Cargill: Too Little Too Late

Written by Ashley Schaeffer

Topics: Agribusiness

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Cargill’s palm oil is pervasive in U.S. household brands. Click here to tell Cargill to stop destroying rainforests for palm oil.

Today, Cargill updated its palm oil commitments. While it’s significant that Cargill has committed to a global baseline of RSPO certification, the RSPO in its current form does not guarantee that certified palm oil entering U.S. consumer brands is free of ties to deforestation, climate change, species extinction, human or Indigenous rights violations, and/or slave labor.

Here is the official statement that RAN just released:

Rainforest Action Network Statement on Cargill’s Commitment to Supply RSPO Certified Palm Oil by 2015

SAN FRANCISCO (July 12, 2011) – Today, Cargill announced new commitments covering palm oil products that it supplies to its customers in Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, indicating that they should be certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and/or originate from smallholder growers by 2015. This goal excludes palm kernel oil products. The company will also extend its commitment to cover 100% of its palm oil products and all customers worldwide by 2020.

Lindsey Allen, Forest Program Director for the Rainforest Action Network, which has been pressuring Cargill to adopt safeguards for its global palm oil supply chain since 2007, issued the following statement in response to Cargill’s announcement.

“Cargill’s move to phase out controversial palm oil from its supply chain is a good first step toward protecting our most endangered rainforests and the climate, but it comes at a time when we need leaps. Palm oil is a leading cause of Indonesia’s deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions and loss of critical orangutan habitat, and the next five years are crucial. The sad reality is that we can’t wait until 2015, let alone 2020, for greater corporate leadership.

“Currently in addressing the severe problems with palm oil, Cargill is putting all its eggs in one basket, the RSPO, and that basket is riddled with holes. As an example, RSPO certification in its current form does nothing to address climate change from palm oil production, which science tells us is contributing to record greenhouse gas emissions.

“Cargill’s commitment comes in response to rising demand from its customers and the public for palm oil that is free from controversy. RAN is discouraged that Cargill has chosen to exclude a significant portion of palm oil products consumed in North American and European markets derived from palm kernel oil (PKO) in its commitment. By excluding PKO, Cargill will fail to supply certified palm oil for many of the products we buy in supermarkets every day and fail to meet the rising demand of it customers.

“As an influential member of the RSPO and a company than touches one quarter of the world’s palm oil, Cargill has the potential to transform the global palm oil marketplace. RAN is demanding that Cargill move the dates of its commitment up, fully segregate its supply chain, and adopt basic safeguards around greenhouse gas emissions, human rights and biodiversity loss, which is not currently ensured by the RSPO.”

For more information on RAN’s Cargill and palm oil campaign, please visit: www.ran.org/cargill

3 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Susan Eich says:

    It is important to note that plantations improving sustainable practices and becoming RSPO-certified will improve the sustainability of palm oil AND palm kernel oil, because oil palm trees produce both. RSPO focuses on certifying palm oil through the whole supply chain because it’s the main product of the two. It doesn’t mean the palm kernel oil isn’t sustainable.

    As for the timeline, RSPO-certified oil didn’t even exist 2.5 years ago. Having visited Cargill’s certified plantation, RAN certainly understands what it takes to meet robust standards for sustainability. We’d be delighted if our suppliers and smallholders could get us enough certified oil to meet our goals sooner.

    Thanks,
    Susan Eich
    Cargill Corporate Affairs

  2. andrew says:

    It is interesting to note the very long timeline Cargill expects it would take for it to use all sustainably sourced palm oil. while the lack of supplies is the claimed justification provided in Cargill’s response, it is hard to believe they cannot be more active, involved and committed in working with smallholders, producers and others to meet sustainability standards.

    Cargill should also ensure that it immediately ceases supporting producers with existing practices that clear forests or cause social conflict.

    We need leadership in this issue, not more dragging.

    andrew

  3. Hillary Lehr says:

    Susan,

    The way that palm oil is produced and supplied has changed drastically in the past few years particularly because consumers and well-known brands have demanded improvements. We believe that Cargill will meet the 2015 and 2020 targets that it has set out. Our concern is that these goals are set from a business perspective not from the scientific understanding of what is needed to protect forests. Globally there is a need to reduce greenhouse emissions, protect species extinction and save rainforests. Growing palm oil in Indonesia produces significant emissions, is the leading cause of habitat loss for the endangered orangutan, and clears massive swaths of one of the oldest and most diverse rainforests on earth. If the minimum Cargill is willing to do -given all that is at risk- is to supply more of the crop using basic RSPO criteria, then yes, we think it is important that you move a little faster. As it stands you are asking us to wait nearly a decade.

    As for palm kernel oil, it is true that palm oil plantations that are certified do produce both palm oil and palm kernel oil. If Cargill is committed to providing both sustainably, then why the palm kernel oil exclusion? The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil has committed to addressing palm kernel oil and as this UK government study shows* (link below), palm kernel oil is a critical food ingredient in European and North American markets.

    The bottom line:

    While we’re encouraged by your willingness to continue this conversation, you have still failed to address the most significant point raised. RSPO certification alone cannot guarantee that the palm oil Cargill trades and profits from is free of environmental damage, social conflict, and/or child and slave labor. Additional precautionary safeguards are necessary. While many of the principles behind the RSPO are good on paper, there are big holes in practice and the RSPO principles completely fail to address greenhouse gas emissions.

    Hillary Lehr
    Forest Program
    Rainforest Action Network

    * UK Department of Environmental, Agricultural, and Rural Affairs Study: “Review of policy options relating to sustainable palm oil procurement” http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Document.aspx?Document=EV0459_10153_FRP.pdf

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  1. Cargill Commits to Certified Palm Oil
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