Youth, Christmas & Palm Oil

What do flying plug sockets and Elton John have in common? Christmas.


The Streisand effect is “when someone decides to ban or censor something, and that attempt to make something go away, makes it even bigger than ever before, or ever planned.” Urban Dictionary.

The short cartoon published by Iceland last week, originally created by Greenpeace, features 'Rang-tang' a baby orangutan. Rang-tang ends up in a young girl's bedroom because its forest home has been destroyed by humans on the hunt for palm oil. The message to viewers is that we lose 25 orangutans a day, due to human activity destroying their rainforest environment. And, in response to this crisis, Iceland has pledged to remove palm oil from all its own label products.

Millions (over 15 million on Facebook alone at the time of writing) of people have now viewed what was launched as Iceland's 'banned' Christmas ad. Critics have argued that the retailers probably knew that Clearcast would have to restrict the content due to British broadcasting laws, however, as one Twitter user put it “having that ad banned was the best thing that could have ever happened to Iceland.”

Iceland's official line on the ban is that it happened because the ad “was seen to be in support of a political issue. The production and widespread usage of palm oil is a complex and sometimes controversial matter. However, it was never Iceland's intention to use its Christmas advert to support a political campaign - rather to raise awareness and solidify our position on not using palm oil in food production.”

Favourable sentiment for this moral message combined with shock and emotional outrage at how 'protecting the earth' could be seen as too political, meant that the content quickly drew the masses to the 'share' button.


The vast majority of youth sentiment is that of favourable outrage for Iceland taking a stance on, and leading the way for, this cause.

While Iceland have done a good job at giving inspired fans of the ad ways to act - suggesting a 'non palm oil' christmas and asking them to help share the video - people have taken the cause into their own hands. It's prompted a petition and a rising call to arms for other organisations to follow suit.

“We have more power than we think in holding big players to account & boycotting those who continue to destroy our beautiful planet & its animals.” Twitter user.

Youth have been inspired to take action and spread the message among their own peers. The second phase of the campaign (which featured displaced orangutans walking around London) also helped provide young people with more content to help keep the conversation going. Some individuals have felt so moved that they've even written poetic responses.

Being involved in this conversation has brought a renewed sense of agency to young consumers. They feel more educated on the topic, especially as more peers post additional content broadening the context of the palm oil conversation. With this, there is a growing recognition among young people of the immense power and genuine agency that knowledgeable shoppers hold.


While it seems that there is no doubt that Iceland and Greenpeace have drawn valued attention to an important cause, their message is not perfect and it has certainly divided its critics. On one hand, some young Christmas lovers argue that the ad is not 'Christmassy' enough, and others, well informed on the issues, raise much deeper and complex concerns regarding palm oil and deforestation.

“They are acting high and mighty but aren't actually looking to fix the problem and the truth is that palm oil is used in so many things!... And mostly used in regions that don't care for sustainability so it's up to the big companies and industry to drive the change! I'm glad it's on the public agenda but it's not as simple as going palm free.” Helen, 27.

Young people have been quick to support and rally behind the cause, but equally quick to point out the nuances around the issue that Iceland miss. Nothing, it seems, is that simple. Even at Christmas time.

See also

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