Mars Company Focus of New Campaign To Remove “Conflict Palm Oil” from America’s Snack Foods

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Rainforest Action Network Visits Local Snack Food Giant Named as a Member of the 20 Snack Food Companies at Center of New Campaign New Report Exposes Snack Food Companies’ Role in Orangutan Extinction, Climate Change and Human Rights Abuses.
Tuesday, October 1, 2013


McLean, VA—Today, activists with Rainforest Action Network (RAN) delivered a set of demands to local food giant Mars, Inc. regarding the company’s use of the controversial food additive palm oil in its products. RAN recently announced a new national campaign to remove “Conflict Palm Oil” responsible for rainforest destruction, human rights violations and carbon pollution from America’s snack foods.

A protest at Chicago’s Board of Trade September 12th publicly named the 20 snack food companies that RAN’s campaign will focus on. Today’s visit is the fifth company stop on a recently launched national tour by RAN called The Power Is In Your Palm Tour. The Snack Food 20, as the group has dubbed them, control some of America’s most well known household brands including Smucker’s, Kellogg’s, Pepsi, Heinz, and Hershey’s.

“In the 21st Century customers don’t want to buy chocolates and cookies that are responsible for pushing the world’s last wild orangutans to extinction and for horrifying child labor violations. That’s why Rainforest Action Network is putting these top 20 snack food companies using Conflict Palm Oil on notice that it’s time to develop responsible policies and create products that reflect the values of their customers and the needs of our planet,” said Lindsey Allen, the Executive Director of Rainforest Action Network. 

Mars has recognized the problem of Conflict Palm Oil in its supply chain and the need to go beyond sourcing so-called RSPO 'sustainable' palm oil and RAN believes it's commitment to work towards 100% traceable sources of palm oil that are free of deforestation, expansion on carbon-rich peatlands, the violation of human and labor rights is a step in the right direction. 

RAN is calling on Mars's to adopt and implement a time bound policy that builds on its existing commitment and ensures that the palm oil in their supply chain is fully traceable, legally grown, and sourced from verified responsible palm oil producers not associated with deforestation, expansion onto carbon-rich peatlands or human and labor rights violations. 

Today’s local company visits follow the release of a new report, entitled Conflict Palm Oil: How US Snack Food Brands are Contributing to Orangutan Extinction, Climate Change and Human Rights Violations, which details and exposes the increasingly severe environmental and human rights problems caused by palm oil production. The report finds that Mars cannot currently ensure that its products do not contain palm oil connected to rainforest destruction, carbon pollution and human rights abuses. It also concludes the Snack Food 20 have the market influence to engage their supply chains and make demands of major palm oil traders like Cargill with the leverage to transform the destructive way palm oil producers currently grow Conflict Palm Oil.

“Palm oil is found in nearly 50 percent of the packaged foods on our grocery store shelves, and tragically it is also the leading cause of orangutan extinction and rainforest destruction in Indonesia and Malaysia. Mars and the Snack Food 20 can and must solve their problem with Conflict Palm Oil before it’s too late for the great red ape,” said Gemma Tillack, Rainforest Action Network’s Senior Agribusiness Campaigner. “Rainforest Action Network has developed a clear roadmap for companies to follow to eliminate Conflict Palm Oil from their products, and we are ready and willing to work with the Snack Food 20, including Mars, now to make it happen.”

Palm oil is one of the world’s leading causes of rainforest destruction and its use in the United States has grown nearly 500 percent in the past decade. This rapidly growing demand has pushed palm oil plantations into the heart of some of the world’s most culturally and biologically diverse ecosystems. Palm oil is among the biggest threats driving iconic wildlife species like the orangutan to the brink of extinction in Indonesia and Borneo Malaysia. Scientists estimate just 60,600 orangutans remain in the wild.

This large-scale destruction of rainforests and carbon-rich peatland landscapes is releasing globally significant quantities of carbon pollution into the atmosphere, making palm oil a major global driver of human induced climate change. Annual carbon emissions related to deforestation in Indonesia alone – most of which stem from palm oil plantation expansion - are greater than all the cars, trucks, planes and ships in the United States combined.

The production of palm oil is also responsible for widespread human rights violations as palm oil companies often forcefully remove Indigenous Peoples and rural communities from their lands. The US Department of Labor lists palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia as commodities associated with child labor and modern day slavery. A July article in Bloomberg BusinessWeek reported the results of a nine-month investigation by the Schuster Institute of Investigative Journalism that documented widespread cases of child labor on palm oil plantations associated with the supply chains of the Snack Food 20.

The “Snack Food 20” group of companies are Campbell Soup Company; ConAgra Foods, Inc.; Dunkin’ Brands Group, Inc.; General Mills, Inc.; Grupo Bimbo; Hillshire Brands Company; H.J. Heinz Company; Hormel Foods Corporation; Kellogg Company; Kraft Food Group, Inc.; Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Corp.; Mars Inc.; Mondelez International, Inc.; Nestle. S.A.; Nissin Foods Holdings Co., Ltd.; PepsiCo, Inc.; The Hershey Company; The J.M. Smucker Company; Toyo Suisan Kaisha, Ltd.; and Unilever.

The full Conflict Palm Oil report can be downloaded here: and a high res photo of the September 12th protest at the Chicago Board of Trade is available here:


Rainforest Action Network runs hard-hitting campaigns to break North America’s fossil fuels addiction, protect endangered forests and Indigenous rights, and stop destructive investments around the world through education, grassroots organizing, and non-violent direct action. For more information, please visit: