General Mills Commits to Deforestation-Free Palm Oil

Statement by Sharon Smith, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Mar 24, 2014 Updated Aug 24, 2014

BERKELEY, Calif. (March 24, 2014) –General Mills publicly committed to sourcing deforestation-free palm oil, a step that will significantly decrease the company’s contribution to climate change, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

UCS recently graded palm oil sourcing commitments of 30 top companies, including General Mills. The scorecard found that 24 of these household brands have inadequate commitments or lack commitments altogether. General Mills did not make the grade, scoring only 42.6 out of 100.

Palm oil is used in everything from food and fuel to beauty products and cleaning agents. Dramatic increases in demand for palm oil are driving increases in deforestation. About ten percent of all global warming emissions result from deforestation. This practice also destroys irreplaceable forests that are home to endangered species and a resource for forest-dependent communities.

Below is a statement by Sharon Smith, campaign manager with UCS’s Tropical Forest & Climate Initiative:

“Despite failing to make the grade on the scorecard, it seems General Mills is turning a new leaf. General Mills updated their policy to source responsible palm oil. The commitment protects peatlands, carbon-rich areas of decayed vegetation. General Mills expressly notes that it won’t source palm oil from suppliers who develop peatlands.

“There is one flaw in their policy. General Mills seems out of touch with the industry definition of High Carbon Stock forests, a method used to identify critically important forests. The company claims there isn’t an industry methodology – an argument generally used to justify cutting down important forests – but in fact, there is an established method and General Mills needs to adopt it.

“It’s really up to major brands to turn the tide on the palm oil industry. If companies start demanding palm oil that’s deforestation-free, peatlands-free and exploitation-free, palm oil producers will start providing a better product. This better oil will also reduce emissions. It’s a win-win for consumers and the environment.

“The company plans to implement its new policy by 2015. That’s an appropriately ambitious timetable that will help accelerate a transition to cleaner palm oil production. This policy update is certainly an improvement for General Mills, but the company will need to follow through if it wants to demonstrate a true commitment to reducing deforestation.”