The Rainforest Action Network (RAN) says that it wants to talk with Kellogg itself to develop a new global palm oil procurement policy, and that Kellogg’s suggestion that the campaigners should meet with supplier Wilmar demonstrates a refusal to address its role in stemming conflict palm oil.
The rebuke comes after protesters gathered outside the Kellogg HQ last week in opposition to the cereal and snack giant’s partnership with Asian agri-business Wilmar International, prompting Kellogg to outline its hopes for productive dialogue between RAN and Wilmar.
Speaking to BakeryandSnacks.com last Friday, vice president of communications Kris Charles said that Kellogg provided RAN with an introduction to Wilmar. “We hope RAN reaches out and they have a productive dialogue,” Charles said.
Supply chain sustainability
RAN’s senior campaigner, Gemma Tillack, responded by saying: “If Kellogg is serious about its stated commitments to achieving responsible palm oil supply chains, it cannot shirk its responsibility by deflecting attention to its supplier … Wilmar.”
In RAN's statement, it cited Wilmar’s 2012 selection as the world’s least environmentally friendly company by the US news publication Newsweek as well as its exclusion from The Government Pension Fund of Norway in 2013. “Is this who Kellogg’s wants to trust its brand reputation or the fate of the world’s last remaining orangutans to?” asked Tillack.
Tillack said that Kellogg has a responsibility to ensure that the trust of its customers is not misplaced by making certain its snack products do not play a role in orangutan extinction by way of unsustainable palm oil practices.
“Kellogg cannot and should not outsource this responsibility to its supplier Wilmar. It is Kellogg’s choice who it does business with and what practices it allows into its palm oil supply chain. We are urging Kellogg to choose to care enough to do the right thing,” she said.
“Rainforest Action Network is ready and waiting to meet with Kellogg to work together to develop a new global palm oil procurement policy that goes beyond sourcing so called ‘sustainable’ RSPO certified palm oil. Kellogg cannot leave that work up to Wilmar or the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), especially given that the RSPO does not adequately address the risks of purchasing palm oil that is associated with deforestation, excessive carbon emissions and human rights violations.”
Secretary General of the RSPO, Darrel Webber, responded to RAN's points saying: "RSPO’s operating model requires that all decisions are taken by consensus and must be endorsed by all stakeholder groups. This means that – in order to get all stakeholder groups on board – a certain level of compromise is needed. It is true that there is scope to make the RSPO standard even stricter, however this would mean some stakeholder groups may decide to opt out which puts the market transformation at risk. The arduous and complex challenge of fully transforming the entire industry to become 100% committed to certified sustainable palm oil cannot be underestimated, although it is indeed possible – but only over time, and with the right levels of commitment from all stakeholder groups."
"A number of RSPO member organisations have been confronted with challenges in complying with RSPO certification standards and the Code of Conduct. As a result, the RSPO Complaints Panel, which was established to look into this matter, has taken necessary sanctions and continues to do so. The RSPO emphasizes the importance of organisations in upholding their commitment as a member. The RSPO continues to be vigilant over its members’ commitments," Webber told us.
Kellogg's spokesperson told BakeryandSnacks.com: “While Kellogg uses a very small percentage of the global supply of palm oil, all of the palm oil we use is sustainably sourced through a combination of GreenPalm certificates, mass balance and segregated sustainably grown supply. We are actively working with all our suppliers and a number of multi-stakeholder organizations to ensure a transparent supply of palm oil that is economically viable, environmentally appropriate and socially beneficial.”
Since RAN's latest criticism, Kellogg said it has had constructive dialogue with the organisation about its palm oil commitments.
Wilmar International was unable to provide comment at the time of publication.