Did the Greenpeace Palm Oil campaign against Nestle really work?

The recent weeks has seen some interesting stakeholder pressure action by Greenpeace pressuring Nestle and its brand KitKat to discontinue buying palm oil from the palm oil supplier Sinar Mas . Sinar Mas, Greenpeace claims, is involved in illegal rain forest clearance in Indonesia.
In a recent post I was highly critical of the shock approach Greenpeace has decided to go with. This is the post: What the Greenpeace Nestle KitKat campaign is missing

Todays post is a follow up post on the results this campaign produced and my view on whether this campaign was a success or not.

This is what the campaign succeeded in doing:

This is an overview of the campaign coverage and results:


But was the campaign really a success for the promotion of Sustainable Palm Oil production?

I believe that the campaign was not as successful as it could have been. Why? Well, how will you remember this campaign? Will you remember it as a campaign that helped the orang-utans in the Indonesian rainforest and promoting sustainable palm oil practice or will you remember it as a a social media case study on how to not do social media?

I will unfortunately remember it as a campaign on how to not do social media and this is a real shame.

For sustainable palm oil to be the only real palm oil option it is crucial that companies such as Nestle and Cargill (palm oil supplier for Nestle) are investing heavily in the availability of sustainable palm across the globe. This is the problem with sustainable palm oil. We simply do not have enough of it available.

The Greenpeace ‘shocker’ campaign has not helped in my opinion as it mostly created a hostile environment between consumers, NGO’s and companies. We need to do better if we really want to change the way these companies do their business. We need to engage and help companies do the right choices. This is our duty as modern stakeholders!

The 2010 Sustainability and CSR Reporting season is beginning

The 2010 Sustainability and CSR Reporting is beginning. Here are some the most recent CSR reports that have been published so far (including my comments of course!),

Most recent Sustainability and CSR reports I have come across:

This is a very interesting development from PepsiCo. They now publish a so called ‘Health Report’ instead of a Sustainability Report and new global commitments announced on nutrition, environmental sustainability and financial performance. All in all this is a really interesting development from PepsiCo. I did not expect this development.

Segro is a UK commercial property investment and development company with a really good Sustainability reporting track record. Their new report is no exception. Really good!

United Technologies
United Technologies Corporation (UTC) is a diversified company and has many bases to covers with regards to Sustainability and CSR content and communication. This new report is not bad but also shows how hard it can be for these kind of companies to report on their material issues and topics.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)
Hmm. This is a really difficult one. GSK and been part of the Sustainability and CSR reporting field for a long time. They have always reported on the topics and issues that are important to them and what they do to address these. But I expected something different this year, something more unique to GSK. To me this report and website have an old fashioned feel. Although the information provided is still very good.

The trend I can see so far for 2010:
Companies seem to move away from the classic CSR or Sustainability Reporting branding and go for Reporting on topics and issues that are more in tune with their individual business sector. Examples here are PepsiCo, Nestle and Segro. Other companies are still stuck in their old ways of reporting and presentation. Here examples include GSK and United Technologies.

I believe that there are arguments for both options, 1) continuity and 2) innovation. I prefer the innovation but this is the beauty of Sustainability and CSR reporting. The spectrum of stakeholders is very diverse and each company needs to decide for themselves how they want to report. So let’s see how and on what other companies will report on in the coming months.

UPDATE: Here are two more most recent reports I came across. Standard Chartered, a UK Bank. And Aviva, a UK based insurance company. Two good reports.

Inspiration Monday: Do what you love (no excuses!)

I am doing what I love to do at the moment writing this blog post and engaging with you the reader from across the globe on the topic of Sustainability and CSR. I chose to do this because believe that everyone if they can afford it and have the opportunities to do so, needs to do what they love. Otherwise you will not be as happy and good as you can be.

Is does not matter in what field you are in or want to work in. The opportunities are out there just waiting to be taken. It happens to be that I am working in this line of work. You might be passionate about something else. But you only know what that is.

This is a video by entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk at a TED talk back in 2008. His message is clear as can be: There is now no excuse not to do what makes you happy. The Internet has made the formula for success simpler than ever. So get out and do it…..no excuses!

So what are you waiting for?

What the Greenpeace Nestle KitKat campaign is missing

This week has been a very interesting week for campaigners. Many of you might have heard that Greenpeace has hit hard on Nestle and its KitKat product with allegations that Nestlé SA buys palm oil from companies destroying the Indonesian rain forests in order to plant oil palms. The video it self is very graphic but brings the point across like not many videos I have seen.

Here is the video (but if you can’t see blood do not watch this):

Have a break? from Greenpeace UK on Vimeo.

My opinion and criticism
I like the fact that Greenpeace is trying to make the world a better place and is going against the horrible palm oil practices. But there are limits how far to go. And I believe that this campaign video is going just a little bit to far and is missing a key ingredient.

I am not talking about the fact that you are seeing blood or anything similar but I am skeptical about the actual information aspect of all of this. This video in my opinion can be compared to the doom and gloom climate change ads and videos that we all hate. They are graphic but they do not really serve the purpose of being informative and promoting the most effective action by everyone to change our ways.

The same in my opinion is true for this Greenpeace campaign video. Instead of being overly graphic and shocking they should have included more context and information on which we could all act on. And not just stop buying KitKat and boycotting Nestle. We as stakeholders need to understand the overall circumstances in order to be able to make a sound judgment in my opinion. We need to know the reason why palm oil is so popular, what the situation in the producing countries is, what the Nestle point of view for not keeping control of its supply chain is, etc. This is what Greenpeace should have focused on.

So my message to Greenpeace is: Consumer activism is good but for the sake of transparency, progress and corporate accountability please also provide more information on how to solve this dilemma from a company perspective. This campaign is just like the campaigns of the past. It is time to evolve in my opinion, time to make these campaigns more effective for us as stakeholders and the involved companies.

Picture Credit: psd

Fairtrade & Starbucks – Sharing the Starbucks perspective

Several weeks ago I attended an event hosted by Starbucks here in London. They invited Starbucks baristas from around the UK & Ireland to talk with Fairtrade farmers from Latin America & Africa to discuss the impact Fairtrade has on their lives and for everyone to learn from each other. I was able to join them, to listen in and ask some questions.

My aim of the day was to find out more about Starbucks and their approach to engaging employees and obviously about Fairtrade at Starbucks. I like the coffee and the brand itself but would I like what Starbucks do in terms of Sustainability, CSR and Fairtrade as well?

To make it short: Yes I learned a lot and yes I like the approach Starbucks is taking with its Shared Planet commitment.

These are the things I learned that morning:

On Quality, Fairtrade and CSR – The quality of the coffee is the most important measurement of success for the supplier for Starbucks. This is does not depend on the location. No matter if the producer is located in Africa or Costa Rica for example. Starbucks is not compromising on quality. In order to reach that high quality level Starbucks is helping producers to raise the percentage of the coffee harvest that is at Starbucks quality level

This is in my opinion a really interesting CSR perspective as both parties are looking for a win-win situation. The producers to raise their quality level for a higher price and Starbucks getting the quality they need. I am not going into detail what kind of examples were named but I found this a really interesting topic.

Technology improvements to make Sustainability progress – Another point was also the fact that technology advances in many different areas have helped the producers to increase not only the quality but also to limit the environmental impact of the farmers on their fields. Water usage for example decreased significantly with the producers from Costa Rica.
And in Africa this even goes further. The farmer from Tanzania pointed out that technology advances like mobile phones are now crucial at farmers level to enable them to not only communicate with each other but also to exchange data about the quality of the coffee with the wholesaler and Starbucks. Smart phones such as the iPhone are now being piloted to be given to farmers to submit their information instantly. And I thought I was trendy with my iPhone!

The more responsible use of fertilizers – This was the last major topic that was discussed that morning. The question was what type of fertilizer they use and how do they ensure the health of crops? The farmer from Costa Rica answered that they are using more organic fertilizers than ever. But fertilizer is important and will always be important to ensure the quality and scalability of the production. So far the farmers in Costa Rica have reduced the amount of chemicals by 50-60% with the help of Starbucks. Another benefit is that farmers are now much happier with this situation as the amount and likelihood of diseases of the farmer through old fashioned fertilizers is decreased dramatically by the development of organic fertilizers and use of fewer fertilizers. Starbucks is also helping the farmers to get the right kind of fertilizers for the farmers’ purpose. Here Starbucks is producing new types of crops that are then give them out to farmers that require even less fertilizers as they are much more resistant to pests. And this is being done without genetic research.

In summary:
I think this was a really interesting event as it wasn’t focused on pure promotion but rather on the information aspect. The main learning for me was that Starbucks has the big challenge of combining the quality, timely supply, proper stakeholder management and innovation throughout the supply chain so that it in the end all works in sync for us to drink our coffee in our local Starbucks.
From what I can tell is Starbucks doing a great job at this. I do not have the full picture of course and it would not be me if I would not stay critical of big company actions but these insights have really helped me to get a better feel for the company. I even bought a Starbucks card now.

So next time you walk into a Starbucks why not take a minute to look around and maybe even ask a member of staff (called a partner) about the Shared Planet commitment. You might be surprised as I was about how much each person knows about Shared Planet and how complex it all is.