Palm oil has turned into a lucrative agricultural product for Indonesia, but the controversial crop has meant the destruction of rainforest and the homes of Orangutans.
Palm oil is used in almost every food product conceivable, as well as many other consumer products. The food giant Nestle has been one of the biggest purchasers of palm oil for its products.
Greenpeace UK launched a campaign intended to get Nestle to stop using non-sustainably harvested palm oil, and after weeks of a campaign that was sometimes shocking, the organization broke the good news Monday morning -- Nestle had agreed to Greenpeace's terms. Greenpeace UK trumpeted from its website, "You'll never guess what. Nestlé has only gone and agreed to our campaign demands! And you've made this possible. We really, seriously could not have done it without you. Now we need to move straight on to the next big player in the palm oil industry - banking giant HSBC."
The campaign to get Nestle to stop using palm oil, which Greenpeace links to deforestation and loss of habitat for the endangered Orangutan only lasted eight weeks, during which time, Nestle signalled its willingness to work to protect habitat. After negotiations with Greenpeace, bolstered by continuing public pressure on the food giant, Nestle "... developed a plan which will identify and remove any companies in their supply chain with links to deforestation so their products will have "no deforestation footprint". These companies include the infamous Sinar Mas, and this move will also have implications for the likes of Cargill."
Greenpeace said The Forest Trust, an organization that helped to created the zero deforestation plan for Nestle, will be monitoring Nestle for compliance.
In 2009, Nestle had committed to using "certified sustainable palm oil by 2015, when sufficient quantities are expected to be available."
However, Nestle was slow to move on that commitment, until the Greenpeace campaign inspired a Facebook group, Boycott Nestle, a group that currently has over 13,000 members. The social media site promoted petitions and a boycott of Nestle products.
Nestle issued a statement Monday confirming it had suspended all business transactions with Sinar Mas. Nestle said "Nestlé views destruction of tropical rainforests and peatlands as one of the most serious environmental issues facing us today. It is estimated that rainforest destruction contributes to around 20% of carbon dioxide emissions – more than the entire transport sector. The growing use of biofuels is a serious factor in this destruction – which we have vigorously condemned.
At the recent Annual General Meeting our Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe reinforced this position and repeated our support for a moratorium on the destruction of rainforests. He invited all concerned parties, including Greenpeace, to join this initiative."
Greenpeace says it is now actively lobbying HSBC bank to stop investing in Sinar Mas, because the company has started to develop precious wetlands in Indonesia.