I loathe that lazy journalistic trope of using a dictionary definition -- either real or, in the very worst cases , made-up -- to set the tone for a story. So I'm going to embrace my loathing and argue that the Nestle kerfuffle, as documented so very brilliantly at Prezi, represents no more than "a disorderly outburst or tumult, disorder, commotion". Sound, fury, not much substance. The way I see it, it demonstrates two great truths.

The first is that Prezi, which sneaked in under my radar a couple of weeks ago is, in the right hands, a formidable tool. I said then that I wanted to learn more about it, and this demonstration has convinced me that I ought to make this a priority. (Pause for hollow laugh from person who has no control over his priorities.)

Secondly, no matter how fast or how furiously it acts, a mob is still a mob. Greenpeace did some brilliant social engineering, and I'd love to see the fly-on-the-wall record of how they put the whole thing together, anticipating exactly what might happen. How many alternative pathways did they identify in advance? And joy of joys, what if Nestlé had simply said, "fair cop guv, we'll stop it at once"? Nestlé met everyone's expectations by being as lead-footed in spiffy new media as they have been on dull old media.

Why pick on Nestlé, which finally did get round to pointing out that they weren't the only bad boys in the rainforest? For one thing, probably because they had proven so predictable before in response to other campaigns. Greenpeace could be reasonably sure that it would have more success with an enemy so well known. For another, turning Kit Kat into Killer and making use of the whole Take a break schtick was too good to ignore. None of the other big chocolate manufacturers is anything like as soft a target.

Will the Greenpeace engorged mob affect Kit Kat sales? I have my doubts. Will it stop rainforests being converted to palm oil? No way, and even if the manufacturers stop doing it themselves, they'll still be sourcing palm oil based on little more than price. Did they have fun? You bet they did.

And so, finally, and in extremely unjournalistic mode, I get to my real and substantive point. Over at the other place my compadre Luigi asks:

Now that the social web has Nestlé on the ropes, can we get them to support cacao genebanks around the world? Forever.

To which I would add, now that Greenpeace has shown (again) what a brilliant campaigning organization it is, can we get them to support the conservation of agricultural biodiversity. Just for a wee while?
And the answer to both is a resounding "No! Not on your bleedin' nellie."

Because neither Greenpeace nor Nestlé actually cares much about life beyond the next balance sheet.

Greenpeace's income for 2008 was a shade over 50 million euros. How many of their supporters even know that agricultural biodiversity is under threat? And if you told them, would they give as much for a cacao pod as for a bug-eyed orang utang? Four-finger Kit Kats are supposed to have been sourced entirely from Fairtrade cacao since January of 2010, at least in the UK. Even if Kit Kat sales were to slump to zero in the UK, would anyone at Greenpeace care about the cacao farmers' lost livelihoods?

Nestlé's profits in 2008 were 18 billion SFr, almost USD 17 billion at today's rates. I don't believe Nestlé would even notice if it removed the cost of endowing the entire global cacao collection from its balance sheets in 2010. It would be a rounding error. And if they do it, I promise I'll tell all my Facebook friends, and Twitter followers, and LinkedIn Associates, and Uncle Tom Cobley and all, to go out and buy an extra Kit Kat, which will easily make up the shortfall, once our campaign goes viral.

Are you listening, Nestlé? How about you, Greenpeace?

And this just in:

Lost in all the mud-slinging and finger-pointing is news that Nestlé has made a remarkable about-face. In a clarifying statement, it says it will no longer do business with Sinar Mas, the Indonesian forestry company Greenpeace accuses of mowing down rainforests and peatlands and replacing them with palm-oil plantations.

And the response from eco-activists? They've completely missed it—or worse, they don't care. "Hi Nestle! How much rainforest did you destroy today? Keep up the good work Greenpeace," is the lead comment on the Facebook wall this evening.


Two ways to respond: webmentions and comments


Webmentions allow conversations across the web, based on a web standard. They are a powerful building block for the decentralized social web.

“Ordinary” comments

These are not webmentions, but ordinary old-fashioned comments left by using the form below.

Reactions from around the web