Following years of campaigning by Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and others, agribusiness giant pledges to take more responsibility for the impact of its palm oil business, but key elements needed to achieve truly responsible palm oil remain absent.

San Francisco, CA – Responding to mounting pressure from large corporate customers, global consumers and environmental and social justice organizations, Cargill announced new environmental and social commitments today that signal a potentially significant shift in direction for its palm oil business and more widely for the industry overall. Cargill has stated its intention to eliminate palm oil in its supply chain associated with deforestation, degradation of carbon-rich peatlands or failure to protect Indigenous and other human and worker rights.

Cargill logo

Cargill is the largest importer of palm oil into the United States. Palm oil is used in roughly half the packaged goods sold in grocery stores and products containing Cargill-sourced palm oil can be found in most American homes.

Rainforest Action Network (RAN) has publicly pressured Cargill to adopt a responsible palm oil policy since 2007. Recently, many of Cargill’s major palm oil customers, including Nestlé, Unilever, General Mills, Mondel?z, Kellogg, Safeway, Hershey, Mars – and most recently Procter & Gamble – have responded to pressure by RAN, Greenpeace and allies by committing to strengthen their palm oil policies.

In response to today’s announcement, RAN’s Executive Director Lindsey Allen issued the following statement outlining the key elements Cargill will need to include in its implementation plan for today’s commitment to achieve its stated goals.

“This announcement marks a milestone in the ongoing international effort to break the links between palm oil production and rainforest destruction, human rights violations and carbon pollution. But the lack of adequate deadlines, independent third party verification and an implementation plan to make sure it is actually working, means it remains too early to tell if Cargill will achieve the real change that is so desperately needed. The devil is truly in the details for Cargill if it is to successfully transform itself from its current business model into a trusted supplier of responsible palm oil. All eyes are now on Cargill’s next steps.”

What new commitments has Cargill just made?

  • Cargill has recognized that it needs to adopt a global palm oil policy that addresses widely recognized gaps in the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) standards for certified palm oil. The RSPO has been strongly criticized for certifying on-going tropical deforestation, continued expansion onto carbon-rich peatlands and its poor track record of eliminating, conflict and the use of forced and child labor from its member’s operations.
  • Cargill is now committing to build a traceable and transparent palm oil supply chain and is seeking compliance from its suppliers to end egregious practices such as deforestation, expansion onto peatlands and the exploitation of Indigenous Peoples, workers and local communities.
  • Cargill’s commitment to seeking compliance to its no deforestation, no peat and no exploitation principles is effective immediately. Full compliance includes ceasing the clearance of potential high carbon stock forests by third party suppliers throughout its global supply chain, a commitment many of Cargill’s suppliers, including Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd (KLK), have so far been unwilling to make.

To address the critical gaps in its commitment, Cargill must develop and publicly release:

  • A time-bound implementation plan that sets measurable performance targets and outlines how it intends to implement its policy.
  • Clear deadlines for achieving a fully traceable global supply chain by 2015 and independently verified compliance by 2016.
  • Details on the auditing, verification and due diligence procedures that will be used to identify cases of non-compliance and specifics on the actions Cargill will take to eliminate problematic suppliers from its supply chain.
  • Details on the establishment of an independent conflict resolution and grievance mechanism that will enable the resolution of conflicts in its supply chain to the satisfaction of Indigenous Peoples, workers and local communities.
  • Cargill must also adopt best practices for transparent auditing, monitoring and reporting on progress. This must include the public release of third party audits and documentation of complaints, grievances and cases of non-compliance.

With 2013 revenues of $136.7 billion and profits of $2.31 billion, Cargill is among the largest and most powerful private corporations in the world. Cargill’s business lines touch all aspects of palm oil production, trade, refining and marketing as it moves palm oil from producers to end consumers. Cargill has a crucial role to play in building traceable and responsible palm oil sourcing from growers to markets.

About Rainforest Action Network

Rainforest Action Network runs hard-hitting campaigns to break North America’s fossil fuels addiction, protect endangered forests and Indigenous rights, and stop destructive investments around the world through education, grassroots organizing, and non-violent direct action. For more information, please visit: www.ran.org