General Mills Shifting to 100% Sustainable Palm Oil by 2015

General Mills Shifting to 100% Sustainable Palm Oil by 2015

Image CC licensed by Flickr user Tsar Kasim

General Mills became on Tuesday the latest company to declare it would only buy palm oil  produced through environmentally and socially responsible means.

The company, which produces popular brands that include Cheerios cereal, Pillsbury baked goods and Yoplait yogurt, intends to meet this commitment by 2015. General Mills estimates it uses one-tenth of 1 percent of world palm oil production.

"We are concerned about the role of palm oil expansion in the deforestation of the world's rainforests and about the impact of deforestation on biodiversity and endangered species," the company said Tuesday in its newly released statement on responsible palm oil sourcing. "Land use for palm cultivation has increased over 40 percent in the last decade, and too often expansion has involved deforestation, impacting both wildlife and indigenous peoples."

Sustainable palm oil has gained attention in recent years following a high-profile campaign by Greenpeace to get large corporations to clean up their palm oil supply chains. Nestle, Burger King, Unilever and Abengoa Bioenergy have changed their palm oil suppliers during the past year because of sustainability concerns.

Sodexo pledged to eliminate palm oil from cooking processes and reduce use in its products, while Cadbury yanked the ingredient altogether from the formula of its dairy milk chocolate bars. Lush cosmetics also pledged to remove palm oil from its soap and beauty products.

Cleaning products firm Seventh Generation even buys sustainable palm oil certification credits to cover what it uses in its vegetable-based cleaners. The program gives producers using responsible growing and business practices a premium to help them further their sustainability programs.

In its statement on palm oil released Tuesday, General Mills said it supports a ban on the destruction of high-value forests for palm oil production. It also stands behind the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil principles and will engage its suppliers on the issue. It also said it is considering the use of certified sustainable palm oil certificates.

"Hurdles remain in the palm industry, and adequate supplies are not yet available," the company said. "Use of certified sustainable trade mechanisms, such as GreenPalm certificates, may be necessary, especially in smaller markets."

Image CC licensed by Flickr user Tsar Kasim.