Nestlé and Mondelēz respond to Greenpeace allegations linking palm oil supply to forest fires

By Flora Southey

- Last updated on GMT

 ©GettyImages/Dmitrii Guldin
©GettyImages/Dmitrii Guldin

Related tags Palm oil Rspo Nestlé Mondelez International deforestation

FMCG giants Nestlé and Mondelēz have responded to the environmental watchdog’s report that claims they purchased palm oil from producers linked to Indonesia’s fire crisis.

A recent report published by Greenpeace International has accused eight agri-food giants, including consumer goods manufacturers Nestlé and Mondelēz, of sourcing palm oil from producers associated with forest fires in Indonesia.

Both Nestlé and Mondelēz are members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), as are palm oil producers associated with three-quarters of the hotspots recorded during the first nine-months of 2019, according to the report​.

Contrarily, the RSPO – which has a strict no burning policy – claims less than 0.5% of the 70,000-plus fires recorded during this last dry season originated from its members. FoodNavigator reported the RSPO’s response to Greenpeace’s report earlier this week. 

And now, Nestlé and Mondelēz have also offered their responses – both stressing their individual commitments to eliminating deforestation from global supply chains.

Nestlé will ‘immediately’ stop sourcing from any supplier linked to deforestation

Swiss food giant Nestlé sources the majority of its palm oil from Malaysia and Indonesia, followed by Latin American and West African countries.

The FMCG group has committed to sourcing 100% sustainable palm oil by 2020. Nestlé has less than two months to achieve this target. In 2018, the company reported that 64% of its total palm oil purchased was responsibly sourced.

Palm oil is present in a vast number of Nestlé products, including its Kit Kat chocolate bar ©GettyImages/robtek

Having been ‘closely monitoring’ Indonesia’s fire crisis this year, a Nestlé spokesperson told FoodNavigator the company is ‘deeply concerned’. “We are strongly opposed to deforestation and are committed to ensuring that none of our products is associated with deforestation.”

Indeed, the food giant expects all its suppliers to respect and adhere to its Responsible Sourcing Standard requirements, which demand no deforestation, no peat, and no exploitation.

Nestlé is aware of the allegations made in the Greenpeace report and is investigating and verifying occurrences of land clearing through burning, we were told. “We will immediately cease sourcing from any supplier found to be linked to any deforestation activity. Ten suppliers have already been removed from the Nestlé palm oil supply chain for not complying with our Responsible Sourcing Standard requirements.”

The company suspects a large proportion of the fires in Indonesia were carried out by independent producers and smallholder farmers looking to expand their plots. According to Global Forest Watch data​, more than three-quarters of the 318,000 fire alerts in Indonesia this dry season have occurred outside concession areas.

“Our experience shows that preventing deforestation requires engaging with smallholder farmers. Actions need to support livelihoods and sustain communities,”​ the spokesperson continued.

Mondelēz calls for ‘sector-wide monitoring’

Confectionery giant Mondelēz is a longstanding supporter of RSPO, having sat on its board from 2014-18. It has also committed to sourcing 100% sustainably produced palm oil, and at the end of 2018 reported that 99% of its palm oil was purchased from suppliers with policies aligned with best practice sustainable principles.

Palm oil is used in Mondelēz-owned Cadbury products ©GettyImages/Ekaterina79

Mondelēz purchases 0.5% of global palm oil production. “We believe we must use our influence to drive change at a sector level to be successful in ending deforestation,” ​a spokesperson told this publication.

“Stopping deforestation is critical to addressing global climate change and protecting local ecosystems that farmers need to grow sustainable raw materials.”

The company requires its palm oil suppliers to convert their entire supply chain to sustainable prices, requiring traceability to the mill across their entire palm oil operation – not just the portion supplied to Mondelēz.

“We have excluded 70 mills belonging to 15 producer groups due to breaches of our Palm Oil Action Plan, with a further 19 mills and five producer groups in process of exclusion,” ​the spokesperson revealed.

Mondelēz plans to investigate Greenpeace’s claims and ‘take action’ against verified fire allegations and “any producers shown to be part of groups we’ve previously excluded”.

The spokesperson continued: These new cases highlight the urgent need for sector-wide monitoring to provide one source of verified data about deforestation by palm oil plantation companies, based on the principles of transparency, group definitions, multi-stakeholder governance and independence. We are actively working with others to establish this.”

Industry cannot win the fight against deforestation alone, Mondelēz stressed. “We…continue to learn and fully support and encourage the need for partnerships with governments, suppliers, and farmers.”

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