My alarm went off at 6:15am this morning and the excitement of butterflies in my stomach reminded me that the launch date had finally arrived! After four hours of sleep and months of preparations, I met up with 41 local Twin Cities community members concerned about palm oil’s contribution to tropical deforestation, global climate change, the rights of indigenous communities, and the survival of threatened species like the orangutan. Specifically in question: the corporate ethics of one of the most trusted American food giants based right here in Minneapolis, MN – General Mills.
Why is the maker of such powerful brands as Cheerios, Haagen Dazs, Progresso soups, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury – that cater mostly to parents and kids across the U.S. – stalling on taking action to protect our world’s forests increasingly threatened by big Agribusiness’ industrial palm oil plantations? What will it take to get them to listen?
I know of one thing that got their attention- a massive, bright yellow 30 x 70 ft. banner getting unfurled in the snowy, wintery morning light at their Headquarters in Golden Valley, MN! At 11:11am 42 people inspired by the prospect of getting General Mills to wake up and be a leader in the food industry held the huge message: “Warning: General Mills Destroys Rainforests” up high in the air for General Mills executives watching from their desks above to see. And that they did!
Our campaign launch was an effective way to inform General Mills that we don’t have any time to waste – we need them to take action now as a company with a unique ability to affect the palm oil marketplace, both by changing its own consumption habits and by publicly taking a stand against rainforest destruction from palm oil.
So why General Mills, you may be asking?
General Mills has a very close relationship with Wayzata based Cargill, Inc. and purchases all of their palm oil from them, among other commodities. Cargill is the most powerful agribusiness and commodity trading group in the world, and as the largest privately owned corporation in the U.S., it’s also among the most secretive companies on earth. It owns plantations in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, where it grows oil palm on freshly cleared rainforest land. It is also a major global trader of palm oil and the biggest importer of palm oil into the United States.
Over 100 of General Mills’ products in total contain palm oil. By purchasing from Cargill, General Mills is directly contributing to the destruction of Indonesian rainforests. We’re asking General Mills to stop buying palm oil from Cargill and we need your help – please take action by sending an email to General Mills CEO Ken Powell!
Be part of the solution: Join RAN in pressuring General Mills to become an advocate for change in the palm oil industry!
For more information, visit theproblemwithpalmoil.org.
UPDATE: On September 22, 2010, eight months after the launch of this campaign, RAN welcomed the release of General Mills’ new palm oil policy, one of the strongest palm oil policies to date. The food company pledged to “help ensure our purchases are not associated in any way with deforestation of the world’s rainforests.”
General Mills committed to source 100 percent of its palm oil from responsible and sustainable sources by 2015, to support the call for a moratorium on peat forest conversion, to require Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) from impacted communities, and to cancel contracts with controversial suppliers deemed such during an audit.