Kellogg Co., the Michigan-based multinational food giant known for its cereal brand, has said it will require palm oil suppliers to comply with certain environmental standards and will buy palm oil only from companies that can prove sustainable practices. Kellogg joins the ranks of Hershey Company, the giant chocolate manufacturer, Nestlé, and Belgium-based international food retailer Delhaize Group in demanding better practices in an industry known for clear-cutting forest and a poor human rights record. Also, in December, Wilmar, the world’s largest palm oil trader, made a commitment to go deforestation-free — The company controls 45 percent of the global supply in palm oil.
Specifically, Kellogg said it will require that all global palm oil suppliers trace palm oil to independently verified plantations, and comply with the principles of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) by the end of 2015 as best as possible.
Palm oil is the world’s most-used cooking oil, especially in fast-growing countries like India and China. Last year, about 50 million metric tons of the oil, which is used in processed foods, cosmetics, and cleaning agents as well as for cooking, were produced. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), growing demand is driving increases in deforestation, which is both bad for local ecology and contributes significantly to climate change. Not only can palm oil production lead to the loss of forestland, which acts as a carbon sink, but it can also uproot carbon-rich peatlands, thus releasing large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.
“Their efforts to source sustainable deforestation-free palm oil will help pull the industry towards palm oil that is deforestation-free,” Sharon Smith, campaign manager with UCS’s tropical forest and climate initiative said in a statement. “If companies start demanding palm oil that doesn’t contribute to deforestation, isn’t grown on peatlands and doesn’t exploit human rights, palm oil producers on the ground will start to provide a better product. This better oil will ultimately protect our environment by reducing emissions.”
According to GreenPalm, only six percent of the current global supply of palm oil is sustainably grown.
“Kellogg’s aggressive timeline for eliminating deforestation from its supply chain raises the bar for the entire industry and represents a tipping point in developing a responsible palm oil supply chain,” Lucia von Reusner, an activist for Boston-based Green Century Capital Management Inc., told Bloomberg.