Environmental activists (and former Girl Scouts) Rhiannon Tomtishen and Madison Vorva, along with over 100,000 people in the U.S. and around the world, are calling on Kellogg Company CEO John Bryant to end the food company’s partnership with Wilmar International, the world’s largest palm oil trader, unless it agrees to stop relying on deforestation.
On Thursday, August 1st, Tomtishen and Vorva will deliver a petition on behalf of SumOfUs.org, signed by over 116,000 people, to Kellogg’s HQ in Battle Creek, Michigan, urging the company to end its deal with Wilmar International, unless the palm oil company agrees to stop deforestation. The palm oil industry, of which Wilmar is a key player, has had a devastating impact on the forests of Southeast Asia, allegedly wiping out millions of hectares of forest and releasing hundreds of millions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere every year.
In the "Sustainable Agriculture" section of its 2012 Corporate Responsibility Report, The Kellogg Company says 100 percent of the palm oil it uses comes from suppliers who are members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO); Wilmar International is a member of the RSPO, but an analysis released earlier this year by the WWF revealed that only a handful of member producers are making adequate progress towards the goal of becoming 100 percent sustainable.
“Kellogg's says it's committed to ending deforestation and now it has a chance to show consumers that it's serious,” said Rob Wohl, campaigner at SumOfUs.org. “Wilmar has more power than any other company to stop deforestation in the palm oil industry, and Kellogg's is uniquely well-positioned to hold its business partner accountable.”
Vorva and Tomtishen previously led a campaign to get Girl Scout Cookies (made by the Kellogg Company) to be deforestation-free; the two were subsequently awarded the first International Forest Heroes Award for North America by the Union of Concerned Scientists, for bringing international attention to the palm oil threat.
“As a baker of Girl Scout cookies and a proud Michigan company, Kellogg's should take the lead and become the first American company to commit to truly deforestation-free sources of palm oil,” explained Vorva.
“Rainforest destruction and human rights abuses have no place in Girl Scout cookies or any of the products that Kellogg's is so well known for,” Tomitshen added.
In response to the launch of the petition earlier this month, Wilmar said in a statement that it will remain vigilant in its sourcing activities and remains undaunted by the challenges of ensuring the sustainability of its supply chain, according to Bakeryandsnacks.com.
Kellogg’s could become the latest in a recent string of examples of brands using their buying power to drive major improvements in their suppliers’ practices: Earlier this year, Disney, Levi’s and Mattel were among the dozens of major brands to jump ship in protest over supplier Asia Pulp & Paper’s role in harming Indonesia’s endangered rainforests and communities, resulting in the company’s commitment to end deforestation throughout its operations; and fashion brands including H&M, Zara, Marks & Spencer and Benetton committed to supporting the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, in response to the deadly factory collapse in May that claimed the lives of over 1,100 workers.