Greenpeace's John Sauven hails social media campaigning after Waitrose halts Shell plans

Head of Greenpeace John Sauven has called for charities and NGOs to make greater use of social media following Waitrose's decision to put its work with energy giant Shell on hold.

Waitrose: has stalled work with Shell (Copyright: John Lewis)
Waitrose: has stalled work with Shell (Copyright: John Lewis)

The supermarket chain yesterday ended plans to open more shops at Shell petrol stations amid intense campaigning by the charity.

Waitrose’s decision to freeze any forecourt roll-out coincided with Greenpeace’s calls to protect the Arctic region and its campaign against Shell's plans to drill there.

Greenpeace executive director Sauven said the campaign targeted at Waitrose – which included a YouTube spoof of the company’s Christmas advert – was ultimately aimed at Shell.

‘Shell was trying to link itself to a green and ethical brand in the form of Waitrose as a way of repositioning itself in the eyes of the public,’ he claimed.

‘It was a smart move but we were able to counter the message in quite a clever and innovative way, with good comms at the heart of the campaign.’

Waitrose had come under fire earlier this month for links with Shell, with protestors hijacking a live webchat with chef Delia Smith on Facebook.

40,000 people also signed a Greenpeace petition urging the supermarket to break ties with the global energy group.

A Shell spokesman said: ‘We have a relationship with Waitrose at 15 retail sites in the UK. This doesn't come as a surprise to us as we were aware of Waitrose' capex plan on this for 2013. Shell is committed to a safe and environmentally responsible exploration programme in Alaska. Shell encourages constructive engagement and debate on this and other issues but we would not comment on our partners’ views.’

Pointing to initiatives including the use of renewable electricity, a spokesman for Waitrose said the company ‘shares Greenpeace’s anxieties about the future of the Arctic'.

The spokesman added: ‘We no longer sell petrol, having handed over our 13 filling stations to Shell. We also sell Waitrose products in two other kiosks on Shell forecourts – we do not plan to increase this number next year. Like all our competitors, from time to time we run promotions with Shell to help customers in these difficult economic times; but our presence on forecourts amounts to just 15 kiosks  selling snacks and sandwiches. Waitrose understands that the earth’s resources are finite and this fact underpins how we plan and conduct our business.’

Meanwhile, another Greenpeace target, denim brand Levi's, has committed to end all releases of hazardous chemicals throughout its entire supply chain and products by 2020.

Highlighting these developments, Sauven said that as reputation became more important to companies, the influence of charities and NGOs needed to be leveraged online.

‘Through things like Twitter and YouTube we now have the ability to reach huge numbers of people and have a strong interaction with them, which is critical to the kinds of campaigns we run. The more engaging, innovative and creative we and others can be with social media the better, and it is important to realise this is no longer a one-way flow of communication.

'Conversely, some corporations haven’t yet learned to handle it, and it is an absolutely critical tool within comms work.’

However, Sauven said that currently the quality and quantity of use of social media and digital among campaigning groups was ‘uneven’.

He warned: ‘NGOs and charities need to know how to use these new opportunities effectively, and that is as much when it comes to interacting with your own supporters as campaigning.’

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