You may have heard about something called palm oil recently. Palm oil is a first-generation biofuel -and-crop whose environmental impact per litre is roughly similar to about 50 atom bombs going off on the Galapagos islands.
The reason? It’s pretty useful, and therefore in high demand from a number of sources, and therefore a very popular crop if you’re a skint Indonesian farmer. Clear a few acres of virgin rainforest and you’re away, selling your palm oil to people like Nestle, Unilever, Kraft, Colgate-Palmolive, L’Oreal and Cadbury – for use in chocolate, margarine and soap.
It’s only just becoming obvious how devastating the uptake of palm oil, and several other crops used as food sources and biofuels, is. As a result palm oil has become a touchstone for growing biofuel and new-crop concern, with Orang Utans the poster boy for these movements, much in the same way that a drowning polar bear is used to raise awareness of climate change.
The result is this advert, featuring a bored office drone opening a Kit-Kat wrapper and chomping on a primate’s digit. It’s not subtle, and I’m in two minds about this sort of stuff.
On one hand it probably beats down the many layers of shielding and protection with which most people surround their brains, so as not to be exposed to the uncomfortable realities of their everyday lives.
On the other, it’s easy for people to get inured to this sort of thing, and it turns people off from the message. It’s depressing that people need to be ‘turned on’ to ecological catastrophes, but there you go.
Social media has picked up this ball and run with it, attacking Nestle’s Facebook page. (As an aside, why does Nestle have a Facebook page? They’ve been one of the most hated brands going for as long as I can remember. What’s next? A Facebook page for Chernobyl?)
Will it work? Well, maybe. Drag these companies into the spotlight and they tend to act with a little more vigour. There’s some sort of palm oil round table that aims to take palm oil from certified sustainable sources. Greenpeace says nestle is dragging its feet.
On the flip side, maybe Nestle should just accept that it’s always going to be the Child Catcher of multinationals and revel in it – like a corporate Millwall.
That bird in the logo could have a crossbow bolt through its eye; the Smarties slogan could be changed to ‘Only Smarties have the answer, dumbass’; and five lucky Kit Kat eaters could win a trip to a palm oil plantation if they discover a dismembered Orang Utan finger in their mid-morning snack.
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