Nestle's Kit Kat chocolate bars are best remembered by the advertising refrain, 'Have a break, have a Kit Kat.' But now an environmental group wants Nestle to take a break from supporting rainforest-killing companies.
Vancouver, B.C. - Greenpeace Canada says Nestle's Kit Kat bars should give rainforests a break. At issue is one ingredient used in the chocolate bar -- palm oil. The international Greenpeace campaign calls attention to palm oil and the destruction of rainforests in Indonesia, which threatens the endangered Orangutan.
To illustrate their point, Greenpeace created a grotesquely graphic parody of a Kit Kat commercial, showing a bored employee opening a Kit Kat package and crunching on an Orangutan's finger. The video is available on the Greenpeace website and it has no warnings about its graphic nature. The video was posted on YouTube, and can be seen above.
Just to be clear, Nestle itself is not destroying rainforests. However, Greenpeace said the corporation purchases palm oil from companies that do destroy the rainforests. In a press release issued last week, Greenpeace stated "Demand for palm oil has been increasing so much that the companies that sell it are leveling rainforests in Indonesia to make way for palm oil plantations.
We need those rainforests. They play a crucial role in regulating our climate and absorbing CO2. The companies that produce palm oil are cutting down the lungs of the planet and contributing to making Indonesia the third largest carbon emitter after the United States and China ... Deforestation is actually responsible for ... 1/5 of total emissions ... Deforestation is also trashing orang-utan habitat, pushing this already endangered species to the brink of extinction, and destroying the livelihoods of local people."
Greenpeace staged demonstrations at Nestle factories and head offices in the United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands to protest the destruction of the rainforest on March 16th. Greenpeace has singled out one of Nestle's Indonesian suppliers of palm oil, Sinar Mas, as being a worst offender. Sinar Mas. "Sinar Mas is the largest producer of palm oil in Indonesia. It supplies many food, drink,cosmetic and biofuel companies worldwide – including Nestlé. Sinar Mas is also breaking Indonesian law by clearing protected forests for its palm oil plantations."
Nestle responded right away by announcing it was cutting its contract with Sinar Mas. Nestle has also undertaken to use only certified sustainable palm oil by 2015.
In a statement, Nestle said it only purchased palm oil from Sinar Mas for processing in Indonesia, saying the palm oil was not used in production facilities in other countries. Nestle processes milk in Indonesia, as well as manufacturing baby cereals, infant formula and a variety of treats. Nestle, in partnership with Coca Cola, bottles water in Indonesia
While Nestle's change of heart should please conservationists, the news of Nestle's decision to cut Sinar Mas has angered palm oil producers in Indonesia, who are threatening a boycott of Nestle products if the contract is cancelled. The Jakarta Globe quoted an industry spokesman as having said “About 10 million oil palm farmers in 20 Indonesian provinces have stated their readiness to boycott Nestle products. Apkasindo [Indonesian Palm Oil Growers Association] is now preparing to draw up a list of Nestle products on the market."
The United States Jakarta Embassy says palm oil production is vital to North Sumatra's economy, "... employing 52 percent of the workforce overall and between 60 to 90 percent of the workforce outside of the major cities; generating 31.8 trillion Rupiah (about 3.2 billion USD) in provincial GDP; and exporting goods worth nearly one billion USD." The US Jakarta Embassy also stated that palm oil trees were viewed by the logging industry as a good way to reforest logged areas cheaply while meeting regulations.
Nestle manufactures " around 10,000" different products, which it sells in 130 countries.
The palm oil tree is from West Africa. Oil palms are grown in Asia, South America and Africa. Most of the world's palm oil is grown in Malaysia and Indonesia. Used in 50% of all consumer products, the oil is favoured by manufacturers because it is cheaper to grow and refine than oil from other vegetable sources.
Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust
Dana the Orangutan after her operation
Orangutan Protection, a group trying to conserve the endangered species, warned in 2008 that the Orangutans on Borneo might become extinct by 2011 because the push to convert rain forest into palm oil plantations and farms was seriously eroding the habitat of the ape.
The Sumatran Orangutan is listed as "critically endangered."
Greenpeace has zeroed in on Nestle because "Nestlé is the largest food and drinks company in the world, and already a major consumer of palm oil – the last three years have seen Nestlé’s use of palm oil almost double. Considering its size and influence, it should be setting an example for the industry and ensuring its palm oil is destruction free. Instead, Nestlé continues to buy from companies, like Sinar Mas, that are destroying Indonesia’s rainforests and peatlands."
Late last year, Unilever cut its contract with Sinar Mas on the basis of a similar report from Greenpeace. Kraft followed suit in early 2010. Two other companies, Sainsbury and Shell, are said to be cutting ties with Sinar Mas as well.