Kat advert, over 200,000 emails sent, hundreds of phone calls and countless Facebook comments, you made it clear to Nestle that it had to address the problems with the palm oil and paper products it buys,” Greenpeace’s U.K. division said in a statement Monday. “Greenpeace campaigners have met several times with Nestle executives to discuss the problems with sourcing of palm oil and paper products. It certainly seemed like things were moving forward in these discussions. But we didn’t expect Nestle to come up with such a comprehensive ‘zero deforestation’ policy so quickly.”