Forest Heroes Activists Meet with Kellogg’s Officials
Forest Heroes is a state-wide campaign based in Grand Rapids, Battle Creek, Lansing and Ann Arbor, working with grassroots activitists to address the problem of rainforest deforestation caused by palm oil farming. Kellogg’s is partnered with Wilmer International as a resource for palm oil used in many Kellogg’s products. According to Forest Heroes, Wilmer is responsible for destroying the home of Sumatran tigers.
Grand Rapids Forest Heroes Field Organizer Ben Cushing said, “Palm oil plantations have been replacing rainforests all over the world, particularly in Indonesia, Sumatra and Borneo. It is pushing endangered species to the brink of extinction such as Sumatran tigers, elephants and orangutans. It is pushing indigenous people off their land and it is exacerbating climate change.”
Forest Heroes collected 150,000 signatures at an online petition calling for Kellogg’s to help stop rainforest deforestation by ending its partnership with palm oil agri-giant Wilmar International, unless Wilmar agrees to stop relying on deforestation.
Forest Heroes organizers Margaret Kran-Annexstein of Battle Creek, Rachel Hood of West Michigan Environmental Action Council in Grand Rapids, University of Michigan student Christina Ley, and Sarah Low of Battle Creek met with Kellogg’s officials behind close doors to discuss their proposal to Kellogg’s. “We were discussing with Kellogg’s their plans for palm oil. They definately agree that the state of the palm oil industry right now is not where it could be,” said Kran-Annexstein. “There are a lot of consumer companies which agree to be deforestation free, so Kellogg’s have an opportunity to join with these companies and be a leader in the palm oil industry. It absolutely can be done.”
In part of the meeting with Kellogg’s officials, alternatives to deforestation were discussed.
Cushing said, “Unilever, the largest user of palm oil in the world, they use palm oil in Dove soap and a lot of other products, recently committed to get deforestation out of their supply chain by 2014. It really shows leadership on this issue, and that is exactly why we want Kellogg’s to join these others companies because rainforests of the world and the climate can’t wait five or ten years, we need it to happen now.”
Companies such as Unilever and Ferrero have joined The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) which provides certification to companies who demonstrate a committment to sustainable practices with palm oil production. Ferrero Group, makers of Ferrero Rocher chocolates, Nutella and TicTacs, is among the companies mentioned at the rally who have joined RSPO and according to their web site, they are on an aggressive track to ensure that 100% of their palm oil usage is RSPO-certified.
Sumatran tighers are found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. According to the World Wildlife Fund, fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers exist today.University of Michigan Student Christina Ley from Sault Ste Marie said “I think [the campaign] is going to spread awareness of the type of exploitation that large corporations plays on Indonesia and other countiries that can facilitate palm oil plantations. Hopefully, at this meeting the organizers of Forest Heroes will pressure Kellogg’s to take steps toward pressuring Wilmar to be sustainable and to stop destroying the Sumatran tiger habitat.”
“We are really do see [Kellogg’s] as a partner in moving forward to make a much bigger impact and be a leader in this industry to live up to the values of what Michigan is all about of social responsibility and sustainability,” said Cushing.
What happens next in the campaign is to see how Kellogg’s will respond. “We are going to continue working with communities all across the state to demonstrate that people are paying attention to this issue, that people care about this, that people know what they want to see from Kellogg, and they want to see strong action being taken very soon,” said Cushing.