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Kellogg’s bows to pressure on palm oil, deforestation

Kellogg’s has agreed to strengthen its palm oil and deforestation policies in response to consumer pressure, pledging to source all its palm oil directly from sustainably certified estates and plantations, while stepping up efforts to ensure full traceability throughout its supply chain.

The cereal and snacks giant has been a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) — the industry-backed body for promoting environmental and social best practices — for several years, but had faced criticism from green groups for using credit schemes to source some of its palm oil rather than ensuring it came directly from sustainable, certified plantations.

The new pledge comes amid growing demand for palm oil for use in a huge number of everyday consumer products, which has fuelled deforestation in producing countries where farmers clear rainforest to make way for palm oil plantations, thereby exacerbating climate change by destroying crucial natural carbon stores.

A Greenpeace investigation in 2018 found links between a number of major brands including Kellogg’s, Nestle, Mars and Procter & Gamble and “notorious” palm oil producers in Indonesia, which it said were responsible for deforestation in the country.

In response, an online petition was set up over a year ago by two sisters, Asha and Jia Kirkpatrick — now ages 12 and 10 — urging Kellogg’s to stop using palm oil suppliers which contribute to the destruction of rainforests in Indonesia, key habitats for endangered orangutans. The petition has since collected more than 785,000 signatures.

Following pressure from customers and green groups, Kellogg’s last week announced a number of measures aimed at strengthening its sustainable sourcing policies, agreeing to phase out the use of palm oil credits entirely by 2025 in favor of directly working with certified plantations.

It has signed up an independent auditor, Pro Forest, to oversee its efforts, and to help the firm work more closely with smallholder farmers to double the efficiency of their land so as to increase the amount of palm oil yielded per hectare, in a bid to guard against further deforestation in its supply chain.

Moreover, Kellogg’s said it had also joined the Palm Oil Transparency Coalition (POTC), pledging to require all of the firm’s suppliers to sign up to the initiative’s No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation (NDPE) framework, which tracks progress on zero-deforestation commitments.

Kellogg’s insisted it “uses a very small amount of palm oil globally,” but that the updates to its global palm oil and deforestation policies would ensure complete traceability throughout its supply chain.

“It means we can trace the palm oil we buy for use in our foods from the moment it leaves the accredited sustainable palm oil mill, through our supply and manufacturing processes and into our food,” the firm said in a statement. “Kellogg’s is committed to transparency in sourcing and therefore discloses all potential mills that may or may not be present within our supply chain at any given time, regardless of volume or potential frequency.”

In an update to their online petition Monday, Asha and Jia Kirkpatrick hailed the announcement as “fantastic news,” although some green groups were less satisfied.

Diana Ruiz, Greenpeace USA senior palm oil campaigner, described Kellogg’s commitment as “another policy with no serious enforcement and a reliance on a certification that is not fit for a 1.5-degree [Celsius] world” which “does not present the robust visionary action needed by the private sector to address climate change.”

Instead, she called for firms to use less palm oil in the first place, and for governments to put in place stricter regulations rather than relying on voluntary efforts from companies through the RSPO.

“To save Indonesia’s rainforests and help limit global warming to below 1.5 C, brands must commit to using significantly less palm oil and ensure any they do use comes from suppliers that are 100 percent deforestation-free,” she said.