Keep the heat on Cargill

Written by Ashley Schaeffer

Topics: Agribusiness

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Yesterday’s global call-in day to Cargill’s CEO Gregory Page at his headquarters in Wayzata, MN was a huge success thanks to all of our wonderful supporters and activists!  Great work!  By 10am close to 2,000 people had already placed a call of concern into U.S. Agribusiness Giant Cargill and by the end of the day that number soared to almost 4,000.  This powerful grassroots pressure perfectly set the tone for our three hour meeting with Cargill decision-makers yesterday afternoon.

Cargill is the biggest importer of palm oil into the United States yet, despite our tireless work, it continues refusing to implement a global forest policy to protect rainforests, communities and the climate.  Sourcing palm oil from suppliers who are clearing and burning rainforests in South East Asia to make way for palm oil plantations with no regard for human rights or environmental standards, Cargill is exacerbating climate change.  Deforestation is responsible for 20 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions in the world – more than all the world’s cars, trucks, trains, planes, ships and factories combined!

Meanwhile, a United Nations study warns that 98 percent of Indonesia’s forests will be destroyed by 2022 and more than five million Indigenous people will be forced off their land by 2010 to create room for palm plantations.

So as the largest privately owned company in the United States and the second largest in the world, with their 2008 revenues totaling $120.4 billion, something in this picture just doesn’t seem right.  Wouldn’t it seem “ethical” or “right,” dare I suggest, that they make an investment in their huge portion of the palm industry and work to become a leader in socially and environmentally responsible palm oil production? It’s not like they couldn’t afford it. This would be the first step towards meeting our demands of an over-arching forest policy that would reach beyond palm oil and govern over Cargill’s entire commodity selling and trading, not just limited to oil palm.

If we can get Cargill to establish a policy, we’ll get their competitors to follow suit. Last night we made some progress.

In our meeting with Cargill last night, we made it clear that we’re elevating our pressure locally in the Minneapolis/St. Paul and nationally until we see a drafted forest policy on the table.  This means we’re building a massive grassroots network of support locally by reaching out to food co-ops, students, businesses, and community organizations.  We’re also going to be contacting and engaging with some of Cargill’s largest customers (which include but are not limited to Kraft, Colgate, Proctor and Gamble, General Mills, and Dean Foods) to pressure them to cancel contracts with Cargill.

Last night the Cargill rep we met with was not happy about the thousands of calls generated or the upcoming actions we’re coordinating in Minnesota.  It’s upsetting to them. But it makes me even angrier that we have to convince Cargill that destroying rainforests is bad.

My full-time job is to create as much noise and pressure on Cargill that they will do anything to make it go away. We’d like to think that a forest policy is possible from good intention and responsible business practice, but we know it’s not that easy.

Burning the early morning oils, I’m preparing for a trip out to Cargill’s neighborhood later today – the Twin Cities as my colleagues prepare for the upcoming Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) in Malaysia next week where along with our allies and partners on the ground we’ll be hi-lighting RSPO violations by the worst of the worst companies.

Cargill has a 150 year history in agriculture and food. They wonder how they can feed the world with growing demands AND save the planet.  It is possible but it’s going to take some strong, unified, strategic pressure.  So please join us and take action!

We’re screening “Green” at the University of Minnesota tonight to get people fired up, taking part in 350.org’s national day of climate action Saturday, working Bioneers all weekend and culminating our week of action at Cargill’s downtown grain exchange Monday during their lunch hour! There will be several orangutans holding banners and spreading the word – if you’re in Minneapolis, come join us!

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