General Mills Ditches Dirty Palm Oil

Sinar Mas forest destruction

Sinar Mas, the now notorious purveyor of palm oil, just lost another customer.

Less than a month after Burger King announced its commitment to transition to sustainable palm oil (Sinar Mas has been accused of destroying millions of acres of Indonesian rainforest and peatlands), General Mills released a palm oil policy that effectively cuts the company's ties with Sinar Mas and other suppliers that destroy high conservation value landscapes and "knowingly source palm oil produced through such deforestation or destruction." Deforestation is thought to account for approximately 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions.

The transition will take time. General Mills doesn't expect to source 100% of its palm oil from sustainable sources until 2015, largely because there is a lack of readily available sustainable palm oil. But General Mills will have strict standards:

If an audit or other highly credible source reveals or confirms that a supplier is seriously violating the RSPO’s stated policies involving destruction of high-conservation value rainforest, draining of peat lands, or violation of free prior and informed consent provisions for palm oil production or expansion, and if that supplier does not acknowledge and immediately move to acceptably remediate the concern, General Mills will move to suspend or eliminate palm oil purchases from the supplier in question.

The company's move comes after a year-long campaign by the Rainforest Action Network against General Mills' use of unsustainable palm oil. Now that General Mills has announced its new policy, RAN is ending the campaign, "confirming General Mills leadership in the growing corporate effort to move away from controversial palm oil in the United States," according to a press release from the organization.

It's a small step in the grand scheme of palm oil sourcing—General Mills uses approximately approximately one-tenth of one percent of world palm oil exports—but the company has a big name. With companies like Nestle, Kraft, Unilever, and now General Mills ditching destructive palm oil, it's only a matter of time before Sinar Mas is forced to change its practices.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

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