In its ‘Moment of Truth’ report, Greenpeace noted that – with less than two years to go to fulfil their ‘no deforestation, no peat, no exploitation’ (NDPE) policies by 2020 – it is shameful to find some leading consumer brands unwilling to disclose even “basic” information needed to turn that pledge into reality.
The paper cites: “Given that the leading suppliers to the global market all source from destructive producers, the onus is on brands to prove that they are not sourcing – inadvertently or otherwise – from producers that are harming the environment and local communities.
“Accordingly, brands must begin by being transparent about where their palm oil comes from and who produced it.”
At the beginning of the year, the environment watchdog challenged 16 members of the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) to demonstrate their progress by disclosing the names of the producer groups and mills that produce their palm oil in order to ascertain which brands were still using so-called “dirty” palm oil.
The group reported the eight CGF brands prepared to hold themselves accountable included General Mills, Unilever, Mars, Mondelēz, Nestlé, Colgate-Palmolive, Procter & Gamble (P&G) and Unilever.
Conversely, it claimed that Kellogg’s, PepsiCo, Kraft Heinz, Smucker’s, Ferrero, Hershey, Johnson & Johnson and PZ Cussons have refused to reveal such information, leading the watchdog to conclude these companies were concealing the extent of their complicity in rainforest destruction.
The report purports these companies “continue to hide behind commercial confidentiality and nondisclosure agreements, signed with direct suppliers or implementation partners such as TFT, or else to refer to their corporate policies as a sufficient guarantee of sustainability – all of which serves to conceal from their customers the extent of their complicity in forest destruction.”
The report’s addendum notes that both Kellogg and PepsiCo have published lists of its direct palm oil suppliers, but not lists of the mills or producer groups in its supply chain, despite Greenpeace’s request.
It notes that several others, like Kraft Heinz, PZ Cussons and Smucker’s, have not published supplier lists or lists of mills and producer groups in their supply chain.
“Brands have repeatedly promised to end deforestation for palm oil by 2020. With less than two years to go, they are way off track,” said Kiki Taufik, global head of Indonesia forests at Greenpeace Southeast Asia,
The price of palm oil
According to Greenpeace, the palm oil industry destroyed around 24 million hectares of Indonesia rainforest between 1990 and 2015 – the latest figures available – a land area almost the size of the UK.
“There is growing evidence that [the CGF companies] will fail to meet this deadline with dangerous consequences for the climate.” – Greenpeace: Moment of Truth.
Tragically, too, experts believe that, if the current rate of destruction continues, then there is no “absolutely no hope that any orang-utans will remain in the wild.”
Latest figures from researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology – published in Current Biology – note the global demand for natural resources like palm oil has eliminated more than 100,000 Bornean orang-utans between 1999 and 2015.
Exploitation of workers, including the use of child labour, says Amnesty International, remains endemic in the sector, while research has found that decades of deforestation for plantations has created ideal conditions for the raging forest and peatland fires, threatening the health of people living in the region.
In 2015, a large part of Indonesia was hit by rogue forest fires, which spread a toxic haze across Southeast Asia, causing an estimated 100,000 premature deaths.
“It shouldn’t be up to NGOs to force the industry to keep their promises but progress is woefully slow. By hiding where their palm oil comes from, brands… are making their customers unwittingly complicit in rainforest destruction,” said Daniela Montalto, Greenpeace UK Forests Campaigner.
Diane Holdorf, chief sustainability officer of Kellogg Company, told BakeryandSnacks that Kellogg is a very small user of palm oil.
However, she noted, “Kellogg has directly engaged with global palm oil suppliers and stakeholders since we began responsibly sourcing palm oil in 2009. Also, we have been in ongoing discussions with Greenpeace, and have shared our publicly available milestones report, which lists of all of our suppliers.”
“We will continue to work with our supply chain – from suppliers to processors to growers – to ensure that palm oil Kellogg uses is sourced from plantations that uphold the company’s commitment to protect forests and peat lands, as well as human and community right,” said Holdorf.
PepsiCo’s spokesperson told this site it has plans to publish the list of mills that produce its palm oil.
“We welcome Greenpeace’s efforts to increase transparency and believe progress to address deforestation and human rights can only happen through continued collaboration with partners across our supply chain.
“PepsiCo remains committed to our goal of 100% certified, sustainable palm oil by 2020.”
PZ Cussons denied contributing to deforestation.
Sam Plant, Corporate Services director, PZ Cussons, told BakeryandSnacks that securing a long-term sustainable supply of palm oil is a priority for the company.
"We seek to be open and transparent with all our stakeholders and are aligned with Greenpeace’s call for consumer companies to disclose their palm oil suppliers," said Plant.
"All our key direct suppliers have made NDPE commitments and are members of The Forest Trust (TFT), supporting transparency of mills through their public dashboards.
"Working with TFT, we have had full traceability back to the refinery since 2016 and can currently trace 86% of our palm oil back to the mill. Longer term, we seek to achieve full transparency including ingredients derived from palm oil."
He said the company had provided Greenpeace with a list of all its key direct palm oil suppliers and the mills from which they source the ingredient at a schedule meeting that took place on March 19, also noting the information is updated on a quarterly basis on the company's website.