As much as I would like to carry on the positive theme of the previous post, I have some rather troubling news.
You may have head last week that Cargill, a major palm oil company and supplier to many large food manufacturers, admitted to purchasing a shipment of palm oil from Indonesian company PT Best in 2011.
What’s that got to do with the price of margarine, I hear you ask? Well, not too much, but it does have a large impact on the palm oil status of all the companies they supply.
Let’s break it down; PT Best Agro International Group owns a large number of palm oil plantations throughout Indonesia, and as a result has been involved in illegally clearing thousands of hectares of orangutan habitat. They were investigated extensively by the Environmental Investigation Agency, which found them to be violating many of Indonesia’s laws, by clearing and developing a 23,000 hectare concession of rainforest into a palm oil plantation.
Last week, Cargill admitted to buying at least one shipment of Palm Oil from this very company last year, and this has stirred up further speculation that this is not the only time they have purchased from PT Best, and it is possible they still do to this day!
They’ve also been accused of having connections within their palm oil supply chain to the destruction of the Tripa rainforest! Talk about Emperor Palatine levels of nastiness!
Cargill has previously commited to implementing ‘a 100% sustainable supply chain’ for the palm oil it purchases, yet this is clearly not being enforced, and is quite frankly the part of this fiasco that makes me particularly angry. When questioned about it’s connections to PT Best in an interview with Reuters UK, they staed that they will stop buying from the company if any ‘illegality is proven’.
Um, hello? If a 23 year old retail worker can have access to information and evidence of their ‘illegality’, surely they, a customer of the offending firm should be aware of this?
Regardless of whether this is a deliberate act of deception or a just ‘turn a blind eye’ attitude towards PT Best, the actions of Cargill are not only dragging their reputation as a company committed to environmental sustainability through the mud, but their also dragging all the companies they supply to along with it, companies like Unilever, who are the word’s largest palm oil buyer, and who have also committed to switching to 100% Certified Sustainable Palm Oil.
The fact that companies are relying on the Round Table of Sustainable Palm Oil status, which we have already determined does not guarantee that they are doing the right thing, of other companies in their supply chain is quite frankly disturbing.
This incident with Cargill has made me increasingly uneasy about the whole palm oil industry, sustainable no; there are no easy answers, no black and white good or bad, and honestly I’m getting quite tired of all the smoke and mirrors. If anything, this is a perfect example of their needs to be not only a labelling system for all products that contain palm oil, but a proper set of checks and balances that are properly enforced across all members of the palm oil supply chain. Of course I understand that it’s not going to be so easy, but surely it would be easy enough to at least list palm oil as a separate ingredient on packaged foods?
I want the goddamn choice, and until it becomes properly available, it looks like I’m going to have to try to avoid as many foods that contain ‘vegetable oil’ as I can.
Rainforest Action Network: Cargill Admits Buying Palm Oil from Illegally Cleared Orangutan Habitat, Chelsea Matthews
Environmental Investagtion Agency: Testing the Law