When you go to the grocery store and you buy a bag of chips, a chocolate bar, crackers, ice-cream, doughnuts, frozen snacks or other candy, you may see a label on the products saying ‘RSPO Certified Sustainable Palm Oil’ or ‘Green Palm Sustainability.’ Such labeling makes it is easy to think that the product you are holding contains palm oil that has been produced responsibly.
The Problem with Palm Oil
Palm oil is an increasingly controversial commodity derived from the African oil palm tree. Palm oil has emerged as a highly profitable and desirable source of vegetable oil due to its comparatively high yields and cheap price, coupled with the fact that it only grows in tropical forest regions that boast cheap land, cheap labor, weak regulation, and often corrupt governments. National Wildlife Federation found that as of 2007, palm oil comprised the largest share of world production followed by soybean and canola oils. Due to the massive jump in global demand for this oil, there is steadily increasing pressure on tropical forests, particularly in Indonesia and Malaysia, which produce the vast majority of global output. The U.S., while a relatively small market player at this time, has nevertheless seen a fourfold jump in palm oil imports in the last four years.
Palm oil expansion is a leading cause of forest loss in Indonesia and has a devastating impact on biodiversity, forest-dependant peoples, and the climate. About one third of Indonesia’s peatlands have been allocated to logging, pulp wood and oil palm concessions. Palm oil is used in roughly half of packaged goods found at the grocery store.
Cargill: Trading Away Our Future
Cargill is the largest importer of palm oil into the U.S. and one of the largest traders of controversial palm oil in the world. Despite its global significance, Cargill lacks supply-chain wide safeguards that could ensure that the palm oil it supplies does not drive rainforest destruction. Not only would these safeguards protect endangered species but they would also prevent Cargill from supporting human rights violations such as child labor and illegal land seizures from Indigenous communities.
The multinational agribusiness giant employs 160,000 people and rakes in more than $120 billion in annual revenue. But unlike most companies its size, Cargill's stock isn't traded on any exchange. Instead, Cargill competes with Koch Industries for the position of largest privately held company in the world. In the last decade alone, the Minnetonka-based company has doubled in size, producing a cornucopia of foods and commodities from beef and barley malt to sugar, salt and palm oil.
Although Cargill owns two sets of palm oil plantations, the majority of the company’s profits from palm oil are achieved through its global trading business. According to WWF, Cargill touches 25% of the palm oil on the market globally. Its supply chain is tainted with orangutan extinction, deforestation, climate change, and human rights violations including the use of slave labor.
We Need Your Help
Bring Cargill into the 21st Century by pushing the company to adopt global safeguards on the palm oil it trades, supplies and refines around the world. Together we can convince Cargill to stop delaying and adopt a global palm oil policy that represents real safeguards beyond voluntary systems. Write a letter to CEO Greg Page now.