Forest conversion for an oil palm plantation in Sumatra, Indonesia. Photos by Rhett Butler.
U.S. food giant ConAgra has adopted a new sourcing policy that will exclude palm oil produced at the expense of rainforests and peatlands.
The policy, signed last week, comes in response to a shareholder activism campaign led by Green Century Capital Management and The New York State Comptroller’s Office, which has targeted a number of major palm oil buyers.
ConAgra, which buys much of its palm oil from Cargill, will include the policy in 2014 corporate responsibility reporting slated for release in September. Under the policy will bar palm oil produced from new plantations established on high carbon stock lands, including peatlands. It will also require suppliers to have no burn policies in place, abide by local and national laws, and respect the right of communities to give or withhold their Free, Prior and Informed Consent to new development.
Deforestation for palm oil production in Malaysia.
ConAgra’s move was welcomed by CERES, the group that pulled together a coalition of institutional investors on the issue of damaging palm oil production.
“These recent corporate commitments, including today’s announcement from ConAgra, demonstrate a remarkable shift for the industry,” said CERES in a statement. “These commitments are expected to have a major impact on reducing carbon emissions as fewer carbon-rich forests and peatlands are cleared for new palm oil production.”
CERES estimates that the zero deforestation commitment Wilmar — the world’s largest palm oil company — made late last year will alone reduce projected greenhouse gas emissions 1.5 billion tons by 2020.