Today, major palm oil trader Cargill announced a new agreement to provide Unilever with palm oil that is certified as segregated “at every step of the supply chain.” Both Unilever and Cargill are members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).
Since 2007, Rainforest Action Network (RAN) has been running a market campaign targeted at Cargill because of the company’s poor record of growing and trading palm oil linked to rainforest destruction and other egregious environmental and social practices. In response to this unprecedented announcement, Leila Salazar-Lopez, Rainforest Agribusiness Campaign Director, released the following statement:
“Today, Cargill and Unilever are proving that it is possible to differentiate between palm oil that destroys rainforests and palm oil that is produced in a more environmentally responsible manner. What they have not yet proven is that it’s possible to produce palm oil and stop destroying forests altogether.”
“We’re encouraged to see that Cargill and Unilever are teaming up to show the industry that certified sustainable palm can be achieved. Cargill is showing that it is capable of providing fully traceable palm oil from RSPO certified sources and Unilever is showing that customers will follow through on their commitments to purchase palm oil at a higher cost, if assured that it is certified sustainable by the RSPO. We remain concerned, however, that the RSPO’s standards are not yet strong enough to assure customers that this palm oil is entirely free from forest destruction or other environmental damage.”
“While segregated palm oil is a step in the right direction, it is only part of the solution. Cargill needs to demonstrate that their segregated palm oil is from a credible and responsible source.”
“Additionally, we encourage Cargill to clean up its entire supply chain, and to make certified segregated palm oil available to all of their customers, particularly those in the U.S. This is particularly important because today’s Unilever commitment accounts for only 10,000 metric tones, a tiny percentage of the total volumes of palm oil that Cargill trades every year.”
“As long as Cargill continues to buy from disreputable companies like the Sinar Mas Group, their customers cannot be sure that their purchases are untainted by forest destruction. And, until certification schemes like the RSPO prove that their standards are being consistently implemented on the ground, supply segregation cannot completely insure that the palm oil provided does not come from plantations that have recently replaced rainforests or been stolen from local communities.”
In May, RAN released a report detailing Cargill’s problems with palm oil in Borneo. Since that time, Cargill has instituted several measures intended to clean up their palm oil supply chain. These include: engagement with customers including Kraft and General Mills; the initiation of a supply chain audit in collaboration with WWF; and last week’s announcement of a planned August assessment of their Harapan Sawit Lestari (HSL) plantation in Borneo.
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