Applauding Won’t Cut It, Girl Scouts USA

By Rainforest Action Network

It’s been two weeks since you joined us in supporting the work of two Girl Scouts, Madison Vorva and Rhiannon Tomtishen, in asking Girl Scouts USA (GSUSA) to get rainforest-destroying palm oil out of Girl Scout cookies. Despite receiving over 10,000 petitions from concerned Girl Scout families and cookie lovers from across the country, GSUSA CEO Kathy Cloninger has still failed to address our concerns.

Sadie from NE Ohio at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo Borneo Orangutan Exhibit. Photo: Kerrie Aman Carfagno
Sadie, a Girl Scout from northeast Ohio, at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo Borneo Orangutan Exhibit. Photo: Kerrie Aman Carfagno

Though GSUSA has decided to ignore scouts Madi & Rhiannon as well as RAN and thousands of activists, the organization is well aware of the issues we’ve raised. One article quotes Michelle Tompkins, a spokeswoman for Girl Scouts USA, saying:

We all want the girls to stand up for what they believe in. They’re trying to make changes, and we applaud them for that.

But this was the only comment from Girl Scouts in the piece. Do you feel like you’ve been left hanging here too? If the Girl Scouts applauds the two activists for standing up for what they believe in (which also happens to be consistent with the science), and what the activists want is to align Girl Scouts’ official policy with the values of the organization, isn’t the next step to show leadership and protect orangutans from being pushed to extinction by palm oil?

If over 10,000 petitions and dozens of media calls to their headquarters hasn’t swayed GSUSA’s top brass yet, perhaps Girl Scout leader Jennifer McNichols of Troop #9045 in Central Texas can get through to them. She makes a strong case in her open letter to the Girl Scouts of USA Board. Here is an excerpt:

The way the Girl Scouts USA leadership — you, the board — have handled our girls’ concerns about the environmental impact of Girl Scout Cookies under the tenure of board president Connie Lindsey and CEO Kathy Cloninger — is starting to make me feel like a hypocrite. And given the choice between my girls and the organization that purports to support them, I’ll choose the girls every time.

Next year’s curriculum is “It’s Your Planet — Love It!” and I’m not making excuses for you any longer. Those voices you heard over the past few months telling people not to buy Girl Scout cookies are going to be louder next year, and you’re going to have fewer allies ready to argue against them. Those who took the bait this year and let themselves believe that your RSPO membership represented a meaningful change in direction will experience nagging doubts. And as for my girls — Troop 9045 — we are going to hold ourselves responsible for what we say and do, and we are going to practice what you preach. We’re going to discuss, evaluate, and decide as a troop how to address the issue of Girl Scout cookies’ role in the deforestation of Indonesia and the likely extinction of one of the most amazing species on our planet. And we’re going to do it whether you’re on board or not.

Though they so far refuse to take these concerns seriously, Girl Scouts USA found time to send out a notice last week, the final week of sales, to the thousands of volunteers who coordinate Girl Scout troop cookie sales. The point of the notice was to reassure girls and their families that:

Girl Scouts of Northern California and our cookie supplier, Little Brownie Bakers, takes our shared commitment to the environment very seriously. Girl Scouts and Little Brownie Bakers continue to conduct our business in ways that protect the environment and demonstrate good stewardship of our world’s natural resources. Our baker is continuing to work toward the best combination of ingredients that are environmentally responsible and provide the taste Girl Scout Cookie customers expect.

The palm oil that is used in very limited amounts by our baker for Girl Scout cookies comes from palm oil suppliers that are part of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil… In other words, Girl Scouts and Little Brownie Bakers uses suppliers of palm oil that have committed to using palm oil without exhausting natural resources or causing ecological damage.

Hmmm, they only use suppliers that have committed to using palm oil without exhausting natural resources or causing ecological damage? Last time I checked, one of Girl Scout USA’s key suppliers of palm oil, Cargill, hadn’t even adopted the most basic safeguards in their global supply chain to guarantee they weren’t buying palm oil grown in cleared rainforests. And call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure that leading scientists and even RSPO member companies admit that most palm oil cultivation, from the forest-clearing and burning to the agro toxins, can cause major ecological damage without appropriate safeguards.

Girl Scouts from across the country are taking a stand for orangutans while working toward their Rainforest Hero badge. Please join us today, without your help endangered orangutans inch closer to extinction!