Cargill Admits Buying Palm Oil from Illegally Cleared Orangutan Habitat


Written by Chelsea Matthews

Last week, Cargill admitted to doing business with a very dodgy plantation company in Central Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) that has illegally cleared thousands of hectares of orangutan habitat — and has even allegedly hired people to hunt down and kill orangutans.

Cargill admitted to Reuters that it bought at least one shipment of palm oil from PT Best in 2011, the holding group that owns the contested palm oil concession. It is likely Cargill also bought from them in the past and continues to do so today. In response to inquiries by Reuters’ journalist, Cargill said it will stop buying from the firm “if any illegality was proven.”

This is quite embarrassing for Cargill because the illegality is already publicly acknowledged by the Indonesian government after months of digesting a hard-hitting investigation by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), and there is no doubt that thousands of hectares of orangutan habitat is already destroyed. EIA’s report, “Testing the Law”, documents how the 23,000 hectare (57,500 acre) concession was cleared and developed in violation of multiple Indonesian laws.

This is by no means the first time Cargill has been linked to egregious instances of deforestation and destruction of orangutan habitat. In recent months, RAN has highlighted Cargill’s supply chain connections to the destruction of the Tripa rainforest in Sumatra — one of the world’s most ecologically important rainforests and home to the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan. We have also been working to bring the urgent message about Cargill’s involvement in orangutan extinction to the company’s home town, Wayzata, Minnesota with a billboard, a robust print and online ad campaign, and thousands of publicly placed ads across the state. So far, Cargill has remained uncharacteristically silent, further suggesting it has something to hide.

This is yet another case in point that raises major red flags around Cargill’s commitment to what it calls a “100% sustainable supply chain.” Cargill says it “wants to play a leading role in working towards sustainable palm supply and use through the RSPO, and through our own actions”, going on to claim: “As such we have established a corporate sustainability commitment for our palm oil products.” Clearly, this commitment is not going far enough.

Here’s why more transparency is so clearly needed from the company: In the past, Cargill has said it has a “no-trade list” of companies it will not do business with. In 2009, Rainforest Action Network released a case study that documented illegal rainforest clearing by palm oil company Duta Palma on the lands of the Semunying Jaya community in Borneo. Social conflict continues today between the Semunying Jaya community and Duta Palma. Despite Cargill claiming that Duta Palma was on their “no-trade list,” how can consumers be sure Cargill is not sourcing from Duta Palma when, to this day, a no-trade list has yet to be made public?

As the largest importer of palm oil into the US, Cargill is using membership with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) as its only filter to keep controversial palm oil out of its supply chain. Without its own safeguards around deforestation, human rights and species and climate impacts, the palm oil giant cannot ensure its supply chain does not include palm oil from controversial plantation holders like the ones operating in Tripa and PT Best. Without supply chain safeguards, Cargill is taking a huge risk by claiming its supply chain is devoid of controversy when environmental groups continue to link the company’s supply chain to shameful practices.

This post was originally published by Rainforest Action Network.


Related Stories:

Species Gravely Endangered by Global Trade of Commodities Like Palm Oil

Scientists or Lobbyists: Who Do You Trust to Act For The Rainforest?

Top 3 Victims of Palm Oil: Wildlife, People and Planet


Photo: Rainforest Action Network/flickr


Kathy G.
Kathy G5 years ago

Protest and save orangutans! Shame on Cargill for killing so they can make a profit! Our environment is worth much, much, much, much more.

Ana Passos
Past Member 6 years ago

noted, unfortunately there are lot of products that only say vegetable oil..

Cheryl B.
Cheryl B6 years ago

horrible...glad they were caught

Knut Franckenstein
Knut F6 years ago

The responsible manager for that disaster should be found out and forced to pay for the reforestation as well as forced to work for the latter for at least one year.

Otherwise he deserves death penalty for killing our ancestors the Orang Utan !!!

Carolyn Smith
Cally Smith6 years ago

Please try your hardest to avoid palm oil. Unfortunately 9times out of 10 when I ask a shop assistant if a product contains palm oil I get this question...'are you allergic to it?'. At this point I want to kill someone (!) but try to explain my reasons for asking. It's a nightmare getting people to take this seriously. Beauty products...contain sodium laureth sulphate, this is also derived from palm oil, please avoid. There are plenty of alternatives to our usual supermarket products which are mainly far from ethical. I too used to wonder what could be wrong with palm oil, after all it is only a plant wrong I was.

Dawn F.
Dawn F6 years ago

BOYCOTT & challenge your stores to carry only Palm FREE products!

Dawn F.
Dawn F6 years ago

I ALWAYS check ingredients on all my purchases but yesterday got duped!! I bought a product that described itself to be 100% organic & fair trade product. When I got home the label said palm fruit oil!!! I am going to return it to Whole Foods and ask them how this got on the shelf!

Aurea Walker

Greed and destruction of our wonderful planet, no end in sight. With human over populating the world and the fucorporations producing food in the unhealthiest way there will be a major destruction on all animals that are not bred to feed the billions. :(

Muriel Servaege
Muriel Servaege6 years ago

It's a shame. The company should pay for the restoration of the forest and orangutans rescue.

Katherine Wright
Katherine Wright6 years ago

Melania...........seriously, all of these? Here I thought I was doing well to avoid products containing palm oil. Okay, now I'm really depressed.......................