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Kellogg hit on palm oil sourcing

Kellogg Co. CEO John Bryant was challenged by a shareholder group over the food giant’s palm oil sourcing policy during the company’s conference call yesterday, reports Bloomberg.

Lucia von Reusner of Green Century Capital Management Inc., a company that offers “environmentally responsible” mutual funds, asked Bryant how Kellogg could ensure it wasn’t associated with destruction of rainforests for palm oil production.

“As a company publicly committed to sustainability, how will Kellogg ensure that the Kellogg brand is not associated with the illegal deforestation that its partner Wilmar has been accused of,” von Reusner was quoted as saying on the call. “How will you ensure the Kellogg brand remains sustainable and all that?”

In an interview after the call, Bryant said that Kellogg takes the “sustainability of palm oil very seriously.”

Rainforest clearing for oil palm plantation in Borneo

“We buy sustainably sourced palm oil, and where it’s not available we buy the green certificates to cover it.”

Kellogg committed to its palm oil sourcing policy in 2011. But the company’s relationship with Wilmar, the world’s largest palm oil trader, has now become a target for environmentalists. Wilmar also has a palm oil sourcing policy, but has been criticized for continuing to buy palm oil associated with deforestation and social conflict.

Last year Kellogg formed a joint venture with Wilmar to manufacture and sell processed food in China. The venture spurred von Reusner’s question on the shareholders call as well as an online petition by, which generated nearly 120,000 signatures. A copy of the petition was delivered to Kellogg headquarters yesterday by Rhiannon Tomtishen and Madison Vorva, who as Girl Scouts led a movement to push the youth organization to adopt a “deforestation free” policy for Girl Scout cookies.

Editor’s note: the original version of this post referred to Lucia von Reusner as an environmental activist. She is not an activist, but an employee of Green Century Capital Management Inc., an environmentally responsible mutual fund that holds shares in Kellogg. We regret the error.

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(01/26/2011) The commercial shows a typical office setting. A worker sits drearily at a desk, shredding papers and watching minutes tick by on the clock. When his break comes, he takes out a Nestle KitKat bar. As he tears into the package, the viewer, but not the office worker, notices something is amiss—what should be chocolate has been replaced by the dark hairy finger of an orangutan. With the jarring crunch of teeth breaking through bone, the worker bites into the “bar.” Drops of blood fall on the keyboard and run down his face. His officemates stare, horrified. The advertisement cuts to a solitary tree standing amid a deforested landscape. A chainsaw whines. The message: Palm oil—an ingredient in many Nestle products—is killing orangutans by destroying their habitat, the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra.

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