Palm oil is an environmental and PR disaster

by Antonio Pasolini on March 26, 2010

To bring the week to a close, I’ll leave aside the usual focus on renewable energy to blog about another environmental topic that has been buzzing on the social media landscape over the last week.

Last week, Greenpeace released a video (see below) punning on the famous Kit Kat slogan (Have a Break), asking Nestlé, Kit Kat maker, to give the Indonesian rainforest and the orangutans who live in them a break. That’s because Nestlé uses palm oil, which by now everyone knows is decimating rainforest in southeast Asia and destroying the habitat of these primates, whose numbers are dwindling faster than you can say Kit Kat. It is consensus now amongst environmentally-aware people that we must avoid products that use palm oil. Nestlé, as the mammoth company that it is, could make a huge difference by avoiding it too.

But it doesn’t seem like Nestlé is used to yield to pressure and its Facebook fan page became the stage of a PR fiasco over the last week as the company simply didn’t respond properly to the Greenpeace campaign. The company even threatened to delete page fans who used versions of its logo as their avatars. Besides, the company also removed the video from YouTube, forcing Greenpeace to put it on Vimeo nine days ago (it has been seen 325,000 times until now) and from there it went viral. Those of you who are interested in social media dynamics, this excellent article will give you more details about this specific facet of the story.

Nestlé said it will drop its Indonesian palm oil producer Sinar Mas, provided the Greenpeace allegations of unsustainability are true – which they most certainly are, considering the evidence. But it has admitted it won’t be switching to a renewable alternative source until it can be properly supplied with the stuff.

Are people buying fewer Kit Kats by now? Probably not. But maybe in the near future they will be buying a product that is not the result of habitat destruction and massive greenhouse gas emissions that come from deforestation. Thanks to the power of the Internet, maybe we’ll be sharing this planet with orangutans a little bit longer.

Have a break? from Greenpeace UK on Vimeo.

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