Dr. Andrew Venter Blog
Join the Social Media Green Revolution
May 21, 2012
Over the past few months I’ve had the privilege of being part of UNILEVER SA’s process of introducing its ‘Sustainable Living Plan’ to its management team. At the heart of this plan is the recognition, by one of our planets largest corporates that they simply have to reduce their environmental footprint. If they don’t, they will not only find it increasingly difficult to source sufficient raw material to meet their product needs, but will also face increasing reputational damage as their customers begin questioning the contribution of their products to global ecosystem damage and climate change.
The resource dilemma has been at the heart of the environmental lobby for decades. The reputational risk dilemma is relatively new and is becoming increasingly “real” as social media finds its feet. The Fracking debate in South Africa is a classic example of this phenomenon. The ‘Treasure the Karoo Action Group’ is a small Non-Government Organisation established less than two years ago (www.treasurethekaroo.co.za). Yet it has been able to use Social Media platforms to mobilise an ever growing and extremely impressive movement of concerned citizens, that has already caused significant embarrassment and possibly, reputational damage, for SASOL, SHELL and the South African Government.
Globally, ‘Greenpeace’ are the masters of this universe. They have evolved from being an environmental “right wing” organisation to being one of the most respected environmental organisations in the world. Over the past decade they have been directly responsible for some of the most dramatic and significant environmental breakthroughs. Their incredible use of Facebook, Twitter and You Tube to drive and feed campaigns has humbled many governments and companies. UNILEVER has direct experience of ‘Greenpeace’. In 2008, ‘Greenpeace’ activists dressed as Orangutans “mobbed” a number of UNILEVER facilities, including their London Head Office, with a view to explicitly linking UNILEVER to the destruction of Rainforests and associated Orangutans slaughter. This was followed by a Social Media campaign structured around a viral video – “Dove Onslaught(er) – YouTube”, which triggered an unprecedented flood of e-mails from around the world. Within weeks UNILEVER was meeting with ‘Greenpeace’ to shape a strategy that would enable them to become leaders in the move to save the Orangutan from extinction by supporting the Sustainable Palm Oil drive.
They subsequently pursued a similar campaign against Nestle, anchored by a number of KitKat videos that went viral on You Tube and Vimeo. Nestle initially responded by attempting to block the videos and threatening legal action. This simply added fuel to the fire, triggering an even larger response, including some very creative takes on the KitKat logo. In 2010, Nestle capitulated and undertook to work with ‘Greenpeace’. ‘Greenpeace’ have just forced Facebook itself to commit to using green energy and are currently targeting Apple.
‘Greenpeace’s’ advocacy is not confined to the Corporate community. They have driven a number of campaigns targeting Governments, including their current campaign against the Brazilian Government – “Dilma: save the Amazon, veto the new Forest Code – YouTube”. In a few weeks Brazil will host one of the most significant environment conferences of our time, Rio +20. It follows the inaugural Earth Summit in Brazil (1992) and the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg (2012). Despite this, the Brazilian Government has just passed a controversial bill that will effectively result in a 50% increase in Amazon Rainforest destruction. The bill has been passed in response to years of intense lobbying by the agribusiness sector and will enable the additional clearing of over 22 000 000 ha’s of rainforest, the equivalent of 10 Kruger National Parks!
Brazil’s President Dilma has 14 days to veto this Bill. ‘Greenpeace’ have joined a number of local organisations to drive a campaign, urging her to veto the Bill. 160 000 Brazilians have already signed a petition and there is little doubt that life is going to become incredibly uncomfortable for President Dilma and her government. I’d like to challenge you to join this campaign – www.greenpeace.org – and to use the Social Media world to stand up for a sustainable future to us, our children and the many species that share our planet. Let me know what you think: andrewventer.wordpress.com.Go back