Palm oil has become another ingredient that conscious consumers and environmentalists avoid. Although it is a derivative from plants and found in many items that are labeled “vegan,” the production of this cheap oil is responsible for the mass deforestation of irreplaceable rainforests, and the subsequent death of critically endangered species including the orangutan, Sumatran elephant, and Sumatran tiger.
Palm oil plantations have been so destructive that HALF of Borneo’s wild orangutan population has disappeared from 1999-2015. Borneo and Sumatra are the only natural habitats in the world for orangutans, and if nothing is done immediately to halt the expansion of palm oil plantations, they will soon face extinction. On top of all this, palm oil plantations are responsible for the burning of peatlands, which not only destroys forests but produces very harmful greenhouse gas emissions. The corrupt industry is also full of human rights violations. Greenpeace has been leading campaigns against palm oil for many years, and now they are calling for a complete change in the palm oil industry by 2020.
In 2010, the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) pledged to help stop climate change by halting deforestation and cleaning up palm oil supply chains by 2020. This relatively simple solution was also a focus in the Paris Agreement and the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals. However, eight years later and palm oil expansion and rainforest destruction are still running rampant.
Greenpeace explains, “Consumer brands, including those with ‘no deforestation, no peat, no exploitation’ (NDPE) policies, still use palm oil from producers that destroy rainforests, drain carbon-rich peatland and violate the human rights of workers and local communities – making their customers complicit in forest destruction, climate change and human rights abuses.”
Greenpeace’s call for action involves corporations setting clear plans to clean up palm oil supply chains by 2020 and making information regarding their supply chains publicly available. “The first step towards achieving this is for each brand to publish a clear, time-bound plan, including an explicit commitment that by 2020, 100 percent of the palm oil it uses will come from producers whose entire operations have been verified as compliant with its NDPE policy – even if that means using less palm oil than it is using today … Next, brands should open themselves up to public scrutiny by publishing complete lists of the mills and producer groups in their supply chains. Then they must take responsibility for investigating these producer groups to identify any that are clearing rainforests or peatlands, or exploiting workers or local communities.”
At the start of this year, Greenpeace International asked 16 members of the CGF to show how they are working towards cleaning up their palm oil supply chain. They requested these companies publicly disclose the mills that produced their palm oil, as well as the names of the producer groups in charge of these mills. Of these 16 brands, eight agreed to comply with these requests – Colgate-Palmolive, General Mills, Mars, Mondelēz, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble (P&G), Reckitt Benckiser, and Unilever. The remaining eight companies – Ferrero, Hershey, Kellogg’s, Kraft Heinz, Johnson & Johnson, PepsiCo, PZ Cussons, and Smucker’s – refused to disclose who produced their palm oil, which Greenpeace says conceals “the extent of their complicity in rainforest destruction.” However, it should be noted that none of these brands have a 100 percent clean palm oil supply chain.
To read Greenpeace’s full report on the issue, visit here.
Palm oil is found in about half of all items on supermarket shelves, from baked goods and snack foods to soaps and toiletries. Consumers have the power to create change, so make sure you check all ingredient labels to ensure your dollar does not support mass deforestation, climate change, the demise of critically endangered species, and human rights violations. Contact companies who use palm oil and tell them why you do not purchase their products, and make sure you teach your friends and family about the dangers of this cheap, destructive oil.
Image Source: Markus Mauthe/Greenpeace