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RAN urges Cargill to take stronger action on palm oil sustainability

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 20-Nov-2012
Last updated on 20-Nov-2012 at 13:52 GMT

RAN has called on Cargill for greater transparency
RAN has called on Cargill for greater transparency

The Rainforest Action Network (RAN) has urged Cargill to take clear, decisive action to ensure its palm oil suppliers commit to sustainable production, while Cargill has said that RAN allegations of malpractice are unfounded and untrue.

Cargill says that 94% of its Indonesian-sourced palm oil comes from members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which aims to ensure sustainable production – but RAN points out that membership in itself is no guarantee of sustainability. Membership is a first step toward a commitment to sustainability, according to the RSPO.

Meanwhile, Cargill has made commitments to sustainable palm oil sourcing, saying that it intends to source 100% certified sustainable palm oil for use in developed economies by 2015 and globally by 2020. But RAN says that currently only a small fraction of Cargill’s palm oil is sourced from the company’s own plantations, and it questions the practices of its other suppliers.

“The overwhelming majority comes from a vast and largely opaque network of suppliers that are regularly implicated in egregious violations,” it said.

“…Since RAN launched its rainforest agribusiness campaign in 2007, Cargill has never once made a sincere attempt to address our core concerns.”

RAN said that it had obtained a leaked email sent to Cargill employees in which the company defends its palm oil supply and says it has tried to work with RAN for more than four years.

“RAN refuses to have a constructive engagement with us to understand how we are operating our palm oil businesses in a sustainable fashion, helping small holder oil palm farmers be more successful and protecting important wildlife like orangutans,” it says.

RAN has called on Cargill to adopt better social and environmental safeguards and to become more transparent in its reporting of how it buys, sells, ships and trades palm oil.

“The urgent crisis at hand calls for clear, decisive action on Cargill’s part to take a hard look at its supply chains and make meaningful demands of its suppliers to institute safeguards,” it said.

A spokesperson from Cargill told FoodNavigator that the company is making progress on its palm oil commitments.

We fully support the RSPO process and we are actively encouraging our third party suppliers to join RSPO and become certified,” he said via email.

“It is our hope that all oil palm plantations become RSPO-certified. We hope our commitments will encourage more participation across the supply chain and help RSPO palm oil become the mainstream. We believe our commitments will enable us to meet the rising demand for sustainable palm oil products amongst manufacturers and retailers, while continuing to encourage producers to adopt more sustainable practices.”

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