Greenpeace target Nestle

Posted by Josette Dunn on 22nd March 2010

In today’s environmentally aware and increasingly socially responsible society, food manufacturers are increasingly being held accountable for more than just quality and flavour.  Consumers are increasingly opting for fairtrade and sustainable products, choosing to vote with their money.  Companies that ignore this trend do so at their own risk.

So Nestle found out recently, when they became the target of a Greenpeace campaign fighting to protect the rainforest and biodiversity in Indonesia, through their relationship with Sinar Mas, one of the largest palm oil producers in that country.

The campaign included protests and a video launched on YouTube, which according to Greenpeace “exposes the true cost behind having a break the KitKat way”.  Greenpeace claim that Nestlé, maker of KitKat, use palm oil that comes from destroyed forests.

Protests took place across Europe and China as around 100 Greenpeace activists, some dressed as orang-utans, went to Nestlé’s headquaters and factories. They called on Nestlé staff to urge the company to stop using palm oil that’s the result of forest destruction.

Emails crossed the globe at lightning speed to tell environmentally conscious consumers that, according to Valerie Phillips, Forest Campaign Team Leader, Greenpeace Australia Pacific, Nestlé had blocked the Greenpeace YouTube video.

Palm oil is one of the most versatile vegetable fats used in the production of foods such as chocolate, shortenings and margarine. At Nestlé, palm kernel oil is used in a wide range of confectionery and dairy products, including the chocolate bar, KitKat..

Palm oil is also used for producing household items such as soap and detergent and animal feeding. It is also used in bio fuels. The fact that palm oil is now used as an ingredient in bio-diesel adds an additional pressure: this is a new market for palm oil which has the potential to dramatically increase global demand for this commodity.

Demand for palm oil has been increasing so much that the companies that sell it are levelling rainforests to make way for palm oil plantations.

Greenpeace argues that those rainforests play a crucial role in regulating our climate and absorbing CO2. “The companies that produce palm oil are cutting down the lungs of the planet and contributing to making Indonesia the third-largest carbon emitter after the United States and China.”

Yes, you read that right. Deforestation is actually responsible for more carbon emissions than all the cars, trucks, planes and automobiles in the world: 1/5 of total emissions.

Deforestation is also destroying orang-utan habitats, pushing this already endangered species to the brink of extinction, and harming the livelihoods of local people.

Nestlé has stated that they only buy palm oil from Sinar Mas for manufacturing in Indonesia.  Nestle operates only three factories in Indonesia, however the company did not disclose what percentage of total confectionery production these factories are responsible for.

Greenpeace say they have contacted Nestle with evidence of Sinar Mas’s practices many times, most recently in December 2009. Yet, Nestlé continues to use Sinar Mas palm oil in its products, including KitKat.Other leading companies have stopped buying from Sinar Mas as a result of its shocking environmental and social practices. Unilever cancelled a US$30 million contract last year, while Kraft cancelled its contract last month.

We know consumer activism works. It remains to be seen how damaging this campaign by Greenpeace will be to Nestle worldwide.