#NutellaGate and the trade in deforestation

Orangutan Feeding Platform near Tanjung Puting National Park. 10/31/2013 © Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace

By now you may have heard of #NutellaGate. Yesterday, the French Ecology Minister Segolene Royal urged people concerned about global warming and deforestation to stop eating Nutella because the famous chocolate and hazelnut spread contains palm oil. For one moment, the world stopped spinning as those who care about the fate of our planet clutched their jars in panic. Could it be true?

Palm Oil Production in Kalimantan. 07/24/2009 © Daniel Beltrá / Greenpeace

It is indeed true that Nutella contains a substantial amount of palm oil. It is true that palm oil is currently one of the largest immediate threats to tropical forests and their wildlife. It is also true that palm oil is everywhere, used in everything from french fries to biodiesel to toothpaste and skin creams, and that global demand continues to grow.

But simply boycotting products containing palm oil – or any other commodity linked to deforestation – will not stop the destruction. To deliver lasting forest protection, companies – producers and manufacturers alike – and consumers need to be an active part of the solution. That means using pressure and the promise of continued dollars to support true change on the ground.

And as far as consumer companies go, Ferrero, the maker of Nutella, is actually one of the more progressive consumer-facing companies with regards to palm oil sourcing:

Responding to the demands of their customers, Ferrero was one of the first companies to announce a policy to end the use of deforestation palm oil.

What’s more, it was one of the first companies to support the Palm Oil Innovation Group, a gathering of palm oil producers, consumer companies, and non-governmental organisations, that are committed to protecting forests, peatlands and wildlife – as well preventing exploitation of workers and local communities.

Small-holder Oil Palm Worker in Sumatra. 05/15/2012 © Greenpeace / John Novis

Finally, Ferrero – unlike many companies – is being transparent and accountable about progress toward implementing these commitments.

However, while policies such as Ferrero’s are important and set benchmarks that others should follow, individual company policies alone won’t drive solutions for forests and climate at the scale or speed the world needs. One company can’t stop commodity-driven deforestation.

That’s why Greenpeace is calling on consumers, producers and traders to work together to put an end to deforestation linked to commodities such as palm oil. They also need to play a more active role in supporting broader forest protection initiatives and development goals.

Next week, at the Consumer Goods Forum Global Summit in New York, the CEOs of the biggest consumer-facing companies in the world will meet. We urge them to take strong action and ban the trade in deforestation.

Orangutans at Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation. 10/07/2007 © Greenpeace / Natalie Behring

Suzanne Kroger is the Global Palm Oil Coordinator at Greenpeace International.

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