Girl Scouts USA’s mission is to empower girls to be leaders “who make the world a better place.” But today, in a shocking violation of its own mission statement, the organization made the decision to censor the comments of scores of its young leaders rather than listen to their concerns about the use of rainforest-destroying palm oil in its famous Girl Scout cookies.
Today, Rainforest Action Network and Change.org partnered with Girl Scouts Rhiannon Tomtishen and Madison Vorva for a social media day of action to convince CEO Kathy Cloninger that breaking the ties between Girl Scout cookies and rainforest destruction should be a top priority for Girl Scouts USA. Both organizations asked fans, followers, supporters and celebrities to pepper Twitter and Facebook with messages asking GSUSA to make a change.
The social media push included a special targeted email blast to thousands of Girl Scouts, alumnae, troop leaders and family members that had signed RAN’s Rainforest Safe Girl Scout Cookie Petition to update the Girl Scouts of the USA Facebook page with their concerns, like, “As part of the Girl Scouts family, I am disappointed to see rainforest destroying palm oil still in our cookies. I’d like to see Girl Scout cookies be rainforest safe by our 100th anniversary!” GSUSA did not like that.
After about approximately 50 comments from Facebook users associated with Girl Scouts were posted, GSUSA removed every last one and altered the settings on their Facebook page so that no individual comments or links from fans could be posted there. Those individual messages can not be retrieved. (If you posted and can retrieve your post on Facebook, please upload a screenshot on the Rainforest Action Network Facebook page so we can include it in this blog post.)
This is the “Message from the CEO” on GirlScouts.org:
Being honest and fair, courageous and strong, using resources wisely, respecting yourself and others, and making the world a better place…these are values that our staff and our volunteers on a national and a local level continually teach, model, and reinforce. I am proud that for over 90 years Girl Scouting has produced and attracted so many examples of confidence, courage, and character in our girls and the adults who lead them.
Apparently the staff person running the Girl Scouts Facebook page didn’t get the memo.
Following this egregious censorship of the scouts, the administrator of the Girl Scouts USA Facebook page published a post that outlined GSUSA’s use of palm oil sourced from suppliers that are part of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (more of a pay-to-play organization than a serious watchdog group) and told people to use that single thread for all related comments.
What this means, in effect, is that when you visit GSUSA’s Facebook page you are immediately presented with its misleading justifications for using palm oil in Girl Scout cookies and not the voices of concerned Girl Scouts and troop leaders, which have now been buried. RAN responded by asking activists to post on the Girl Scout Cookies Facebook page instead. Some of those posts are pictured here.
In 2009, Kathy Cloninger candidly discussed the role of leadership for women and girls in creating a sustainable society. In this interview, Kathy summed up the case for working in solidarity with Madison and Rhiannon perfectly:
I think women are more likely to lead with, ‘How is this improving the world around me and not just how is it improving my company or my community, but much more of a global improvement.’ If we don’t care about women and girls, then we’re never going to be able to create the kind of healthy society that we need.
Right. Madi and Rhiannon are living examples of these wise words.
So, Ms. Cloninger, rather than censoring Girl Scouts, troop leaders and alumnae, why not come together at the table with the girls, so that when you step down as CEO this fall you leave a proud legacy of environmental stewardship for every generation of Girl Scouts to come?