Nestle harvested a storm of protests in the West when it mishandled the Sinar Mas issue on social media. Yet it got away relatively scott free in Asia, or so the industry voices including Unspun’s alter ego think in this article in Media:
Thanks to Facebook and other social media channels, Nestlé has in recent weeks had to deal with an enormous public relations mess, the source of which lay deep in the Indonesian rainforest. But as international condemnation grows, why has the region stayed silent?
The trigger for the controversy is by now well known – an online video posted by Greenpeace featuring an office worker accidentally biting into an orangutan finger instead of a Kit Kat. The video was designed to draw attention to the NGO’s battle with Nestlé over its relationship with Indonesian company Sinar Mas Group, which has been accused of illegal deforestation of rainforests – the habitat of orangutans.
The food giant flexed its muscles and managed to get the Greenpeace video removed from YouTube, a step that angered thousands of consumers, prompting them to take on the company through Twitter and on its Facebook fan page. The inept handling of social media channels by a Nestlé representative attracted a barrage of negative comments. Nestlé has since admitted it has learnt a big lesson from its social media ineptness and accepted that that it is still “learning about how best to use social media”.
But while the incident has inflamed online passions in the West, it does not seem to have affected the average Asian consumer too much. The two largest producers of palm oil globally – Indonesia and Malaysia – have been relatively unaffected by the controversy, with no serious protests covered in the local media or in the social media space. And although Nestlé has been forced to bow to international online pressure, the incident has so far had little impact on palm oil production or indeed government legislation in these two countries.