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Bad PR For Nestle, Or Good PR For Greenpeace?

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The answer is both. Many PR and marketing professionals have been discussing Nestles’ PR fiasco over the last few weeks, after Greenpeace activists went after the brand’s Facebook page in an effort to drive the company to stop using palm oil in its products.

Obtaining palm oil leads to destruction of forests in Southeast Asia.

In just a few weeks since Greenpeace launched a campaign, “Caught Red-Handed: How Nestle’s Use of Palm Oil is Having a Devastating Impact on Rainforest, The Climate and Orang-utans,” Nestle has pledged to stop buying palm oil from Sinar Mas group, a supplier which is a “notorious rainforest destroyer,” according to Greenpeace.

While the campaign includes a lot more than just Facebook activism, it is Greenpeace’s “brand-jacking” of Nestle’s Facebook page that has received a lot of attention.

And while many marketing and PR blogs have focused on the “damage control” aspect for Nestle, we couldn’t help but notice that this is great PR for Greenpeace. Today we spoke with Greenpeace Press Officer Daniel Kessler, who is leading the anti-palm oil campaign.


Tell us a little bit about the campaign.

The largest supplier of palm oil is Sinar Mas in Indonesia. The campaign is to raise awareness of what they are doing in Indonesia, illegally converting peatland into plantations for palm oil.

Nestle, the world’s largest food and beverage maker, was getting some of their palm oil form Sinar Mas.

What happened on Facebook was there was a bit of an uproar when someone started pushing stuff on [Nestle's] Facebook page. Then, the woman who runs their Facebook page started censoring comments, and told people not use a variation of Nestle’s logo as their Facebook profile picture, which some thought infringes on their free speech rights.

Why did you choose Facebook? Was this a coordinated effort to specifically target Facebook or did it come organically from the larger campaign?

Facebook’s become a hotbed for activism. We have offices in 40 countries and many of our offices are participating in this campaign. Each has their own Facebook page. People naturally go to Nestle’s Facebook profile. I don’t have any knowledge of us sending people there.

[Editor's note: A blog post on Greenpeace's Web site does mention the Facebook aspect of the campaign. The blog post states, "There's no quick-PR-fix to get out of this one; Nestle is going to have to really clean up its supply chain."]

Is this something you’d want to replicate with other brands?

It’s very easy to have two way conversation with people. People can easily get up to speed and take action. It’s not the only method. We still need people who are doing things offline as well online.

[Editor's note: Greenpeace has a campaign to push Facebook to use renewable energy to run its data centers. The Facebook group, "We want facebook to use 100% renewable energy" has more than 200,000 members.]

What do you want Nestle to do, specifically?

We need them to look into their supply chain and make sure they are not using palm oil.

They pledged to sever their contract with Sinar Mas, but the supply chain is still complicated. They need to do supply chain analysis to make sure they’re not sourcing palm oil.

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