Nestle Rejects Rainforest-Destroying Palm Oil: Who’s Next?

posted by Margaret Ran

This week the leading consumer food company Nestle announced new policies to eliminate palm oil connected with the increasingly dire status of broad swaths of the world’s rainforests.

The expansion of palm oil plantations is an leading driver of deforestation in Indonesia, home to rainforests of global importance.

In their statements this week, Nestle has promised to measure all their suppliers of palm oil against publicly available “Responsible Sourcing Guidelines,” a bold step and strong message to the palm oil industry.

Nestle’s commitment to avoiding palm oil connected with the destruction of large swaths of majestic lowland rainforests and peat swamps, a global hotspot for greenhouse gas emissions, puts pressure on their suppliers to stop violating Indonesian law, conserve biodiverse forests, and respect local communities.

Perhaps most impacted by Nestle’s decision this week is their key supplier Cargill. The pressure is on for Cargill to stop sourcing from Sinar Mas – another identified forest destroyer, and install needed safeguards in their purchases of palm oil from all of Southeast Asia.

Nestle can only meet their new commitments to forests and forest peoples with Cargill’s full support, but as RAN’s report released this month clearly demonstrates, Cargill is destroying rainforests at its own palm oil plantations in Borneo, and is freely purchasing huge amounts of palm oil from producers that are actively clearing the last of the world’s jungles, while in the process also destroying local livelihoods.

The last six months has seen a significant push by the world’s most important purchasers of palm oil to bring systematic change to the palm oil industry. Nestle is only the latest example. Yet USA agribusiness seems insulated from the global palm oil problem, with companies such as General Mills and Cargill doing their best to ignore their role in the problem.

So what’s next for Nestle? Only until they cancel their direct and indirect purchases of palm oil associated with the destruction of the world’s rainforests can they achieve their stated goal of a “moratorium on the destruction of rainforest.” And Cargill, as an important Nestle supplier, must immediately end their purchases of Sinar Mas palm oil and address the issue of deforestation at their own plantations.