The rainforests of Indonesia are an ecological treasure: They’re home to critically endangered species like the orangutan and the Sumatran tiger, and they also store more carbon than the entire world emits in 9 years. Now snack and cereal giant Kellogg’s has made a huge deal with a company that’s wiping these forests off the map.
Kellogg’s has just launched a partnership with Wilmar International, the world’s largest palm oil trader. The palm oil industry has had a devastating impact on the forests of Southeast Asia, wiping out millions of hectares of forest and releasing hundreds of millions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere every year. And even among palm oil companies, Wilmar is especially terrible: Satellite evidence recently proved that it’s been illegally logging on protected forests for decades.
Wilmar’s record is so bad that Newsweek named it the least sustainable corporation in the world — worse than Exxon Mobil, TransCanada, and even Monsanto. We need to let Kellogg’s know that this deal is unacceptable.
Palm oil has been popular in Asia for years, but it’s increasingly being imported to the West, largely because it’s slightly cheaper than other vegetable oils — but it also has huge health and environmental costs! Lots of food companies in North America, Australia, and Europe are buying up cheap palm oil to save a few cents, but Kellogg’s is going further than anyone else. It’s teaming up with Wilmar to try to dominate the Chinese snack market.
It’s easy to produce deforestation-free palm oil, but companies like Wilmar are cutting corners to avoid basic sustainability standards (and they’re getting away with it due to widespread corruption). Under intense consumer pressure, Kellogg agreed to some sustainability guidelines for its palm oil purchases. But now it’s giving billions of dollars worth of business to Wilmar, a company that’s sourced palm oil from natural parks and other protected areas. If Kellogg can’t reign in its business partner, this deal could wipe away the impact of all its sustainability initiatives.
Wilmar just announced a small step that shows it may be open to change. In response to anger over massive forest fires in Indonesia, it said that it would stop sourcing palm oil from companies connected to illegal burning. But that’s not enough: We can’t allow it to replace deforestation-by-burning with deforestation-by-bulldozer. Kellogg’s needs to insist that its business partner stop cutting down the rainforest altogether.
Green Rankings 2012: Global Companies. Newsweek’s rankings of the 500 largest public-traded companies by sustainability.
Illegal Palm Oil Plantations Threaten Protected Forests. World Wildlife Fund. June 26, 2013