How Facebook saved the rainforest

Need a break? – So does the Rainforest. At least that is what Greenpeace thought when they started a campaign against Nestlé, which is – according to the Telegraph – the largest food company in the world.

The campaign was started at the beginning of 2010 and made me personally become interested in Nestlé, what they were doing in general and what their global impact is today.

It was started because – according to Greenpeace (a non governmental environmental organization) – Nestlé was using palm oil from Sinar Mas, a palm oil supplier which was said to be trashing Indonesian rainforests, as also the blogger Martin Meister points out in his blog post which talks about “Nestle’s mistake in Social Media Networking”.

The reasons

As Stephanie Dearing cited in her article “Greenpeace boycotts Nestlé: Don’t have a KitKat break today” on the “digital journal” (a global digital media network) on March 23, 2010, Greenpeace had stated in a press release at the beginning of March 2010 that

“We need those rainforests. They 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.”

Deforestation is actually responsible for more carbon emissions than all the cars, trucks, planes, and automobiles in the world: 1/5 of total emissions. But that’s not all.  Deforestation also trashes the habitat of orang-utans and pushes them towards extinction as well as that it of course destroys the homes of local people.

The somewhat gruesome video

Because of that, Greenpeace launched a campaign against Nestlé. An essential element of the campaign was this rather clever if somewhat devestating video posted on youtube.

The social media firestorm

Nestlé reacted swiftly and demanded the video be removed because of copyright. That is how a social media firestorm started, which spread across the globe reaching millions of people in a few days.

With 400 million members, Facebook obviously was the first platform to turn to. Nestlé’s fanpage suddenly had loads of visitors. As negative comments flooded in, the fan page moderator saw red. By deleting negative comments and reacting in a wrong manner to Facebook comments, Nestlé kind of themselves evoqued the issue to cross over from social media to traditional media.

Newspapers, Magazines and Websites startet writing about the Nestlé issues discussed on Facebook. Then… Twitter and the Blogosphere were buzzing. All in all the tweets reached about 540,000 people just in one single day. But it didn’t stop there.

Greenpeace started offering the banned video as a free gift and asked web users to share it widely online. Soon after that, the video reappeard on youtube many times. In only the first day, it appeard at least 20 times. Some people suggested that this was the first truly global case of social media changing the business landscape.

The final effect

In May 2010 Nestlé finally did announce to stop using products that come from rainforest destruction. (look at it on the Greenpeace site) The new policy commits Nestlé to identify and exclude companies from its supply chain that own or manage ‘high risk plantations or farms linked to deforestation’. Online and offline the message to Nestlé managed to be strong and relentless. Greenpeace said they would be watching Nestlé closely to make sure it sticks to its word and puts them into action fast.

Did something change? To read more about “What happened after you left that comment on Nestlé’s Facebook page?”, go to this article, which a Greenpeace International member wrote half a year after the viral attack against Nestlé on Facebook.

I‘m not saying that you should stop eating Nestlé products but as you have seen a boycott did actually raise attention and this boycott was started easily by the means of social media. As nearly everyone has access to the internet and the social media platforms nowadays, this shows how in our society it’s not just the “powerful” people who can change something, but nearly everyone who really wants to.

Leave a comment


  1. Hi,
    a very captivating post. Especially the video caught my interest, as well as disgust.
    I like your conclusion, which is not pointing out to the main topic “Nestlé”, but the power of the people via social networks.
    Well done!

    Great creativity in your “About” page to all of you girls!
    I’m anxious to read more about Nestlé and the other brands.

  2. Hi there,
    great post about the power of social media and full of facts about nestle.
    But does the usage of social media do not maybe have some side effects?
    Check out this cool blog entry.

  3. Thanks for the great comments! I really appreciate that!

    Lasse, of course the use of social media also has side effects. After having read that really interesting blog entry I especially understand what you mean. Thanks for introducing me to it!

  4. hey jesse! very nice post! especially after anne told us something about nestle last semester in self management, this was a nice refreshment of knowledge and I really think its an awesome video and I liked to hear that the reactions were so crassly on it 🙂
    btw, your blog looks great with all the photos

  5. look at you! Well done! I remember when you came up to me, all upset about them poor orang-utans being condemned to extinction. It’s a tragedy. Your post really motivates me to go after my goals as you amazingly show that it aint impossible to achieve the impossible. Please continue to provide me, as well as the entire world, with such informative and expressive blog entries! Next time you could possibly write about how elephants in India are used for business. Very interesting and important! Thanks again!

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