Time for Snack Food Companies to Commit to Ethical Palm Oil

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There are time when companies need more information to act – for example, making implementable drought-action plans. But there are times when lack of action is the equivalent to allowing atrocities to occur. Rainforest Action Network (RAN) is calling out 20 laggards that are, by refusing to enact strong palm oil procurement policies, allowing for social and environmental violations to spread on the other side of the world.

Palm oil cultivation is a known problem. It is a chief driver of deforestation in Southeast Asia, decimating the homes of Sumatran rhinos, tigers and elephants. This deforestation is also a chief cause of carbon emissions, and scientists strongly believe that if we are to avert catastrophic climate change, then deforestation needs to be stopped — and fast.

That, of course, doesn’t get into the other ethical issues facing palm oil. In the past, plantations have been known to use child labor, are an end-point for human traffickers and often treat workers viciously. Palm oil plantations spreading into indigenous lands is also a chief source of conflict as deforestation encroaches into traditional lands, oftentimes holy lands.

This palm oil ends up all mixed together in global supply chains, and ends up in our packaged goods. Remember the big move against trans-fats? They are most often being replaced by palm oil, which, in less than 15 years, has gone from being a barely used good to one of America’s most consumed oils.

Rainforest Action Network is calling out 20 snack food companies including Kraft Foods Group, Hillshire Brands Company, Grupo Bimbo, H.J. Heinz Company, Campbell Soup Company, Hormel, Unilever and PepsiCo for not doing enough to stop the use of conflict palm oil in their products.

“As palm oil plantations continue to spread across Indonesia, Malaysia and beyond to Africa, Papua New Guinea and Latin America, endangered rainforests are falling faster than ever and systematic abuse of communities and workers’ rights remains rife throughout the industry,” said Gemma Tillack, agribusiness campaign director for Rainforest Action Network (RAN).

RAN believes that companies have an obligation to implement strong, independently-verifiable standards and account for every single drop of palm oil in their supply chains to ensure it comes from ethical sources. There is, in RAN’s mind, no excuse for gigantic multinational companies with millions, sometimes billions, in revenues to not practice this common-sense supply chain management.

Several of the companies are those whose products your everyday purchases. This includes: Kraft Foods Group, Nissin Foods, Hillshire Brands, Heinz, Campbell Soup, Hormel and PepsiCo.

The biggest name in this list is, without question, PepsiCo, owner of several palm oil containing products including Frito Lays, Quaker Chewy Granola Bars and Cheetos. As one of the biggest distributors of food and beverages, and with a supply chain that extends to nearly everywhere in the world, PepsiCo should be a leader, not a laggard, when it comes to palm oil

“The global palm oil industry is fast approaching a tipping point and PepsiCo’s global scale and influence gives it a crucial role to play in finally eliminating Conflict Palm Oil from our food supply,” said Rainforest Action Network’s Ginger Cassady in a press statement.

RAN plans numerous actions to raise awareness of the Snack Food 20 and push them to implement stronger palm oil procurement policies that will help save Southeast Asia’s forests. Click here to stand with them today.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Nithin Coca is a freelance journalist who focuses on environmental, social, and economic issues around the world, with specific expertise in Southeast Asia.

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