Kellogg says it takes palm oil sourcing extremely seriously and is defending its joint venture with Wilmar International after accusations that the Asian agri giant is involved in illegal palm oil activities.
A WWF report published on June 26 entitled ‘Palming Off a National Park: Tackling Illegal Oil Palm Fruit in Riau, Sumatra’ alleged that Wilmar International has been trading illegally-grown palm oil in Indonesia. Findings in the report are based on an investigation conducted by WWF-Indonesia from February 2011 to April 2012.
The report has sparked consumer activist group Sum Of Us to launch a petition calling on Kellogg to cut ties and end its joint venture with Wilmar due to fears about the agri business' sustainability credentials.
The group raised concerns about Kellogg providing billions of dollars in business to Wilmar – a corporation that it claimed has sourced palm oil from natural parks and protected areas.
Chief sustainability officer at Kellogg Diane Holdorf defended its joint venture with Wilmar.
Speaking to BakeryandSnacks.com, Holdorf said: “Kellogg recognizes and respects concerns about the sustainability of palm oil and has gone to great lengths to ensure we are doing our part on this important issue.”
“As part of our commitment with the Consumer Goods Forum to help achieve zero net deforestation by 2020, we have made aggressive changes to our sourcing of palm oil since 2011.”
“Today, all of the palm oil we use is 100% sustainably sourced through a combination of GreenPalm certificates, mass balance and segregated sustainably growth supply,” she said.
RSPO corporate membership
Kellogg only works with palm oil suppliers that are members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), Holdorf said. “Kellogg is also a corporate member of RSPO, working with this group and other stakeholders toward the development of a consistent and sufficient supply of segregated, sustainably grown palm oil that is economically viable, environmentally appropriate and socially beneficial.”
Established in 2004, the RSPO aims to promote the production and use of sustainable palm oil. Its members must abide by clear rules and certification schemes, part of which forbids the cultivation of palm oil trees in protected areas of forest.
Director of RSPO Indonesia, Desi Kusumadewi told this site that it had not been made aware of any foul play by its member Wilmar International. The agri business, she said, is working towards 100% RSPO certification on all its sites and subsidiaries and its with plantations in Indonesia are already certified.
“If there is evidence that any company is working illegally, it will be considered as non-compliant to RSPO standards,” she said. The RSPO will take action in any event of non-compliance, she added.
However, Sum Of Us campaign director Rob Wohl said there are “serious flaws with the RSPO” and called its standards “weak” .
“We don’t take Wilmar’s membership or its certifications terribly seriously,” he said.
Calls for Kellogg to push Wilmar on 100% deforestation-free palm oil
Sum Of Us has called on Kellogg to exert “whatever pressure is needed” to force Wilmar to operate within the law and ideally adopt deforestation-free palm oil.
“Sourcing RSPO-certified palm oil is nice, but Kellogg’s (and really, all global corporations) need to be doing everything in their power to stop deforestation. Ideally, Kellogg should follow Nestlé’s lead by adopting strong deforestation-free principles and allow independent oversight of its supply chain,” Wohl said.
“We decided to target Kellogg’s in large part because of their past commitment to source sustainable palm oil. Now, their deal with Wilmar might not violate that letter of that commitment, but by passing billions of dollars’ worth of business to a company that’s complicit in the destruction of protected forests, we think it’s completely violating the spirit and the trust of consumers,” he said.
Since the WWF investigation and report, management at PR Citra Riau Sarana (an Indonesian Wilmar subsidiary) has written to WWF stating that it would stop purchasing FFB from plantations inside the Tesso Nilo National part, would not buy illegal FFB from any source and ensure firm agreements are made with FFB sellers to ensure legal sales. “However, WWF has not verified the implementation of these commitments at the mill level,” WWF-Indonesia said in the report.
BakeryandSnacks.com is in contact with the WWF and Wilmar International on this story, but neither had finalized responses prior to publication. More to follow…