TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Kellogg Co. said it will buy
palm oil only from companies that don’t destroy tropical rainforests to produce
the additive used in many processed foods.
The cereal giant responded to a campaign by environmental
groups that have long pressured the food industry to shun palm oil from
plantations that displace rainforests in Southeast Asian nations, primarily
Indonesia. The forests are home to endangered species such as the orangutan and
Palm oil cultivation has wiped out more than 30,000 square
miles of rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia alone, said leaders of a campaign
to reform the practice.
Battle Creek-based Kellogg announced that it would require
its suppliers to trace their palm oil to plantations that have been verified
independently as complying with the law and meeting standards for protecting the
environment and human rights. The policy also applies to processors and growers,
said Diane Holdorf, Kellogg’s chief sustainability officer.
“We must ensure they are all producing palm oil in a way
that’s environmentally responsible, socially beneficial and economically
viable,” Holdorf said.
Palm oil is a minor ingredient in Kellogg products such as
Pop-Tarts, cookies and waffles, although most of its cereals don’t contain it,
The announcement drew praise from environmental groups,
which staged a rally at Kellogg’s headquarters in November and met with company
representatives. They described the new policy, which requires compliance or
substantial progress by Dec. 31, 2015, as the industry’s toughest.
“Kellogg is sending a strong message to palm oil producers
that traceable, deforestation-free and exploitation-free palm oil are core
conditions for global market access,” said Deborah Lapidus, campaign director
for a group called Catapult.
Palm oil generates $50 billion annually and is used in about
half of all packaged foods, according to Green Century Capital Management Inc.,
which last year filed a shareholder proposal urging Kellogg to insist on
deforestation-free oil. The investment company said U.S. imports have jumped
almost five times in the past decade.
Environmental groups also credited Kellogg with influencing
joint venture partner Wilmar International Ltd., the world’s biggest palm oil
trading company, to overhaul its policies.
Wilmar announced in December that its plantations and
suppliers would protect forests with high conservation values, prohibit using
fire to clear land and ban development on peatlands.
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