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Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

J.M. Smuckers Commits To a Sustainable and Traceable Palm Oil Supply Chain


J.M. Smucker recently updated its policy on palm oil sourcing, the company explained in its 2014 corporate social responsibility report.

Smucker’s latest CSR report states that the company is committed to developing a “fully sustainable and traceable palm oil supply chain.” It set a target that palm oil purchases will come from “responsible and sustainable sources” by December 2015. In 2012, Smuckers began buying palm oil from Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certified sources, and received RSPO certification in January 2013.

As a result of the new policy, a shareholder proposal filed by Clean Yield Asset Management and Green Century Capital Management was withdrawn. The food producer is currently valued at $10.8 billion in market capitalization. Its brands include Smuckers’ jams and jellies, Jif peanut butter, Crisco, Folger and Dunkin’ Donuts.

The CSR report also details Smucker’s palm oil sustainability principles:

  • No development in high carbon stock forest areas or high conservation value areas

  • No burning to clear land for new planting or replanting

  • No new development on peat lands, regardless of depth

  • Apply best management practices for existing plantations on peat lands and explore options for restoration when feasible
“Smucker’s updated commitment provides greater detail and accountability to its 2013 commitment to source palm oil exclusively from members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO),” said Shelley Alpern, director of social research and shareholder advocacy at Clean Yield Asset Management.

“By pledging to secure deforestation-free palm oil, Smucker is not only protecting the environment, but its brand and shareholder value as well. We urge the company to rapidly implement its commitment to help end deforestation for palm oil,” said Lucia von Reusner, shareholder advocate at Green Century Capital Management.

Palm oil industry responsible for massive deforestation

Palm oil is is used in about 50 percent of the everyday goods we use. Over 90 percent of the palm oil produced is used to manufacture food products, cosmetics, detergents and similar products. The majority, over 90 percent, of palm oil plantations are in Indonesia and Malaysia, with Indonesia being the leading supplier.

To make way for palm oil plantations, tropical forests and peatland forests are often torn down, killing endangered species, causing carbon emissions and disrupting the lives of local communities.

Palm oil plantations are the causing massive of rainforest destruction in Indonesia and Malaysia, according to the U.N. Environment Program. From 1990 to 2005, 55 to 60 percent of palm oil expansion in Indonesia and Malaysia occurred at the expense of virgin tropical forests, which is likely why Indonesia is the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter in the U.S. despite its small size. About 3,7500 to 5,400 tons of carbon is emitted when peatland is drained for palm oil production, and clearing just one hectare of tropical forest emits 500 to 900 tons of carbon. Indonesia’s palm oil plantations cover 9 million hectares, about the size of Maine and 26 million hectares are projected for 2025.

Image credit: Smuckers

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshotGina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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