On May 20th, activists around the world called on major snack food companies to cut conflict palm oil from their supply chains. From Australia to Kuala Limpur to San Francisco, thousands participated in the Rainforest Action Network’s #inyourpalm campaign. Activists unfurled a 60-foot banner at the Sweets and Snacks Expo in Chicago. In Washington, DC, we distributed information and spoke with the public about the impact of palm oil.
Palm oil touches each of our lives, as it is found in a huge array of packaged foods and personal hygiene products that are found in every supermarket. In the United States, palm oil imports have increased by 485% in the past decade. The demand for this crop has pushed oil plantations further into some of the world’s most valuable rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia, where 90% of palm oil is grown. The Indonesian government has announced plans to convert 44 million acres of land for palm oil cultivation by 2020, and 98% of Indonesia’s forests may be destroyed by 2022.
These areas are some of the most biologically diverse in the world. Although it is home to only 1% of earth’s land area, it is home to 10% of all known plant species, 12% of known mammal species, and17% of known bird species. Although most of Indonesia was once forested, less than half of that forest remains today. Estimates suggest that 2.4 million acres of Indonesian rainforest is lost each year. Several critically endangered animals are impacted by this rampant deforestation, including the Sumatran tiger and Sumatran rhino, both of which have only hundreds left in the wild. The Sumatran orangutan is at a high risk for extinction in our lifetime, largely due to deforestation for palm oil. The population of orangutans fell by 14% between 2004 and 2008. Palm oil plantations are also involved in many land disputes with rural communities and have been linked to child and forced labor. The destruction of these ecosystems also contributes largely to greenhouse gas emissions.
Despite all of the negative impacts, there is a simple solution to this problem: responsible palm oil. Although some products carry different sustainable palm oil certification labels, these companies are still able to destroy rainforests. Companies involved in the production or use of palm oil need to take extra steps to ensure that their products do not contribute to the loss of these irreplaceable ecosystems and human rights violations. Food manufacturing companies need to display a transparent supply chain that allows consumers to understand the sourcing of their products.
Large snack food companies, such as PepsiCo, must immediately take action to ensure the responsible sourcing of their products. Many of these companies have taken recent steps to announce new commitments to strengthening their palm oil practices, which is an important move in the right direction. PepsiCo, the largest snack food company in the world, has yet to release a truly responsible palm oil policy. Despite a recent commitment, the company’s actions have fallen short.
Help ensure that healthy rainforest ecosystems remain on our planet by calling on PepsiCo and all companies to cut conflict palm oil from their supply chains completely. Always check the labels of the products that you purchase and avoid those that contain palm oil ingredients. Visit ran.org to learn more. It’s simple; the power is in your palm!