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Social media can help save the planet, says Greenpeace boss

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Greenpeace vs. Nestle
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Online success of Greenpeace viral Kit Kat video shows power of social media
  • Campaign against Nestle was aimed at reducing use of palm oil grown on deforested land
  • Greenpeace will continue to work with companies and use public campaigning
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(CNN) -- Greenpeace is well-known for taking direct action in the name of saving the environment, but key to its campaigning now is the collective power of the Internet and social media, says Greenpeace's executive director, Kumi Naidoo.

Naidoo was talking to CNN about a recent campaign to stop Nestlé using palm oil sourced from plantations that it says are responsible for deforestation, primarily in Indonesia.

Palm oil is used in a variety of consumer products, from chocolate to washing powder, and is used by numerous companies across the world, not just Nestlé.

According to Greenpeace and other activist groups, rising demand for it has led to virgin rainforests being cleared to make way for new plantations.

Central to the Greenpeace campaign was an online video posted in March -- a mock Kit Kat chocolate bar advert that shows an office worker biting into a bloody orangutan's finger instead of a piece of chocolate.

The video got more than a million hits, drawing attention to the issue and public scrutiny of Nestlé policy. Naidoo says the attention was in part because the company at first tried to ban the video for copyright infringement.

The Swiss multi-national subsequently received numerous complaints about its palm oil policy on its Facebook and Twitter pages.

Less than a month after the video was first shown, Nestlé stopped all purchase of palm oil from Sinar Mas, one company Greenpeace claimed was causing deforestation in Indonesia.

Nestlé made the announcement in an April letter addressed to Greenpeace, and also reiterated its existing green credentials: a commitment to a moratorium on the deforestation of rainforests, its commitment to use only certified sustainably sourced palm oil by 2015 and a pledge not to use suppliers that provide blends of palm oil from non-sustainable sources.

Read the letter in full here.

Naidoo says in future Greenpeace will continue to work with companies, not just chastise and shame them through public campaigns.

"We've got lots of dialogue going on with a range of companies. Even with Nestlé we had been talking with them, but if talk does not deliver the results, we have to create the possibility for millions of people who care about the environment to send a clear message," said Naidoo.

"Those [companies] that don't have products that are sold to the public, the challenge there is slightly different, but when you have a company that sells a product directly to the global public you have a greater ability to leverage things more quickly."

This article has been updated from its original first-published version