Case Study

Greenpeace UK – Giving the Orangutan a Break



Plantations for palm oil and pulpwood cause massive deforestation in Indonesia resulting in loss of biodiversity and massive greenhouse gas emissions. For several years Greenpeace has been campaigning for a moratorium on deforestation and the key target in Indonesia is Sinar Mas, a conglomerate involved in both palm oil and pulpwood. As well as targeting Sinar Mas itself, they’ve also been focusing on consumer companies using its products – first Unilever in 2008 and Nestle in 2010. The aim for this campaign was to get Nestle to drop all Sinar Mas products from their supply chain.

The principal online action was an email to Nestle, asking them to drop their contracts with Sinar Mas. This was supported by a video spoofing Kit Kat advert – Kit Kat is one of Nestle’s products containing palm oil. The launch happened in tandem with a direct action at Nestle’s HQ, where we wanted to inform employees about the actions of their company.

Their extensive promotion included emails and SMS messages to supporters, Facebook and Twitter posts, Google Adwords, paid-for banner ads, outreach to supportive blogs and a dedicated Greenpeace homepage based on Kit Kat’s website featuring the video, email action and ‘share’ options.

They also planned a supporter journey to keep interest alive over the months they expected the campaign to run. Having sent the email to Nestle, supporters were sent weekly emails with updates and new actions to take, such as calling Nestle’s customer care line.

Some Numbers

  • Over 1.6 million views of the Kit Kat video.
  • Over 200,000 emails sent to Nestle globally;
  • 25,000 of those were from the UK via Engaging Networks, including 15,000 (60%) new supporters.
  • Extensive global media and online coverage of the campaign, particularly around Nestle’s poor communications, including The Guardian, CNN, Sydney Morning Herald and the Wall Street Journal.

What Happened?

Two months after the launch, Nestle announced a plan to identify and remove companies in their supply chain with links to deforestation, including Sinar Mas.

As the campaign snowballed Greenpeace had to keep alert. Nestle first tried to get the video pulled from Youtube and then responded badly to criticism on its Facebook page. The ensuing social and traditional media storm gave the campaign additional exposure and drew in people whom it might not otherwise have reached.

As the outrage towards Nestle’s communication skills became more apparent, their Facebook page was swamped with messages. There was a risk that Greenpeace might have attracted criticism for inciting what could be viewed as an online riot, which could have backfired. They took the decision to step back somewhat, recognising that it wasn’t their space and keeping the focus on their channels and campaign message. Looking back, this seems like the right thing to have done.

Overall, the campaign was a roaring success, both in terms of achieving objectives and engaging supporters. The numbers of emails and video views are evidence of the impact it had. It also bolstered Greenpeace’s reputation as an effective, innovative campaigning organisation.

What did we learn?

The supporter journey, designed to lead activists through progressively more demanding actions, had to be revised as the situation moved more quickly than Greenpeace anticipated. Actions like changing Facebook profile pictures to support the campaign were scrapped as they began to look weak in relation to initial successes. In the case of Facebook profile pictures, Greenpeace’s supporters were way ahead of them. They took the initiative and used Greenpeace’s logos and images on their profiles. They still managed to keep things rolling and engaged supporters throughout the campaign’s two months but quickly exhausted their pre-prepared ideas.

Engaging Networks comment

Campaign victories generally don’t happen overnight, but this Greenpeace campaign shows that success is possible if you stick with an issue. Greenpeace also made great use of new technology and tactics, which helped them to reach out to new audiences.

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