Demand for palm oil, a common ingredient in countless household products, has led to significant rainforest deforestation in the past few years, endangering ecosystems and pushing the wild orangutan population close to extinction. If left unchecked, the demand for palm oil could put other species such as the Sumatran tiger and Asian elephant in critical danger. Cutting trees also releases significant amounts of greenhouse gas emissions; Indonesia, the leading producer of palm oil, currently ranks third on the list of world’s largest greenhouse-gas-emitting countries.
Groups such as Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund have campaigned for sustainable palm oil, but real change won’t come until manufacturers decide to change their ways. Thankfully, Nestlé, the world’s largest food and drink company, announced that it will stop using palm oils products linked to rainforest deforestation and will use only sustainable palm oil in its products by 2015. To solidify its commitment, Nestlé has joined the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and has also joined a coalition calling for a moratorium on rainforest destruction for palm oil in Indonesia.
Nestlé plans to meet its goal by reevaluating its supply chain. It’s starting by no longer purchasing from Indonesia’s largest palm-oil supplier, Sinar Mas, whose forestry practices contribute to deforestation. Nestlé has also partnered with The Forest Trust to create responsible sourcing guidelines, which will help the food and drink company ensure that its palm oil purchases are protecting endangered forest and peatlands, supporting indigenous populations and coming from plantations and farms that use sustainable practices.
Nestlé’s commitment to sustainable palm oil came after months of pressure from Greenpeace. This spring Greenpeace released a report called “Caught Red-Handed: How Nestlé’s Use of Palm Oil is Having a Devastating Impact on Rainforest, The Climate Change and Orangutans,” which exposed Nestlé’s connection to palm-oil companies involved in rainforest deforestation. Greenpeace followed the report with a video commercial equating eating a Kit Kat to killing an orangutan and a Facebook campaign that left millions of negative comments on Nestlé’s Facebook page.
More about palm oil and deforestation
• Seventh Generation commits to using sustainable palm oil in all of its products by 2012.
• Palm oil manufacturing destroys rainforests, but it doesn’t have to. Learn about sustainable alternatives to palm oil.
• Yachana Jungle Chocolate helps combat deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.