Global food giant Nestlé has been under a critical spotlight for alleged poor corporate and social practices for many years. Recently, activists have accused the company of several problems, including only one percent of Nestlé cocoa products are FairTrade certified, continued child slavery in the cocoa supply chain, and its baby milk products not meeting international standards. The latest accusation of Nestlé’s bad practices is now being seen loud and clear through a viral video, which is another great example of digital activism.
Greenpeace UK uploaded a video on Youtube, showing an office worker opening a Kit Kat and finding an orangutan’s finger. Nestlé, which produces the popular chocolate bar, is being blamed by the green justice group of buying palm oil, which is used in many of its products, from Indonesian producer Sinar Mar. As a result, Greenpeace claims that this partnership has resulted in destroyed rainforests where Indonesia’s last orangutans live and has created a devastating carbon footprint.
In the last 50 years, an area more than twice the size of Germany has been logged, burned or otherwise degraded, with palm oil plantations being a major cause, according to Greenpeace.
On Wednesday, Nestlé released a statement denying it buys palm oil from Sinar Mar for any of its products, including Kit Kats.
“We do purchase palm oil from Cargill and we have sought assurances from them about their supply chain,” it said.
“Cargill has informed us that Sinar Mas needs to answer Greenpeace’s allegations by the end of April. They have indicated that they will de-list Sinar Mas if they do not take corrective action by then.
“Nestlé recently undertook a detailed review of its supply chain to establish the source of its palm oil supplies and we have made a commitment to using only ‘Certified Sustainable Palm Oil’ by 2015, when sufficient quantities should be available.”
Greenpeace claims that Nestlé asked YouTube to remove the video citing copyright concerns. Specifically Nestlé was bothered by the twist on the Kit Kat’s famous slogan used at the end of the video: “Have a break? Give orangutans a break.” However, the video was reposted the next day. Greenpeace said the video being taken down was a censorship attempt, which was “a pretext for stopping the word being spread and an apparent attempt to silence us.”
Elsewhere online, approximately 90,000 Nestle protesters have taken over the company’s Facebook page, to make their grievances clear, creating possibly one of the largest digital protests since last summer’s Iranian election protests. In the long run, the Nestle debacle might show other companies how not to deal with online crisis communications. While Greenpeace created a very effective and (very graphic) video, the question always remains: Will digital activists take their protests offline and actually stop eating Kit Kats in the long term? Only time will tell.