In rainforests half a world away from the United States, orangutans are making their last stand for survival. Scientists warn that these gentle and intelligent animals, among humankind’s closest kin, could become extinct within our lifetime if their rainforest homes continue to be destroyed for palm oil plantations. But the primary threat pushing them toward extinction lies much closer to home than you may think: you’ll find it hidden in the snack food aisle of your local grocery store, and likely in your own shopping cart.
When you eat food that comes out of a bag, a box, or a package of any kind, chances are you are eating palm oil. It is added to chocolate, turned into fry oil, and snuck into snacks of all sorts—in fact, it can now be found in roughly half the packaged food products sold in grocery stores. This palm oil comes at a terrible human and environmental cost. Skyrocketing demand has driven massive, industrial palm oil plantations into millions of acres of formerly lush rainforest habitat in Indonesia and Malaysia, worsening climate change and causing widespread human rights violations.
RAN ’s carefully selected “Snack Food 20” group of companies are named here publicly for the first time. This report assesses the palm oil purchasing commitments and policies of each of these influential corporations and spells out the critical role they have in reforming the destructive practices widely associated with palm oil production.
The “Snack Food 20” group of companies—Campbell Soup Company; ConAgra Foods, Inc.; Dunkin’ Brands Group, Inc.; General Mills, Inc.; Grupo Bimbo; Hillshire Brands Company; H.J. Heinz Company; Hormel Foods Corporation; Kellogg Company; Kraft Food Group, Inc.; Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Corp.; Mars Inc.; Mondelez International, Inc.; Nestlé S.A.; Nissin Foods Holdings Co., Ltd.; PepsiCo, Inc.; The Hershey Company; The J.M. Smucker Company; Toyo Suisan Kaisha, Ltd.; and Unilever—manufacture a wide range of popular snack foods in the United States and abroad that contain conflict palm oil.
While some companies are beginning to take steps to address their palm oil problem, none have yet adopted and fully implemented adequate safeguards to eliminate conflict palm oil from entering their supply chains and contaminating their products. These big, global food companies have the power, through their supply chains, to drive a transformation in the way palm oil is now commonly produced. Increased consumer and citizen pressure on these companies is a key ingredient for success.
Working together with our families, friends, and allies, we will hold these companies to account and push them to eliminate conflict palm oil from their products. We will work with them to adopt and implement responsible palm oil procurement policies that ensure the palm oil they buy is not associated with deforestation, child or forced labor, plantation expansion on carbon-rich peatlands, or violations of forest-dependent communities’ rights.
The fate of the orangutan, forest peoples, and some of the world’s most rich and important rainforests hang in the balance.