Best Practices On Social Media
Unilever has bent over backwards in an attempt to disguise its use of one of the most controversial products on the planet–palm oil. It has joined with other global conglomerates in an attempt to greenwash deforestation and destruction caused by an entire industry. As the world has learned the hard way, there is no such thing as sustainable palm oil.
Because of the explosive demand for palm oil, which Unilever purchases more of than any company in the world, rain forests around the world have been torched and converted into palm oil plantations. Most paid to be rated as sustainable palm oil plantations through the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) a global trade group responsible for creating the smoke, mirrors and fraud that has helped Unilever and other consumer goods companies gain global attention as the most sustainable companies in the world. Meanwhile, Unilever’s demand for palm oil is contributing greatly to global deforestation, wildlife extinction and climate change.
This industry is growing so fast that the producers in Indonesia and Malaysia are clearing thousands of acres at a time with massive fires. The haze is choking entire nations across Asia, while killing and displacing endangered orangutans, tigers, elephants and anything else that gets in their way.
With all of this as a backdrop, one of Unilever’s subsidiaries in Singapore sent out a tweet suggesting that Asians choke through the smoke with an ice cream bar–one that’s loaded with palm oil. It blew up in the company’s face. Savvy tweeters jumped on the hypocrisy.
Unilever is seen as one of the greenest of the big palm oil buyers. The company has pledged to source all of its palm oil from sustainable sources by 2020. But currently only a fraction of its palm oil is sourced from sustainably managed forests (none of which were created in a sustainable way). Unfortunately, current definitions of sustainable do not include protections for wildlife. Wildlife that enter palm oil plantations are often killed.
Moral of the story? Don’t greenwash and trash the planet. Don’t let junior staff manage your social media, especially if you have something to hide. Front line engagement demands some depth and breadth with knowledge, strategy and skill.