Nestle Bows to Greenpeace-led Online Activism

Greenpeace is notorious for its hands-on, creative activism, and its most recent online campaign to stop the use of deforestation in palm tree oil collection used in Nestle chocolate bars is no exception. Using guerrilla tactics to save the orangutans, Greenpeace brought the fight to protect the rainforests of Malaysia to social media. Their two month campaign spanned Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter, eventually leading to Nestle’s resolution to investigate into the practices of its palm oil suppliers, and discontinue business with those found damaging the rainforest.

The campaign began back in March with a Greenpeace upload to Youtube that was destined to go viral. The video, embedded at the end of the article, features a young, bored office worker pulling out a Kit Kat for his much-needed break from the monotony. Upon biting in to the oddly shaped bar, however, oil squirts out and it becomes clear that the bar is actually a piece of a palm tree. The text at the end of the ad reads:

Give Orangutans a break…Stop Nestle buying palm tree oil from companies that destroy the rainforests.

This video was removed for a period of time after a legal threat from Nestle, but has since been re-installed on Greenpeace’s Youtube channel. And altogether, the spoof ad and similar videos on Youtube have received over 1.5 million views.

Once the video began seeing momentum, Greenpeace activists and other Facebook users started posting questions about the chocolate and coffee company’s use of palm tree oil on its Facebook fan page. We reported a few weeks back on All Facebook about how damaging this kind of grassroots online activism can be to a company’s image.

During a shareholders meeting on April 15th, off- and on-line activism merged. Greenpeace activists dressed as orangutans picketed at the front of the building, and others waited inside the building to unfurl large banners just as the meeting began. While these traditional measures were being taken, the online activists chimed in: they rerouted all shareholders to the official Greenpeace Kit Kat campaign page with a fake WiFi login page, and began Tweeting to shareholders about the damage that Nestle’s palm tree oil providers were causing.

Just two months after this multi-faceted online and offline campaign began, Nestle issued a statement agreeing to discontinue purchasing from providers who were harming the rainforests. They agreed to partner with The Rainforest Trust, a non-profit dedicated to rainforest health to engage in “the systematic identification and exclusion of companies owning or managing high risk plantations or farms linked to deforestation.”

We wrote earlier this month about the pitfalls of Facebook activism. While there are some online campaigns that fall short of including the “active” in activism, it’s clear that this Greenpeace campaign is a template for the successful integration of Facebook and other social media into a call for social change.