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Oreo Cookie Maker Linked to Orangutan Habitat Destruction for Palm Oil

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A baby orangutan at the Orangutan Foundation International Care Center in Pangkalan Bun. Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace. A display of Oreo variations at The Museum of Failure in Los Angeles on Dec. 7, 2017. ROBYN BECK / AFP / Getty Images

Greenpeace International published a new report on Tuesday accusing Mondelēz International of sourcing palm oil from "rainforest destroyers."

Palm oil is an ingredient in many of the company's popular products, including Oreo cookies, Ritz crackers and Cadbury chocolate bars.


The report comes a day after Mondelēz announced it has excluded 12 upstream suppliers as a result of deforestation practices. The Illinois-based snack food giant started its journey to sustainable palm oil in 2009 and committed to sourcing certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) in 2013, according to WWF's palm oil scorecard.

Despite this commitment, Greenpeace said in its report that between 2015 and 2017, 22 of the company's palm oil suppliers destroyed more than 70,000 hectares of rainforest in Southeast Asia—an area bigger than the city of Chicago—of which 25,000 hectares was forested orangutan habitat.

Map showing orangutan habitat and forest loss in Kalimantan, Indonesiafrom Greenpeace report "Dying for a cookie: how Mondelēz is feeding the climate and extinction crisis"

Mondelēz gets much of this so-called "dirty palm oil" from Wilmar International, the world's largest palm oil trader, according to the report. More than 80 percent of Wilmar's palm oil comes from third-party suppliers. Despite adopting a "No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation" policy in 2013, Wilmar has failed to monitor its suppliers across all of their operations to determine whether they comply with its policy or are destroying forests, Greenpeace said.

"It's outrageous that despite promising to clean up its palm oil almost ten years ago, Mondelēz is still trading with forest destroyers," Kiki Taufik, the global head of Greenpeace Southeast Asia's Indonesia forests campaign, said in a press release. "Palm oil can be made without destroying forests, yet our investigation discovered that Mondelēz suppliers are still trashing forests and wrecking orangutan habitat, pushing these beautiful and intelligent creatures to the brink of extinction. They're literally dying for a cookie."

Palm oil is the most common vegetable oil in the world and can be found in chocolate, baked goods, soaps, detergents and much more.

But its production, which involves clearing tropical rainforests to plant oil palm trees, is a driver of deforestation, wildlife habitat degradation, human rights violations and climate change.

The report comes on the heels of Greenpeace and Iceland Foods' viral "no palm oil Christmas" commercial that was banned from UK televisions for being "too political."

Iceland's Banned TV Christmas Advert... Say hello to Rang-tan. #NoPalmOilChristmas www.youtube.com

Greenpeace is urging Mondelēz to cease ties with the Singaporean oil processing company.

"Mondelēz CEO, Dirk Van de Put, promised to offer consumers 'snacking made right.' But there is nothing right about palm oil that is produced by killing orangutans and fueling climate change," Taufik said in the press release. "This must be a wake up call to Mondelez and other household brands to take action and cut Wilmar off until it can prove its palm oil is clean. Ultimately, if big brands can't find enough clean palm oil to make their products then they need to start using less."

On Monday, Mondelēz emphasized its goal of 100 percent sustainability and transparency across the palm oil industry.

"Mondelēz International remains fully committed to driving change in the palm oil sector and today's actions against 12 upstream suppliers reflect that commitment," Jonathan Horrell, global director of sustainability at Mondelēz International, said in a press release. "We will continue to pursue existing and new initiatives that seek to drive effective change across palm oil-growing communities. The company understands that this complex challenge can only be solved through collaboration with all actors in the palm oil supply chain, from growers to suppliers and buyers, as well as local and national government and non-governmental organizations."

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