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Krispy Kreme, Dunkin’ Donuts to cut palm oil linked to deforestation

Fire burning on an oil palm plantation in Malaysia.
Fire burning on an oil palm plantation in Malaysia

Two of the world’s largest doughnut brands this week committed to sourcing safeguards that move them toward eliminating deforestation from their palm oil supply chains.

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts (NYSE:KKD) and Dunkin’ Brands (NASDAQ:DNKN) — the owner of Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins, both announced policies that go beyond earlier commitments to simply buy palm oil certified under the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an eco-certification standard. The companies made the commitments after campaigns by Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), Rainforest Action Network (RAN), and Forest Heroes accused the doughnut makers of driving species endangerment, carbon emissions, and social conflict through their palm oil sourcing.

Krispy Kreme’s policy mandates full traceability of palm oil back to the plantations on which it was produced.

“All of the brand’s suppliers will be required to trace their palm oil sourcing to plantations that adhere to the principles for protecting forests (including High Carbon Stock (HCS) and High Conservation Value (HCV) landscapes), peat lands of any depth, and no exploitation of communities and workers (including respecting human and worker rights and obtaining Free, Prior, and Informed Consent from communities for all development on their lands); and to comply with Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) principles and criteria,” said the publicly-listed company on its web site. “Krispy Kreme will work with its suppliers to meet these commitments as rapidly as possible, with a deadline for full compliance by the end of 2016.”

Dunkin’ Brands’ commitment is similar, but applies only to its U.S. operations, a point RAN’s Gemma Tillack and UCS’s Calen May-Tobin say needs to be addressed.

“Dunkin’ Brands’ commitment requires stores in the US to break the links between its products and suppliers that destroy rainforests, drain carbon-rich peatlands, and violate human rights by December 31, 2016, but it so far fails to set the same requirements for its stores across the globe,” Tillack said in a statement. “This critical gap must be addressed to meet the demands of consumers.”

“America might run on Dunkin’, but the company needs to address the 59 other countries in which it operates, too,” added May-Tobin. “Dunkin’ is clearly feeling the heat from American consumers, but their response is not quite what their consumers are demanding.”

Deforestation for palm oil production in Borneo. Photo by Rhett Butler.

The activists are now urging Tim Horton’s, the third major doughnut maker being targeted with campaigns, to follow the lead of its biggest competitors.

“[For] Tim Hortons, it’s time to make doughnuts that are delicious but not destructive,” said Kaytee Riek, Campaign and Training Director at SumOfUs, an online petition site that has partnered with Forest Heroes. “It’s not so sweet to be left behind.”

The new policies are part of a groundswell of zero deforestation commitments from major palm oil buyers. Such commitments have been made easier by zero deforestation policies established by a handful of major palm oil producers and traders, including Golden Agri-Resources, Wilmar, Cargill, Agropalma and New Britain Palm Oil, which represent roughly 60 percent of the global palm oil market.

Palm oil has been targeted by environmentalists for its outsized role in driving deforestation across Malaysia and Indonesia. The highly profitable and productive crop has often expanded at the expense of wildlife-rich forests and carbon-dense peatlands, especially on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. Scientists have called the crop “the single most immediate threat to the greatest number of species“. Accordingly, green groups have been pushing for policies that shift new oil palm development to non-forest lands, including degraded pasture, scrub, and grasslands.

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