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Kellogg revamps palm oil policy after months of protests

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By Kacey Culliney+

17-Feb-2014

Kellogg commits to palm oil not associated with deforestation, climate change or human rights violation by end of 2015
Kellogg commits to palm oil not associated with deforestation, climate change or human rights violation by end of 2015

The Kellogg Company has pledged to source fully traceable palm oil by the end of next year, a move that has been welcomed by NGOs that have been fighting for the cereal giant to change its policies for months.

The cereal giant made its global pledge to source fully traceable palm oil last Friday (February 14), explaining it would work closely with its suppliers to ensure palm oil is not associated with deforestation, climate change or the violation of human rights. Kellogg said its suppliers must comply with the requirement by December 31, 2015, or be working to close any gaps identified in their action plans.

“By partnering closely with our suppliers to meet these expectations, we will work together to address the important topic of deforestation,” said Diane Holdorf, chief sustainability officer at Kellogg.

Kellogg’s announcement comes after more than six months of petitioning and contest from a host of environmental agencies and consumer action networks, including the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and Sum of US, calling for the US-based cereals titan to review its palm oil supply chain.

Protests were sparked last year following a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report published in July 2013 that alleged Kellogg, via its palm oil supplier Wilmar International, had been using illegally-grown palm oil from Indonesia. Action groups called on Kellogg to cut its ties with the Asian agri giant and end its joint venture with the company, struck in 2012 .

A later report from RAN  took aim at 20 food firms including Kellogg, PepsiCo, ConAgra Foods and General Mills, urging them to reconsider palm oil supply commitments, alleging RSPO (Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil) standards and GreenPalm certificates were not sufficient.

In Kellogg’s announcement to revamp its palm oil sourcing strategy, it made no reference to the campaigns that have been launched against it over the past months, but action groups have claimed a win.

NGOs: 'Rapid implementation' needed...

RAN said the cereal major had bowed to pressure and taken a step in the right direction but added rapid implementation was needed.

“… A statement of intent is not the same as a binding, time-bound responsible palm oil policy. For communities and orang-utans in Indonesia what matters now is that Kellogg puts this commitment into action with thorough and rapid implementation,” said Rainforest Action Network senior forest campaigner Gemma Tillack.

Science-based environmental advocacy group Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) agreed that Kellogg had taken a step in the right direction but also questioned whether the company has moved fast or aggressively enough to make the commitment a reality.

The association said it hoped that the commitments outlined by Kellogg soon become industry requirements. “We’d like to see all palm oil producers making oils with these values and companies walk away from suppliers that cannot prove their palm oil is deforestation-free, peat-free and conflict-free,” said Sharon Smith, campaign manager for UCS’s Tropical Forest & Climate initative.

Kellogg takes palm oil sourcing seriously

Over the past few months of campaigns lodged against Kellogg, the cereal giant has stood by its sustainability policies, repeatedly telling BakeryandSnacks.com that it took palm oil sourcing very seriously and was committed to ensuring use of 100% sustainably sourced palm oil through a combination of GreenPalm certificates, mass balance and segregated sustainably growth supply.

Late last year, in light of the WWF report and campaign pressure, Kellogg entered into discussions with its supply partner Wilmar late last year to talk further about palm oil traceability. A few months later, in December, 2013 Wilmar announced a no deforestation policy in which it said it would work closely with growers, traders, processors, NGOs and end-user companies to secure its commitment.

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This does not increase demand for sustainable palm oil

Unfortunately the issue which many seem to forget or don't realise is the commitment does not increase demand for sustainable palm oil, it simply switches the volume from one supply chain option to another. Leaving opinions on supply chains to one side the real danger is we create a niche, physical supply chain to the current demand markets. Those being Europe, N America, Australia & NZ. The palm demand from these countries is around 7-8 million tons. Current volume of RSPO certified palm produced is 8 million tons. So in theory we have enough certified palm to meet the current demand. Also throw into the equation the focus by ‘pressure groups’ within these demand markets is big brand retail, ignoring other large volume markets. The Wilmar commitment is a huge step forward; however I am sure they are going to want to see real terms demand growth for sustainable palm in line with their new sourcing policy. China/India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, step forward. Without this consumer’s in New York or London may very well be eating ‘conflict free chocolate bars’, but they will do so wondering why the conflict is still happening ?

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Posted by simon
18 February 2014 | 11h04

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