Cargill to Review Palm Oil Suppliers' Sustainability Progress

Cargill to Review Palm Oil Suppliers' Sustainability Progress

Palm oil fruit - CC license by Flickr user oneVillage Initiative

Cargill, with the help of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), will begin a review of its palm oil suppliers later this year to see how they are progressing toward more sustainable practices.

Demand for palm oil, an ingredient in foods, shampoo, detergents, lipstick and other cosmetics, has jumped drastically in recent years, and in 2006 it accounted for 65 percent of all vegetable oil trades internationally. That growth in demand has been met with an expansion of palm oil plantations, leading to deforestation, destruction of tropical forests, removal of habitat for endangered species like the orangutan and reduced biodiversity.

Groups like WWF and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) have pushed companies to be more aware of their palm oil supply chains and to clean them up if they are sourcing from suppliers engaging in unsustainable practices.

Cargill has pledged to buy 60 percent of its total crude palm oil from RSPO members by the end of this year and is encouraging suppliers to join the RSPO and have their plantations certified. Starting in August, the U.S. arm of the WWF will supervise a review of Cargill's suppliers in Indonesia to see how they implementing RSPO principles. 

One of Cargill's own Indonesian oil palm plantations, PT Hindoli, has received RSPO certification and its other plantation in the country, PT Harapan Sawit Lestari, is working toward certification. Cargill's refineries in Europe and Malaysia have also been approved for carrying RSPO products.

Switching to sustainable palm oil has been difficult for many companies, as the WWF reported in its Palm Oil Scorecard late last year, saying that the majority of the retailers and manufacturers it surveyed were having problems meeting their own commitments to using sustainable palm oil.

Public pressure has worked better on some companies, such as with Cadbury, which agreed to remove palm oil from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars after New Zealand's Auckland Zoo pulled all Cadbury products due to the link between palm oil and endangered species habitat destruction.

Nestle was targeted in a global campaign by Greenpeace over the suppliers it bought palm oil from. The company quickly cut off all business with the supplier in question, Sinar Mas, and worked with other suppliers to make sure they do not source from Sinar Mas either. About 18 percent of Nestle's palm oil comes from sustainable sources, and it wants to only source sustainable palm oil by 2015.

In addition to changing where their palm oil comes from, some companies like Seventh Generation have purchased sustainable palm kernel oil certification credits, paying extra for palm oil to help suppliers switch over to and expand sustainable plantations.

Palm oil fruit - CC license by Flickr user oneVillage Initiative