Environmental activists have released an emotive video that aims to raise awareness about the impact of converting rainforests into oil palm plantations to provide a common ingredient in processed snack foods.
The video, distributed last week by the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), portrays a 12-year-old deaf girl named Lena communicating via Skype with “Strawberry”, an orangutan in Indonesia. Using sign language, Lena and Strawberry make small talk about their daily lives. When the conversation turns to food, RAN’s message about palm oil is brought to the fore.
Strawberry-the-orangutan: “What do you eat?”
Lena grabs a jar of peanut butter and shows it to Strawberry.
Strawberry-the-orangutan: “What is peanut butter?”
Lena: “Peanuts, sugar, palm oil, salt.”
A forlorn Strawberry-the-orangutan replies: “Your food is destroying my home.”
A voiceover then notes that critical orangutan habitat in Borneo is being destroyed for palm oil production.
The video is an advertisement for RAN’s latest palm oil campaign, which targets 20 of the largest snack food companies that use palm oil in their products. The campaign argues that food giants are failing to ensure the palm oil they source does not drive deforestation or worsen social conflict.
The campaign, which kicked off last month, lists declining orangutan populations, greenhouse gas emissions from conversion of rainforests and peatlands to plantations, labor abuses, and violent clashes between communities and developers as negative consequences of unrestrained palm oil expansion. RAN says these issues present substantial risks to leading brands, including Conagra Foods, Dunkin’ Donuts, General Mills, PepsiCo, The Hershey Company, Hormel Foods, The J.M. Smucker Company, Krispy Kreme, Mars, H.J. Heinz Company, and The Kellogg Company, among others. While many of these companies have pledged to source only palm oil certified under the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) — the leading eco-standard — by 2015, RAN argues the RSPO doesn’t do enough to protect forests or ensure “conflict-free” palm oil. The activist group is therefore asking companies to adopt policies with stronger safeguards than offered by the RSPO standard.
“Companies who want to purchase only responsible palm oil must adopt independent global palm oil procurement policies that go above and beyond the standards of the RSPO,” said the RAN report. “Solving the problem of conflict palm oil requires building strong public and market demand for responsible palm oil and eliminating demand for conflict palm oil. The goal is to create tipping points that enhance the economic viability of responsible palm oil and transform the global infrastructure of palm oil supply chains.”