What’s sweeter than a candy bar?  The new pledge by food giant Nestle to cut forest destruction out of its products and out of its supply chain.  In just weeks, a global Greenpeace campaign has transformed Nestle from a company driving rainforest destruction through its use of palm oil, to one pioneering an ambitious new policy to ensure its products have a zero deforestation footprint.

Big Win for ForestsWith its new policy, Nestle commits to identify and exclude companies from its supply chain that own or manage “high risk plantations or farms linked to deforestation.”  This would apply to the notorious Sinar Mas group, a palm oil and paper conglomerate that Greenpeace has repeatedly caught destroying Paradise rainforests.  It also has implications for Cargill, a Nestle palm oil supplier which purchases from Sinar Mas.  In short, companies can either stop destroying rainforests, or they will stop having Nestle’s business.

While this victory came swiftly, there was a lot of work leading up to it.  For years, Greenpeace has worked to achieve major breakthroughs with some of the world’s largest users of palm oil including Unilever, Kraft and other giant consumer product companies.  Despite this, Nestle – the largest food and drink company in the world – was dragging its feet.  To motivate them, Greenpeace launched a global campaign on March 17th targeting the company and exposing its links to Paradise Forest destruction.

Within a few hours of the campaign launch and publishing of our Caught Red-Handed expose, Nestle agreed to cancel its direct business contracts with Sinar Mas.

But, that was a relatively small move for Nestle – most of the palm oil they purchase comes from third-party traders.  We had to keep the pressure on the company.  Thanks to supporters and activists like you around the world, we did just that.

The support online has been overwhelming.  The edgy “Have a Break” campaign video removal from YouTube sparked an online uproar and video reposting to Vimeo, driving 100,000 online views within the first 24 hours.  Within weeks, the video had been viewed more than 1.5 million times!

Facebook was another key online arena for the campaign, where a steady stream of pressure was applied to Nestle via comments you posted on its Facebook page.  The response was so overwhelming, it incapacitated Nestle’s page, spiraling into an online PR disaster for the company.  The Wall Street Journal, among other international media, was prompted to declare that “Nestle Takes a Beating on Social-Media Sites.”

The power of social media combined dramatically with our direct actions to deliver the message directly to Nestlé at events like its annual shareholder meeting on April 15th.  Outside the meeting venue, investors and executives were greeted by protesting orangutans as they arrived.  Inside, our activists hid in conference center's cavernous rafters, then dropped down on banners over executives heads telling Nestle to stop destroying rainforests.  You can read more about those dramatic actions in one of my previous blog entries.

Despite its new commitments, Nestle has plenty of work to do to implement its policy.  You can rest assured Greenpeace will be watching closely to make sure it does.

Greenpeace will also be making it clear that other large companies and retailers must take steps to clean up their palm oil and pulp and paper supply chains.  The Nestle policy does not mean the problem is fixed.  Rather, it is a model and starting point for other companies to build on.

Governments need to get involved as well to make sure actions by companies are not short-circuited, and to ensure long-term protections for the Paradise Forests.  President Obama is going to Indonesia in June and is expected to address forest issues while there.  Tell him to encourage Indonesia President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to protect peatlands and create a moratorium on forest destruction immediately.  Click here to take action!

Also, spread the good news about this huge victory to friends on Facebook, Twitter and MySpace!

For the forests,

-Rolf