Protesting Orangutans Invade Nestle Shareholders' Meeting

Photo: Herbi Ditl (Flickr)

Thanks to a tough gorilla marketing campaign and unrelenting online social media protests, the recent Nestle-vs-Greenpeace firestorm is getting interesting, with Nestle backpedaling, fast. Nestle's latest public relations disaster over its use of unsustainable palm oil in its candy bars - sourced from rapidly-disappearing Indonesian rainforests - took a strange turn this Thursday when Greenpeace activists crashed a shareholders' meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, in a coordinated ambush from above and on the ground - with the aid of some pretty convincing orangutan costumes. Watch what happens in the video:

It began last month with Nestle censoring a Greenpeace video critical of the company's links to Indonesian supplier Sinar Mas, a major player in the ongoing loss of Southeast Asia's rainforests. It was a big mistake on Nestle's part, since the original YouTube video had less than 1,000 views and public outcry probably would have remained relatively manageable if Nestle had not reacted the way it did.

Undeterred, Greenpeace reposted the banned video on Vimeo instead - which has now garnered 1.3 million views. Greenpeace also simultaneously launched a furious social media campaign which included a boycott of Nestle products, a coordinated Twitter attack and a flustered Nestle actually badmouthing its own Facebook fans, demonstrating how quickly social media protests can turn things around.

Orangutan surprise
After days of intense negative publicity, it seemed that things had died down this week, that is, until Nestle's annual shareholder meeting was interrupted by a protester dropping from the ceiling to unfurl a huge banner saying "Nestle, Give the orangutans a break!"

"Nestlé's chair, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, was explaining how well the company had performed over the last fiscal year when noises were heard up in the roof and leaflets began raining down, not at all unlike a shower of cash," says Greenpeace's blog.

Nestle still indirectly supporting rainforest destruction
In response to last month's events, Nestle has already dropped Sinar Mas as a supplier, but continues to be indirectly supplied by Sinar Mas through other multinationals like Cargill. Though Nestle has pledged to use only certified sustainable palm oil by 2015, critics say that five years will critically harm an orangutan population already in serious decline.

Sinar Mas is facing increasing criticism for clearing large tracts pristine rainforest - habitat to many species including the endangered orangutan - to make way for its palm oil plantations. Palm oil production a major cause for deforestation and loss of peatlands in the region, making Indonesia a major contributor to global greenhouse gases.

So who will win out? It seems while Nestle is definitely on the defensive, we'll keep you posted as the story unfolds.

More on Palm Oil
Gorilla Marketing 101: Nestlé, Palm Oil and the Power of the Internet
Southeast Asia Paying High Environmental Cost For Palm Oil
Major Campaign against Palm Oil, Destroyer of Orangutans
Logging, Palm Oil and Human Rights in Borneo: Malaysian Government Pushes Ahead By Ousting Indigenous Leaders
Palm Oil in the Spotlight: Plantations Threaten Rare Cats, Peatland Emissions Increasing + A Small Victory
More Evidence Palm Oil Plantations Are Bad for Biodiversity: Have Two-Thirds Lower Ant Species Than Forests
Clean Air or Clean Hair? Palm Oil In Everything
Indonesia to Allow More Palm Oil From Peat Lands: Watch Greenhouse Gas Emissions Go Through the Roof
Pay No Attention to the Whining Indonesian Palm Oil Industry: The Deforestation, Climate Change & Biodiversity Concerns Are Genuine

Tags: Corporate Responsibility | Greenpeace

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