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KFC linked to destruction of Indonesia’s rainforests

Forest clearing in the Bukit Tigapuluh Forest Landscape in central Sumatra.Forest clearing in the Bukit Tigapuluh Forest Landscape in central Sumatra. Courtesy of Greenpeace.

Fast food giant Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) is linked to the destruction of Indonesia’s rainforests through its packaging sourcing practices, alleges a new report published today by Greenpeace.

An investigation by the environmental activist group found traces of mixed tropical hardwood fiber (MTH) in KFC’s drink cups, food boxes, napkins and chicken buckets. The fiber comes from Asia Pulp & Paper, a paper products giant that continues to rely on conversion of Indonesian rainforests for pulp and paper production.

“KFC is the latest big brand to be caught trashing rainforests and pushing endangered animals, like the Sumatran tiger, towards extinction,” said Bustar Maitar, head of Greenpeace’s Indonesia campaign, in a press release. “KFC customers worldwide will be horrified to learn that packaging destined for the trash comes from trashed rainforests.”

Greenpeace’s latest report was accompanied by a colorful protest at KFC’s headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky and Youtube videos.

Greenpeace found that some packaging products contain more than 50 percent rainforest fiber. The group notes that neither KFC nor its parent company Yum! Brands have “safeguards in place to prevent products from deforestation entering their supply chains.”

It isn’t the first time KFC has been criticized for its fiber sourcing practices. Campaigners — including Cole Rasenberger, a pre-teen activist — have targeted the company for using packaging from endangered forests in the United States.

Junking the Jungle Greenpeace’s Junking the Jungle report.

But the focus of the new Greenpeace report is KFC’s relationship with APP, which has suffered waves of customer defections in recent years due to its environmental record. APP has cleared hundreds of thousands of hectares of rainforest and peatlands in Riau and Jambi, destroying critical habitat for endangered wildlife including Sumatran tigers, elephants, and orangutans.

In an effort to stem the bleeding, APP recently announced a temporary freeze on clearing of natural forests until conservation assessments are done. But the move falls short in the view of environmentalists — it only applies to about a million hectares of concessions directly owned by APP. The paper giant’s suppliers, which have a land bank of 1.5 million hectares of forest according to The Wall Street Journal, aren’t asked to come into compliance until 2015.

APP has missed three earlier targets — 2004, 2007, and 2009 — for phasing out sourcing from natural forests.

Greenpeace says it will continue to pressure APP’s customers until the forest products giant meaningfully reforms. It cites APP’s sister company, Golden Agri Resources (GAR), a palm oil giant, as a potential model. After being targeted by Greenpeace, in 2011 GAR established a forest policy that prohibits conversion of land with more than 35 tons of carbon per hectare, effectively sparing rainforests and peatlands. The policy also requires free, prior informed consent in deadling with local communities. The policy has helped restore GAR’s reputation among its international customers.

KFC has not replied to multiple requests for comment on its forest policies.

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