This research explores the way Malaysian palm oil (PO) industry are being portrayed in social media. In particular, this study asks “How do palm oil is portrayed in social media?”, through the following research questions: How do palm oil is portrayed in relation to (1) the environment (2) the producing country’s socioeconomy? and (3) health? The main outcome of this study is a model outlining organisational identity-image development, which is theoretically valuable in understanding the way organisational claims and audience feedback interact in developing an organisational identity, especially through the context of social media. Practice-wise, the results of this research will assist the players in the Malaysian palm oil industry to position their products in the market, using a theoretically informed, data-driven approach. Here, the key decision makers could utilise the model in shaping the image of palm oil in the largely unregulated social media. The utility of PO is often criticised on the basis of environmental, socio-economic and health issues, although it is one of the most used vegetable oil globally (Ruggeri & Samoggia, 2018). The sentiments on PO are largely polarised; PO producing countries (as examples, Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria) mainly view the commodity in a pragmatic manner while PO consuming countries (for instance Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, European Union countries) generally view PO through a moral basis (Corciolani, Gistri, & Pace, 2019). Within these global sentiments, there are interweaved issues such as deforestation, health and plantation workers’ rights (Cova & D’Antone, 2016; Verneau, 2019), resulting in a complex portrayal of PO, as it has been one of the main mechanisms in lifting poverty in PO consuming countries. In this regard, it is worthwhile to seek the way palm oil is portrayed to the consumers, through social media in reframing the image of the commodity.
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