Responsible Investors Close In On Palm Oil Industry

Thanks to the socially responsible investment community, we may finally see an end to deforestation caused by the palm oil industry.

Because of shareholder resolutions and campaigns by Oxfam, most top purchasers have committed to source only 100% fully traceable, responsibly produced palm oil: Unilever, ConAgra, JM Smucker, Mars, Nestlé, Kellogg, General Mills, Mondelez, Dunkin Brands, Panera, Kroger, Safeway and Starbucks.

And that’s pressuring suppliers, such as Wilmar – the world’s largest supplier with a 45% market share. Shortly after Unilever, one of its biggest customers, announced it would source only sustainable palm oil by the end of 2014, Wilmar pledged that its plantations and suppliers will provide products "free from links to deforestation or abuse of human rights and local communities." 

Cargill – the largest palm oil importer to the US – also joined the effort, signing onto the NY Declaration on Forests, which has a goal of eliminating deforestation by 2030.

Investors securing these palm oil commitments: Clean Yield, Domini, Social Investments, Green Century Capital Management, Trillium, New York State Comptroller’s Office, and  the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR). 

ALEC’s footprint is here too, even pressuring the EPA to include palm oil as a renewable fuel.

Much of the destruction is in Indonesia’s gorgeous rainforests:


Over the past few decades, palm oil has become the most widely used vegetable oil in the world because it’s cheap and versatile, a $44 billion industry.

Still, most companies in packaged food, fast food and personal care have yet to make strong commitments, says the Union of Concerned Scientists in Donuts, Deodorant and Deforestation: Scoring America’s Top Brands on their  Palm Oil Commitments.
Colgate-Palmolive and L’Oreal are among the few that are removing forest destruction from all products.

See their scorecard for the top 30 companies:

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