Video: Nestle’s attempt to censor Greenpeace palm oil ad backfires

Video: Nestle’s attempt to censor Greenpeace palm oil ad backfires
Jeremy Hance
March 19, 2010

Have a break? from Greenpeace UK on Vimeo.

In a bold online video, the environmental group Greenpeace cleverly links candy-giant Nestle to oil palm-related deforestation and the deaths of orangutans. Cleary angered over the video, Nestle struck back by having it banned from YouTube and replaced with this statement: “This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Société des Produits Nestlé S.A.”

However Nestle’s reaction to the video only spread it far and wide (see the ad below): social network sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit were all flooded with the ad as well as rising criticism against Nestle—one of the world’s largest food producers—including calls for boycotts.

Greenpeace began sustained action against Nestle on Wednesday when they released new evidence that linked Nestle to illegal deforestation in Indonesia through one of its palm oil suppliers, Sinar Mas.

Oil palm plantation in Sumatra, Indonesia. While palm oil plantations may look ‘green’ studies have shown a drastic reduction in biodiversity and large carbon emissions due to deforestation.

“While many companies such as Unilever and Kraft are making efforts to disassociate themselves from the worst practices of the palm oil industry, Nestlé has done diddly squat,” the organization wrote in a blog.

The report spurred Nestle to cancel its contract with Sinar Mas—months after Sinar Mas was shown to be involved in illegal deforestation—but the corporation continues to purchase oil palm from Cargill, which is supplied in part by Sinar Mas. For its part, Cargill says it is investigating Greenpeace’s allegations and if Sinar Mas is found to be committing illegal deforestation they will drop them. Nestle has said in a statement: “we share the deep concern about the serious environmental threat to rain forests and peat fields in South East Asia caused by the planting of palm oil plantations.”

To prove this to its consumer, the company says it is committed to purchasing only sustainable palm oil by 2015. However, critics contend this is too late.

“Not only are these areas key habitat for orangutans, but also crucial carbon stores; the destruction of these areas is a major cause of Indonesia’s rocketing carbon emissions,” Greenpeace said in a statement. .

Indonesia is the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases largely due to large-scale deforestation across the nation. Between 1990 and 2005, Indonesia lost more than 28 million hectares of forest, including 21.7 hectares of virgin forest. The country has declined from 82 percent forest cover in the 1960s to less than half today.

Orphaned orangutan, of which there are thousands, at Sepilok in Sabah, Malaysia. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

Deforestation is also the leading cause of biodiversity loss in the region. While orangutans have come to represent the movement against deforestation by oil palm plantations in the same way that polar bears symbolize climate change, Indonesia is home to tens of thousands of other species, many of which are threatened by deforestation.

Since Wednesday Nestle’s Facebook page has been hit by growing anger against the multi-billion dollar food giant. Nestle complained that some Facebook users were posting new images of its logo, which shows three happy birds in a tree, and stated that it will delete any “altered version of any of our logos as your profile pic”. This statement brought another firestorm of criticism, which Nestle has eventually caved to, now allowing ‘alterations’.

This is not the first time Nestle has been called out for its practices. The company has long-faced criticism for aggressively marketing its baby formula to poor mothers in the developing world.


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