‘Forest Heroes’ Campaign Urges Dunkin’ Donuts to Use Responsible Palm Oil

By Alexandra Stark ForestHeroes_Dunkin

Forest Heroes, a group campaigning to prevent deforestation around the world, has urged Dunkin’ Donuts to adopt a responsible palm oil policy. Palm oil is primarily grown in Indonesia and Malaysia on land that has been deforested of ecologically rich rainforests – and it’s one of the primary ingredients in Dunkin’s doughnuts.

Because of deforestation for what the campaign calls “irresponsible palm oil,” there are fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers left in the world. That is why Forest Heroes organizers and volunteers gathered outside of Dunkin’ Donuts’ shareholder meeting a week ago, dressed in tiger ears and tails. They called on the company to commit to only using responsibly sourced palm oil.

Dunkin’ Donuts is currently working to develop just such a policy. At the shareholder meeting, company leaders assured the Forest Heroes advocates that they are working with the World Wildlife Fund to ensure that the new policy is strong, and noted that consumer interest in responsible palm oil sourcing is playing an important role in driving the company’s actions.

That’s good news for rainforests, but the details are important. Last year, Dunkin’ committed to only buying palm oil certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) by 2020.

“This commitment is too little, too late,” said Forest Heroes Campaign Director Deborah Lapidus. “Who knows if there will be any Sumatran tigers left by 2020 when it kicks in?  And even then, the RSPO sets a notoriously weak standard, with major loopholes that still allow for deforestation and draining of carbon-rich peatlands, and has insufficient mechanisms for enforcement.”

In a report released last year called Certifying Destruction, Greenpeace stated that: “RSPO certification is not protecting international household brands from the risk that the palm oil they use is tainted with deforestation. RSPO standards are not prohibiting deforestation and peatland destruction.”

World Wildlife Fund, a co-founder of RSPO, issued a formal letter in April 2013 stating that “because the review failed to accept strong, tough and clear performance standards … it is, unfortunately, no longer possible for producers or users of palm oil to ensure that they are acting responsibly simply by using Certified Sustainable Palm Oil.”

Forest Heroes also says that the timeline is important and is calling on Dunkin’ to require suppliers to sell only deforestation-free and exploitation-free palm oil by the end of 2015. More than 9.7 million hectares of rainforest have already been licensed for palm production in Malaysia, and the Indonesian government has announced plans to convert about 18 million more hectares of rainforest into palm plantations by 2020 to meet rapidly increasing global demand for the product. In a recent Nature study, researchers at Stanford and Yale found that emissions just from expansion of Indonesia’s palm oil industry in Borneo could top 558 million metric tons of carbon dioxide by 2020 – more than all of Canada’s fossil fuel emissions. In addition to the Sumatran tigers, such deforestation would threaten endangered orangutans, which are only found in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Aside from environmental concerns, the palm industry has also been associated with abusive labor practices. Some actors in the palm oil industry have been singled out for being “rife with human rights abuses.” According to an investigative report by Bloomberg Businessweek, there are thousands of child laborers and “workers who face dangerous and abusive conditions,” including bonded labor and human trafficking, currently working on palm oil plantations.

Forest Heroes has worked with other major companies to go deforestation- and exploitation-free. In December 2013 Wilmar, one of the world’s largest palm oil traders, announced that it would no longer source palm oil and other commodities from companies engaged in deforestation or human rights abuse, and this February Kellogg’s agreed to only source palm oil from companies that meet similar “No Deforestation, No Exploitation” criteria by the end of 2015.

Forest Heroes hopes that Dunkin’ will go beyond the weak standards of the RSPO and be the next major company to commit to truly responsible palm oil. “’America runs on Dunkin’ – which means it’s that much more important for Dunkin’ to become a forest hero,” Lapidus said.

Image credit: Forest Heroes

 Alexandra Stark is a PhD student in Washington, DC. She is also a consultant for Catapult.

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9 responses

  1. These so called ‘forest heroes’ can be genuine pro-active campaigner by adopting the 400 Sumatran tigers left in the world.

    They could also clone them in advance if its really that urgent.

    They could also pool money to buy rainforest to be converted into ecotourism/sanctuary site, like what has been done in Costa Rica. It is easier to manage lands if you own them.

    I worry this is just another sensationalised stunt drive to rake in donations.

    1. It’s not a stunt drive. I was a volunteer that helped campaign for the Forest Heroes last campaign in getting Wilmar (which was ranked twice the least sustainable company in the world – that is not the case anymore) and Kellogg’s to go deforestation-free. This group is trying to prevent more destruction and exploitation.

      1. Would you do the same to livestock companies & players?
        The 2014 UN’s IPCC finding clearly singled out livestock as the biggest GHG emitter/culprit from agriculture sector (24%), not palm oil. While energy production sector (electricity & heating) is the worst culprit (25%)

        Would you also campaign against soy and rapeseed growers?
        They decimated primordial forest & wildlife and requires 5~10x more land to produce same yield with palm oil. Fact is, statistics shows palm oil represents about 38% of the world’s supply of edible oil, but it’s grown on only 5% of all the lands dedicated to oilseed crops globally, way far ahead of soy, rapeseed, corn, canola, etc.

        Please enlighten us on your priority & motives?

      2. Some countries/people are “off the charts on the hypocrisy scale”, what’s your motives anyway?

  2. Great, it’s easy to criticise 3rd world agricultural choices from the comfort of 1st world riches, without giving alternative.

    When you’re losing and can’t compete openly with Palm Oil, resort to dirty tactics and smear attacks

  3. US President Obama gets it, but many green extremists chose to ignore it because they need to sensationalise palm oil to get donations in.

    Obama’s point — unless you can offer alternative opportunity to oil palm, they will ignore you.

    Here’s Obama’s full text “You’ve got to talk to the government, the communities who may be getting jobs — because their first priority is feeding themselves, so if you just say, we’ve got to stop cutting down the forests, but you don’t have an alternative opportunity for people then they may just ignore you.”

    Read here http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/04/27/remarks-president-obama-young-southeast-asian-leaders-initiative-town-ha

  4. Global Warming is a problem created by Whitemen since 1751.
    “Climate Change” and “Deforestation” are just contemporary re-branded old problems. Deforestation is another rich White man’s dilemma: to save a poor human or orangutan?

    True to its racism, he/she chose to save an animal, because the human is non-white (brown). But does not mind saving a brown furry animal? Speechless.

    History remembers ‘Apartheid’ as another Whitemen’s racist legacy.

  5. First ban & boycott sugar. Sugar kills people.
    Not to mention equally harmful to environment & animals.
    Is there roundtable for sustainable sugar production?

    Then ban & boycott all fats, animal fat especially for the very same reasons.
    No roundtable for sustainable fat production too?

    Then ban & boycott all livestock/meats for the very same reasons.
    No roundtable for sustainable livestock production too?

    Sugar, fat & meat are confirmed human killers.
    Peer-reviewed medical journal, research and experiments confirmed this

  6. Scientists’ verdict is out today, Northern Hemisphere is the culprit – not tropical regions.

    In April 2014 for the first time in human history, scientists at World Meteorological Organization (WMO) says CO2 exceeded 400 parts per million in the Northern Hemisphere!

    Yet another wake-up call, among many that have been ignored one too many times. In fact in 2014 after 260+ years, the status quo remains unchanged:
    1) US+EU are the world’s biggest and longest cumulative polluter since 1751.
    2) UK is the world’s biggest cumulative polluter per capita since 1800.

    If Forest Heroes, Greenpeace, WWF, FoE, RAN, Mongabay, etc have been fighting the right battles, at the right regions (northern hemisphere of course), then we could have reversed the trend, just might.

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