Pages tagged "forcedlabor"

Thanks for an amazing Day of Action!

GDoA_SF_drone2_720x720Thank you! The Global Day of Action was amazing, and PepsiCo absolutely heard your voice loud and clear.

From Kuala Lumpur to San Francisco, Oslo to Cape Town, thousands of activists took a stand on May 20th with their friends, colleagues and families to write their own stories for the future of our food system and our planet. Our demand, a food system without Conflict Palm Oil, is bold, ambitious and urgently needed. Because of your willingness to stand up and demand action, we are driving change through the palm oil supply chain.

Thanks to you, the May 20th Global Day of Action to Cut Conflict Palm Oil was a tremendous success. The stories of actions across the globe are inspiring and the numbers impressive: Over 100 events took place in the US, 38 events were hosted abroad and 700 people said they would attend events around the world. Online, PepsiCo heard from thousands of you—its Facebook pages were flooded, its phone lines filled, and the #InYourPalm message was spread far and wide. The photos from Tuesday’s actions are moving; check out the photo album on our Facebook page (and tag yourself if you're in one)!

For over a year, PepsiCo has refused to adopt a responsible palm oil policy, but just 2 days before the Global Day of Action the snack food giant released a new commitment. It’s not strong enough yet, but it’s a start. Thanks to the powerful work, commitment and creativity that Palm Oil Activists poured into the Day of Action, PepsiCo knows that we won’t back down until it cuts Conflict Palm Oil from its global product lines once and for all.

As I think about what we’re accomplishing, a quote about movements like the one that we are building from from one of my heroes, Indian writer and activist Arundhati Roy, keeps coming to mind:

“Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe. The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling – their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability. Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them. Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”

Because of you, we are close to a tipping point in our campaign to cut Conflict Palm Oil. Together we are transforming the policies of one of the largest Fortune 500 companies in the world as well as shifting the paradigm for how palm oil companies operate in Indonesia.Thank you for joining us in demanding healthy, intact rainforests, a world without slave labor and a future in which unique species like elephants and orangutans are thriving.

A special thanks to the Palm Oil Action Team, our group of super activists who were the first to step up and take action online, volunteer to host events, and to help organize the Day of Action. Our movement is getting stronger. You too can step up and join the Palm Oil Action Team here.

Breaking: Global Day of Action Underway!

GDoA_chicagoWe’re winning. Because of you, PepsiCo is reeling. Over 300,000 of you have demanded PepsiCo cut Conflict Palm Oil from its products.

Today, our Global Day of Action to Cut Conflict Palm Oil is sweeping the world, ratcheting up the pressure for PepsiCo to break its ties to deforestation, human rights abuses and climate pollution. A moment ago, RAN unfurled a massive 60 foot banner exposing the impacts of Conflict Palm Oil at the Sweets and Snacks Expo in Chicago.

From the rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia to cities across Australia and the UK, to the beaches of San Francisco and Brazil, students, families and ordinary people have organized themselves in droves today to send a clear and united message to PepsiCo and its peers: the time to eliminate Conflict Palm Oil from your products is now.

PepsiCo is scrambling—the fact that the snack food giant released a new palm oil commitment just a few days ago is evidence of this. But, it’s not strong enough and lacks safeguards on human rights and a binding, time bound action plan to cut Conflict Palm Oil. NOW is the time to give PepsiCo the final push for real change for forests and the communities that depend on them.  We have PepsiCo's attention.

Now here's how we win:

1. Let’s take over Pepsi’s Facebook page. Cut and paste this message as a comment: #PepsiCo, cut Conflict Palm Oil! The power is #InYourPalm.

2. Let’s make our voice heard on Twitter: Hey @PepsiCo, I can’t stand by brands that use Conflict #PalmOil. The power is #InYourPalm

3. Let’s talk to the people who represent PepsiCo: (+1)(914) 253-2000 Here is a guide to what you can say: “Hi, my name is [your name]. I’m taking part in the Global Day of Action. It concerns me that your company cannot guarantee that it is not using Conflict Palm Oil in its products. PepsiCo must demand responsible palm oil from its suppliers and eliminate Conflict Palm Oil from its products. PepsiCo’s taken a step in the right direction by releasing a new palm oil commitment, but a statement of intent is not the same as a binding, time bound responsible palm oil policy. For PepsiCo to meet consumer expectations, it must adopt an action plan to eliminate Conflict Palm Oil from its products that includes full traceability of palm oil back to its source and independently verified safeguards for human rights, forests and peatlands.Thank you” 

Because of YOU we have built a movement to cut Conflict Palm Oil from our food supply. We're just getting warmed up—thanks for being a part of this. 

Join the Global Day of Action to Cut Conflict Palm Oil: The Power is #InYourPalm

I recently heard Jane Goodall speak about the importance of having hope in a time when our planet’s natural systems teeter on the brink of collapse. She compared climate change to a titanic ship that takes a while to build up momentum, but once it gains speed, it may be too huge and too fast to turn to avoid the iceberg in its path. We’re currently on that ship - all of humanity, together. Which means that our children’s future depends on the choices you and I make today. We can either quickly respond to the signs all around us that point to climate catastrophe and jump on board this “all hands on deck” moment to stop climate change or we can idly stand by and watch our ship sink.

As a new mom, slowing climate change by protecting our tropical forests – the largest greenhouse gas storage tank in the world -- and transforming our broken industrial food system, is more important and more personal to me than ever before. There is nothing like the love and fierce protection a mother feels for her children, which is why in honor of Mother’s Day I am taking matters into my own hands to fight for the world that my son will inherit, starting in my own kitchen.

How can I tackle climate change from my very own kitchen, you may ask? By joining the Global Day of Action to Cut Conflict Palm Oil on May 20.


Our food and our climate are inextricably linked. About 75% of global palm oil is used in food products and cooking, and roughly 90% of it is grown in Indonesia & Malaysia, where the scale of destruction is so large that it is having globally significant impacts on the climate, similar in scale to the world’s biggest coal and tar sands projects. Deforestation in Indonesia is responsible for some 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than the combined emissions from all the millions of cars, trucks, trains, and buses in the U.S. each year combined.

Are you feeding your family Conflict Palm Oil? It’s a hidden ingredient in the foods most of us are feeding our families every day that is enslaving children, killing endangered orangutans, and destroying the rainforest. America's snack makers are putting Conflict Palm Oil in everything from baby formula to kids’ snacks, and Rainforest Action Network has put them on notice that this practice must stop.

Take, for instance, PepsiCo - the largest globally distributed snack food company in the world. PepsiCo is the biggest and most influential of the Snack Food 20 companies that has yet to take steps to address its Conflict Palm Oil problem. PepsiCo has the power to break the link between the products you buy and rainforest destruction, but they won’t until you, the consumer, demand it.

Moms and Dads, in honor of Mother’s day, will you join me in asking one of the largest makers of kids snacks, PepsiCo, to do the right thing and cut Conflict Palm Oil from the food we’re feeding our families every day? We have a powerful voice. Pepsi will listen if we speak! There is a way to get palm oil that doesn't enslave children and make orangutans extinct.

Working together, we have the power to win a tremendous victory for people and the planet by challenging business as usual and forcing the palm oil industry to respect the rights of workers and communities, protect orangutan habitat and the rainforests that play a crucial role in combating climate change. We can break the link between deforestation, human rights violations and the foods our families eat everyday.

On May 20, mothers, fathers, teachers, and youth around the world will be hosting photo actions around the globe, calling on PepsiCo to cut Conflict Palm Oil from its supply chain. We believe that the power is #InYourPalm and when you speak PepsiCo will have no choice but to listen. This is why we are asking everyone to host an action that includes the words #InYourPalm. All you have to do is take a photo of your action so we can send it to PepsiCo and demand change. With your help, these actions can be a catalyst for change at PepsiCo and throughout the entire snack food industry.

These actions may be big or small, in parks, on college campuses, homes, or at Pepsi branded locations around the world. They will each be unique, but they'll have a two things in common: they will include #InYourPalm in some way, shape or form and will connect local activists around the globe who are united in a goal to end rainforest destruction and human rights violations caused by the production of Conflict Palm Oil for PepsiCo's snacks foods.

Will you join me? Together we can convince PepsiCo to prioritize the future of our children and cut Conflict Palm Oil to save orangutans from extinction!

RAN Stands With Jaka. Will You?

CPO_720x720 Jaka, pictured here, was 14 years old when he began working on the palm oil plantation. 

My name is Ratri Kusumohartono, and I've traveled here from Indonesia to bring the story of palm oil to the top executives of PepsiCo at the company's annual shareholder meeting. I work for Sawit Watch, which means “Palm Oil Watch” in Indonesian. We are one of Indonesia's leading palm oil advocacy groups, working directly with palm oil laborers who are fighting for decent working conditions and local communities who are resisting or who have lost their forest and livelihoods to large-scale oil palm expansion.

I need you to stand behind me as I tell PepsiCo about the real costs of Conflict Palm Oil. Will you add your voice to mine?

Palm oil expansion isn’t just about deforestation and ecosystems; it’s also having a huge impact on the communities that live here. I've seen these impacts on communities and workers first hand. Last year, I travelled to a palm oil plantation in East Kalimantan to see if workers were being treated fairly. I was faced with a stark reality. I met a 16 year old boy, Jaka, who had been working in the plantation for over two years. At 14, Jaka left his hometown because he was given false promises of a high salary and good living and working conditions. After traveling over a thousand miles by boat, plane and bus to arrive at the plantation, Jaka found a very different reality than what he was promised. But by the time he realized he had been deceived, he was trapped in debt to the labor recruiter, far from home, and the company did not even provide an adequate supply of clean water and food. The conditions were so poor that Jaka had to drink and bathe from the trench where the plantation’s waste runs.

This is why Conflict Palm Oil is able to be sold so cheaply to snack food companies like PepsiCo. 14 year old boys like Jaka are bearing the real costs of palm oil production. This is not OK, it has to stop.

Please, stand with me, with Jaka, and with all of the affected communities whose homes and lands are threatened, who have had their land stolen in land grabs, or worse, have suffered violence and injury at the hands of the palm oil companies.

Jaka is not alone. His story is only one example of the exploitation and devastation that Conflict Palm Oil is causing for communities, workers and forests across Indonesia. PepsiCo needs to adopt a global responsible palm oil policy that requires all the palm oil it sources to be fully traceable, legally grown, and free of deforestation, peatland destruction and human and labor rights violations.

Working together on the ground in Indonesia and in the markets in the U.S, PepsiCo will hear our message. Call on PepsiCo to cut Conflict Palm Oil.


Ratri Kusumohartono

Cargill's Latest Trade in Conflict Palm Oil

klk case study report cover Over the past months, we’ve been working on a report profiling Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad (KLK), one of the most notorious producers of Conflict Palm Oil on the planet. We knew when we started that KLK’s practices were devastating, but nothing could have prepared us for what we uncovered. Today we released a report profiling four cases of KLK's Conflict Palm Oil production, including:

  • KLK's expansion plans into the ancestral lands of tribal groups in a remote area of Papua New Guinea without their Free, Prior and Informed Consent.
  • KLK's use of child labor and forced labor on two plantations in Indonesia.
  • On-going deforestation on two KLK plantations in Indonesia.
  • Expansion by KLK's newly acquired Equatorial Palm Oil onto traditional farming lands of local communities in Liberia in violation of their Free, Prior and Informed Consent.

The sheer magnitude of the abuse that KLK has engaged in is shocking. And unfortunately, due to the murky world of palm oil traders and suppliers, KLK is able to continue to operate with absolute impunity while major traders like Cargill continue to purchase the palm oil it produces to sell to food manufacturers in the United States and around the world. As long as Cargill continues to purchase Conflict Palm Oil, no questions asked, from reprehensible companies like KLK, KLK and its peers have absolutely no motivation to change. Why stop using child labor or stealing land when nobody is holding them accountable? This has to change, and it will with your help. Cargill needs to implement a responsible palm oil sourcing policy that blacklists any company that produces Conflict Palm Oil and engages in horrific human rights and environmental abuses immediately.

Time is running out. Cargill is lagging behind other traders that have realized that business as usual is no longer tenable.

Tell Cargill that its dirty secret of cheap Conflict Palm Oil is out, and you won’t tolerate the human rights abuses from Cargill's trading operations and partners.

You can read the full report here, but before you do, please send your message to Cargill. It’s crucial that Cargill hears from you.

Does Your Family’s Valentine’s Candy Contain Child Labor?

Hersheys_hugs_720x720First, the bad news.

This week, as millions of schoolchildren across the U.S. share Valentine’s candy and chocolate, they’ll be unwittingly—and unwillingly—contributing to child labor taking place on the other side of the world.

One of the key ingredients in Hershey’s chocolates—and many other Valentine’s candies—is responsible for widespread child labor and human rights violations, land grabs, and is also pushing orangutans to the brink of extinction. The ingredient? Conflict Palm Oil.

Palm oil is now found in roughly half the packaged goods in grocery stores, as its use in the US has grown over 500 percent in the past decade. It goes by dozens of names, including Palm Kernel Oil, Palmitate, and Glyceryl Stearate.

Currently, more than 85% of the palm oil used in America’s packaged food is grown on palm oil plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia, where child labor is common and widespread. In fact, the US Department of Labor lists palm oil as a commodity notorious for child labor and forced labor. A nine-month investigation by the Schuster Institute of Investigative Journalism published in BusinessWeek last July documented widespread cases of child labor on palm oil plantations in Indonesia’s palm oil industry. Palm oil produced in this manner has been dubbed “Conflict Palm Oil” by Rainforest Action Network.

Now for the good news.

Rainforest Action Network is leading a Valentine’s Day campaign to convince Hershey’s and other top chocolate companies to remove Conflict Palm Oil from their supply chains. Hundreds of activists in 250+ American cities are placing warning stickers on Valentine’s chocolates in grocery stores this week that say, “There’s nothing romantic about #ConflictPalmOil.”

Now for the even better news.

Besides checking your Valentine’s chocolate for palm oil before buying it, there are three easy ways you and your family can help Hershey’s kiss Conflict Palm Oil goodbye:

  1. Post a message to Hershey’s Facebook Wall:
 Hershey, there is one condition for my ♥. Adopt a palm oil policy that protects rainforests and the families that rely on them. I can’t love brands that use Conflict Palm Oil. No child labor for chocolate! #HersheyHurts

  2. Call Hershey directly. Click here for details.

  3. Twitter storm Hershey with your version of this Tweet: 
Hey @HersheysKisses, I won't buy chocolates with #ConflictPalmOil. No child labor for sweets! #HersheyHurts

Thousands of activists are taking this message to Hershey’s right now, in grocery stores across the nation. You can magnify their voices and raise your own by joining the online cry to eliminate Conflict Palm Oil from our food supply.

Thank You

You know what I’m thankful for this year? You. Everything RAN has accomplished this past year is thanks to you. Please don't think for a second that I'm just saying that. RAN’s people-powered campaigns literally cannot be won without you. Corporate decision-makers can destroy our planet with impunity if no one calls them out—but you not only call them out, you demand accountability. And that really does make such a huge difference. Without you, we can’t protect forests, defend human rights, or move this country past fossil fuels. So the RAN team put together this video to say thank you and show you the incredible power of the network you are an integral part of. (You might even see yourself in it!) [youtube bZPPO_hB54k 550] Here is a short but by no means comprehensive list of what you achieved this year:
  • You made “Conflict Palm Oil” an international issue discussed in the pages of the New York Times, Businessweek and The Guardian.
  • You made it possible for more than 76,000 people to get the training and resources they need to take peaceful direct action and demand President Obama reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
  • By sending nearly 12,000 emails, you convinced the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil to sit down with community members from Papua New Guinea and mediate their dispute with KLK, a notorious forest-destroyer and labor rights abuser.
  • You sent over 18,000 emails to Bank of America and Goldman Sachs calling them out for funding Coal India, a company that has been tied to numerous environmental violations. Thanks to you, BofA and Goldman Sachs were forced to go back to Coal India and wring environmental concessions from the company before proceeding.
  • More than 25,000 of you called out Cargill for its ties to a palm plantation that uses forced and child labor.
  • And the truth about Conflict Palm Oil is currently being broadcast from a Jumbo-Tron in Times Square and has been viewed on YouTube almost half-a-million times.
I also have to offer my sincerest, most heartfelt thanks to you for standing with us during one of the hardest periods in RAN’s history. When Becky Tarbotton—our friend, leader, and executive director—died unexpectedly last December, it was your support, your love, your belief in our core purpose and the importance of our role in the world that helped us get through it. Even when our hearts were broken and things seemed impossibly dark, we were able to come together and persevere. I honestly can’t think of a more fitting tribute to Becky than this past year—one of the most successful years in RAN history. Hope you enjoy the video we made for you. Thank you for everything you're doing. You are making an incredible difference.

Questions for Cargill

[caption id="attachment_21780" align="alignleft" width="300"]These workers must walk 2 kilometers for clean running water. Workers at PT 198 in Berau, the plantation featured in the Businessweek article. These workers must walk 2 kilometers for clean running water. Photo by Kemal Jufri.[/caption] An article released by Bloomberg Businessweek on July 18 found Cargill supplier KLK to be engaging in forced and child labor practices. The article tells of workers and children being held captive, deprived of clean drinking water, working without pay for up to two years, and beaten if they tried to escape. Yet, Cargill has done nothing to take action, let alone investigate the findings of the nine-month study. Cargill's addiction to trading profits is overriding commitments to basic human rights, and its inaction is putting Cargill's customers and their brands' reputations at risk. The onus is on Cargill to explain what policy and procedures it has to prevent child and forced labor from entering its supply chain and being sold for use in leading U.S. consumer brand products. When will Cargill be able to assure its customers that the palm oil it sources is not associated with forced and child labor, deforestation, human rights violations or expansion on peatlands. Customers buying from Cargill should ask:
  • What is Cargill's position on the use of forced and child labor by its suppliers?
  • Can Cargill confirm whether it has a no trade list of egregious palm oil producers? The U.S. Department of Labor lists palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia as having a high risk of being produced using forced and child labor. What are the criteria for determining which companies are on the no trade list? How many companies are on Cargill's no trade list and who are they?
  • What is Cargill's position and action plan when its suppliers are found to be using forced and child labor? Will Cargill investigate the findings of forced and child labor on KLK plantations documented in the Bloomberg Businessweek article? What action will Cargill take to address these findings and any findings that are corroborated through its own investigations?
  • Supply chain traceability back to growers is essential for preventing egregious sources of palm oil, including those made with forced and child labor, from entering Cargill's and its customers' supply chains. What efforts is Cargill making to map the sources of palm oil fruit bunches into its supply chain and ensure that forced and child labor are not being used by its suppliers? Cargill should be able to map the labor conditions in its supply chain and the number and key characteristics of workers, including presence of temporary workers, migrant workers, and lack of collective bargaining agreements, as indicators to assess risk of forced and child labor.
  • When will Cargill adopt credible supply chain safeguards, including 100% traceability, to prevent and eliminate palm oil connected to slave and child labor, human rights abuses and rainforest destruction from being traded by Cargill and sold to its customers?
In the Businessweek article, Cargill not only denied it had a problem with child and slave labor in its supply chain, but actually defended KLK. Business as usual is not acceptable: Time to tell Cargill to cut child and slave labor from its palm oil.

BREAKING: Despite New Evidence, Cargill Denies Its Palm Oil Is Made By Slave Laborers

Here’s the last line of a Bloomberg Businessweek article out today that exposes the human rights abuses rampant in Indonesia’s palm oil sector: “Adam, the 19-year-old who fled the PT 198 [palm] plantation in 2010, says he hopes shoppers… ask themselves a simple question when they consider which oil to buy: ‘Is there slavery in this?’” That’s a very good question to ask, but unfortunately most folks are not asking it when they go to the store to do their shopping. While the environmental impacts of the palm oil industry on Indonesia’s rainforests gets a lot of attention, human rights abuses like forced and child labor are less widely known. This Bloomberg article, which is based on a nine-month investigation, will hopefully help change that, as it documents abusive labor practices on 12 different palm plantations. The plantation Adam worked on—which is known as PT 198—is owned by one of the biggest palm oil companies in Indonesia, Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd. (It’s not been an especially good week for KLK, as the company was also just charged by the Indonesian government over the illegal forest fires that recently caused the smog epidemic in Singapore.) We’ve been working to convince Cargill to adopt safeguards on its supply chain that would prevent the company from trafficking in palm oil produced by forced and child labor for years now (and we’ve documented human rights abuses on KLK plantations ourselves as far back as 2010), but the company has always denied it had a problem. But here we have a proverbial smoking gun. Take action now. cargill child slavery_action_550px So what was the response to this report from Cargill, which received “at least 31 shipments of palm oil from KLK, totaling more than 61 million pounds, over the last three years,” palm oil that has now been documented to have been made at least partially by workers and children forced into slave labor conditions? Surely Cargill is taking this seriously, right? Especially given that Cargill then sold that palm oil to companies like Nestlé, General Mills, Kraft Foods, and Kellogg for use in their commercial products—products that are probably eaten by the children of Cargill employees? Cargill’s response was the same as it’s ever been, denial:
Cargill defended its supplier. “At this time, KLK is not in violation of any labor laws where they operate nor are we aware of any investigation of KLK’s labor practices,” says Cargill spokeswoman Susan Eich in an e-mail. Eich says Cargill had recently consulted with industry observers and nongovernmental organizations and concluded “there are no active charges or allegations that KLK has violated labor laws or is engaged in slave or child labor.”
Let’s make sure Cargill doesn’t get away with using a PR flack to dodge its huge role in subjecting laborers and children to horrifying working conditions. Sign this petition now calling on the company to remove child labor and other human rights abuses from its supply chain. The Bloomberg article is a harrowing read, but well worth it. You should go read the whole thing, but it’s fairly long, so I pulled out the part where it discusses the truly horrific conditions facing people like Adam, the Indonesian teenager who wants you to ask whether or not the oil you’re buying is produced using modern forms of slave labor. Adam was lured 2,000 miles away from his home based on false promises made by a KLK contractor, then forced to sign contracts that forced them onto palm oil plantation for two years without receiving pay until the contract ran up. WARNING: This could be a trigger for some folks:
At PT 198, a plantation near Berau owned by top KLK shareholder Batu Kawan, workers entered a system of tightly controlled forced labor, according to Adam and other alleged victims. At least 95 workers were held at the plantation for up to two years. At night they were locked in stifling, windowless barracks. An environmental NGO, Menapak, later reported that they were fed small portions of salted fish and rice, which several said were often weevil-infested. A truck with fresh water came once a month, but that supply would last no more than a week; workers pulled most water for cooking, cleaning, and drinking from a stagnant ditch that ran alongside the barracks. Adam says Handoyo confiscated their national identity cards and school certificates, along with a deed to a home, which his village collectively owned. Instead of working as drivers or low-level administrators, the workers were ordered to prepare the newly planted palm groves. Some had to spread at least 20 50-kilogram sacks of fertilizer each day. If they fell short, they had to make it up the next day or see their already deferred pay cut. They say they were required to spray with the herbicide Paraquat, a substance that’s been linked to kidney and liver damage and is banned in at least 32 countries. (China, which announced in April it would phase out the herbicide, would be the 33rd.) Because they weren’t given protective gear, some claim to have suffered respiratory damage. An alleged victim, “Jacob,” who was held with his wife for two years at PT 198, reported nightly bloody coughing fits but says Zendrato denied him adequate medical care. Other workers say those who tried to escape were punished harshly. One young man made it as far as a nearby river before being caught by boatmen whose livelihood depends on the palm oil companies. Once alerted, Zendrato’s men hauled the escapee back and allegedly beat him in front of the others, say Jacob and other witnesses. Several workers report witnessing Zendrato’s enforcers regularly beat workers with wooden clubs and occasionally with the sides of machetes.
Cargill’s refusal to accept responsibility for the abuses of its palm oil suppliers is all the more outrageous given the fact that it has never been a secret that these abuses are going on. A 2012 study by the US Dept. of Labor found that palm oil is one of the industries where forced and child labor were still an issue—but Cargill did nothing proactive to ensure it wasn’t part of the problem. That’s probably because they’ve been getting away with it, more or less. As the Bloomberg article says, “[Because] palm oil companies face little pressure from consumers to change, they continue to rely on largely unregulated contractors, who often use unscrupulous practices.” We can change this perverse and disgusting situation, though. Take action now to call on Cargill to cut child and slave labor from its supply chain. If massive companies like Cargill, the largest private company in the US, demand that suppliers like KLK clean up their act, it will go a long way toward reforming the entire industry. But of course there are many other companies complicit in the problem—among them, companies like Nestlé, General Mills, Kraft Foods, and Kellogg that are in turn buying child slavery-tainted palm oil from Cargill. That’s why we’re launching a campaign entirely devoted to getting snack food companies to cut irresponsible palm oil from their products. You can sign our petition calling on the snack industry to cut rainforest-destroying and human rights-abusing palm oil from its supply chain, and if you want to do even more, sign up for our Palm Oil Action Team.

RAN Issues Statement in Response to False Palm Oil Claims by Cargill

[caption id="attachment_20338" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="A Duta Palma-owned palm oil plantation in Indonesian Borneo (Kalimantan). Until Cargill adopts supply chain safeguards and publicly discloses its supposed 'No Trade List,' this rainforest destruction will persist in its palm oil supply chain. Photo: David Gilbert"]A Duta Palma-owned palm oil plantation in Indonesian Borneo (Kalimantan). Until Cargill adopts supply chain safeguards and publicly discloses its supposed 'No Trade List,' this rainforest destruction will persist in its palm oil supply chain. Photo: David Gilbert[/caption] Last week, Rainforest Action Network (RAN) contacted Cargill employees in over 20 countries to alert them to the company’s ties to rainforest destruction and orangutan extinction. The email urged employees to watch a recent eye-opening prime time NBC news story profiling the imminent extinction of orangutans due to unchecked palm oil expansion in Indonesia and Malaysia. Palm oil is one of the leading causes of tropical deforestation and Cargill is the top importer of palm oil into the US as well as one of the largest palm oil traders worldwide. Cargill responded to our email by issuing a company-wide statement to its employees that contains numerous specific allegations that are either overtly disingenuous or flat out untrue. So, RAN issued a response to set the record straight. And we sent it to the same Cargill employees across 20 countries to ensure that, even though Cargill is not telling them the whole truth, they aren't kept in the dark by their company's lies. Less than 24 hours later, UPI picked up the story: "Rainforest group locks horns with Cargill." Here is our statement below. Please let Cargill know what you think in the comments section.
Cargill opens its statement by claiming that, “For more than four years, Cargill has tried to work with and engage RAN. We even hosted RAN staff at our Harapan Indonesia oil palm plantation.” Cargill goes on to state, 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.” Since RAN launched its rainforest agribusiness campaign in 2007, Cargill has never once made a sincere attempt to address our core concerns. During RAN’s November 2010 visit to the plantation Cargill refers to at Harapan Sawit Lestari (HSL), RAN documented new plantings on the edge of natural forest, but we were willing to withhold judgment as Cargill was in the middle of pursing certification and claimed that the audit would be completed by January 2011. This audit is now two years overdue and Cargill is currently in breach of the RSPO’s Member Code of Conduct that requires all plantations get certified within five years. Despite these violations, this plantation is not the largest issue for Cargill. Cargill trades enormous quantities of palm oil each year and only a small fraction is sourced from the couple of plantations the company controls outright. The overwhelming majority comes from a vast and largely opaque network of suppliers that are regularly implicated in egregious violations that range from the destruction of natural rainforest to the stealing of land from Indigenous communities to orangutan deaths to forced and/or child labor in Indonesia and Malaysia. RAN has documented Cargill’s ties to these very issues by confirming supply chain ties to problematic suppliers including Wilmar, KLK, PT BEST, IOI and Triputra. The Indonesian organization Sawit Watch alone has documented over 600 cases of active social conflict related to palm oil expansion in Indonesia. Today, just under half of Indonesia’s original forest cover remains, one of the reasons that Southeast Asia has the world’s highest rate of deforestation. With such widespread conflict and abuses surrounding palm plantations across Indonesia and Malaysia, and without transparency and traceability on its supply chain, Cargill simply cannot in good faith claim not to be sourcing palm oil from these controversial sources. However, it is within Cargill’s power to exclude suppliers that do not meet the company’s values. Cargill trades approximately 25% of the world’s palm oil without safeguards, meaning it buys the cheapest palm oil from the most convenient suppliers. In 2009 Cargill publicly stated that it had a ‘No Trade List,’ which included Duta Palma, a company associated with severe cases of social conflict, but has never made this supposed list public. If Cargill has a No Trade list, the company should make it public. To be clear, RAN would like nothing more than to begin “constructive engagement” with Cargill. Cargill should look to RAN’s recent relationship with Disney as a model for how we are ready and willing at any time to sit at the table and discuss concrete steps for how a major global company can rid its supply chain of species extinction and rainforest destruction. The bottom line is that the only way to meaningfully protect endangered wildlife like the orangutan is to protect the forest habitat they depend on. RAN is unaware of any concrete steps Cargill has taken to help protect endangered species by permanently protecting the forests where they live. RAN is asking Cargill to adopt the following basic safeguards for the palm oil it buys, sells, ships, and trades: SOCIAL SAFEGUARDS – A commitment to resolve social and land rights tenure conflicts, a no-trade position for growers using child or slave labor, adherence to obtaining free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) of forest-dependent communities before lands are acquired or developed, and a commitment to implement the United Nations “protect, respect and remedy” framework for human rights. ENVIRONMENTAL SAFEGUARDS – A commitment to reduce biodiversity loss and greenhouse gas emissions by ending the expansion of palm oil plantations into High Conservation Value (HCV) areas including critical habitat, peatlands and High Carbon Stock forests and/or remaining natural forests. PUBLIC TRANSPARENCY – A commitment to transparent and consistent reporting of metrics and targets as well as regular stakeholder and rights-holder engagement. Cargill states that RAN’s allegations are “completely unfounded and untrue” and that Cargill has been recognized as a leader in palm oil sustainability by many environmental NGOs and that the company has done great things to protect orangutans. While feel good partnerships with big green groups are nice on paper, they do not necessarily do anything to slow the rapid slide toward extinction for critically endangered species like the orangutan. 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 like those described above. Anything else is just words and does not change the destructive spiral that currently passes for business as usual. If Cargill is serious about making this change it could start by disclosing its supply chain assessment that it paid WWF to undertake, received in April of 2012 and yet has refused to share with stakeholders or the public. As it stands, Cargill has stated a commitment to supply palm oil certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to the ‘developed’ world by 2015 and the ‘developing’ world by 2020. The first glaring loophole is that palm kernel oil is exempted from its targets. Second, given the reality that the vast majority of palm oil is consumed by China and India, this means the bulk of this commitment does not go into effect for 8 more years. The world’s leading orangutan scientist, Ian Singleton, estimates that orangutans will be extinct in our lifetime if unchecked palm oil expansion isn’t halted right now. Cargill ends its statement with the outlandish claim that “more than 90 percent of the palm oil we originate from Indonesia comes from RSPO members.” As Cargill is well aware, simply being a member of the RSPO  has very little meaning and is quite different than being certified as sustainable by the RSPO. RSPO membership does not ensure that any RSPO criteria are being met at the plantation level since the only major criteria to meet in the first 5 years is consistent dues payment. Even certification by the RSPO has a very spotty track record of resolving social conflicts or enforcing its own criteria and it is not enough for Cargill to outsource its values by relying on the RSPO to guarantee its palm oil is free from controversy. Cargill can and should be doing much more to eliminate problematic palm oil from its supply chains. Cargill’s modest commitments are more reactive to the urgent demands of large food business customers than representative of a pro-active strategy by Cargill to meet sustainability criteria. There is no question that supply chains are complex, but we do not see Cargill bringing the urgency or resources to bear to move quickly and effectively to implement a credible and robust system of safeguards for its palm oil business. The science is clear and the writing is on the wall. If we want our children to live in a world where one of humankind’s closest relatives, the orangutan, still lives free, real action must be taken now. Their future is in Cargill’s hands.

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