Kit Kat: give the orang-utan a break

Posted by jamie — 17 March 2010 at 8:48am - Comments

Email Nestlé's CEO Paul Bulcke to demand they stop using palm oil from trashed rainforests

We all like a break, but the orang-utans of Indonesia don't seem to be able to get one. We have new evidence which shows that Nestlé - the makers of Kit Kat - are using palm oil produced in areas where the orang-utans' rainforests once grew. Even worse, the company doesn't seem to care.

So the Greenpeace orang-utans have been despatched to Nestlé head offices in Croydon to let employees know the environmental crimes their company is implicated in, and begin an international campaign to have Nestlé give us all a break.

As we've noted many times before, Indonesian forests are being torn down to grow palm oil which is the vegetable fat of choice for companies worldwide, including Nestlé. But while many companies such as Unilever and Kraft are making efforts to disassociate themselves from the worst practices of the palm oil industry, Nestlé has done diddly squat.

By lining the route from East Croydon train station to their office with posters, leaflets and billboard adverts - not to mention orang-utans hanging off the side of the building -  we hope to start raising questions within the building about the kind of companies Nestlé is doing business with. And we're asking them to have a break at 11am this morning to find out what else we have planned. Join us back here at 11am for a quick break too.

The palm oil Nestlé uses in products like Kit Kat is sourced from what used to be rainforest in Indonesia, forest which is being destroyed faster than anywhere else on the planet. One of Nestlé's suppliers, the giant Sinar Mas group, is responsible for a large part of this arboreal carnage and has a track record of appalling environmental and social practices, not only on its palm oil plantations but also, through its subsidiary APP, its pulp and paper ones. Just take a look at these photos for a small glimpse of what Sinar Mas companies are up to.

The evidence collected in our report, Caught Red Handed, shows how Sinar Mas is not only clearing forests but destroying carbon-rich peatlands. Burning and draining these peatlands releases vast amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, helping to make Indonesia the third largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world.

Meanwhile, the palm oil industry often comes into conflict with local communities over land rights and resources, and the already endangered orang-utans are being pushed closer to extinction. With the forests destroyed, they're left without their natural sources of food and so are forced to venture into the plantations to eat young palms, where they can be seen as pests.

If you've been following Greenpeace for a while, you'll know we've been working to halt the devastation in Indonesia for some time, and two years ago our orang-utans were out in force outside Unilever's offices. As a result of our work, Unilever has recently dropped Sinar Mas as a supplier and other companies like Kraft have done the same.

Yet despite Nestle's claims that it expects its own suppliers to uphold high green standards (as detailed in their Supplier's Code), the Kit Kat makers still continue to do business with Sinar Mas. With other companies not willing to be tarnished by the devastation Sinar Mas is creating, this leaves Nestlé - like the orang-utans - out on a limb.

The recent Fairtrade certification for some of its Kit Kat range shows Nestlé is keen to point to its ethical credentials, but the benefit brought by the Fairtrade ingredients is undermined by the palm oil loaded with wilful deforestation.

It's time Nestlé took a break from turning a blind eye to what its suppliers are up to.

About Jamie

I'm a forests campaigner working mainly on Indonesia. My personal mumblings can be found @shrinkydinky.

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