Burger King drops palm oil company
The company will no longer buy palm oil from Sinar Mas after Greenpeace campaigned against the Indonesian group's land-clearing practice.
Thu, Sep 02, 2010 at 08:41 AM
PALM OIL: Indonesia has become the largest exporter of palm oil in the world — at the expense of the loss of virgin forest, which is the main absorber of greenhouse gases. (Photo: ZUMA Press)
Fast food giant Burger King said Thursday it would no longer buy palm oil from Sinar Mas or its subsidiaries after Greenpeace campaigned against the Indonesian group's land-clearing practices.
Burger King joins the likes of Unilever, Nestle and Kraft in shunning Sinar Mas in a move that will increase pressure on other corporate buyers of its palm oil products, such as Pizza Hut, KFC, and Dunkin' Donuts.
Indonesia is the biggest producer of palm oil which is used in everything from biscuits to cosmetics, but environmentalists say plantations are driving deforestation blamed for habitat loss and greenhouse gases.
Burger King said a recent independent audit of Sinar Mas palm oil unit SMART's land-clearing practices -- commissioned by Sinar Mas in response to the Greenpeace allegations — revealed activities "inconsistent with our corporate responsibility commitments."
"We believe the report has raised valid concerns about some of the sustainability practices of Sinar Mas' palm oil production and its impact on the rainforest," Burger King said on its Facebook page.
"As part of our... corporate responsibility programme, Burger King Corp. is committed to sourcing our products from sustainable suppliers."
It said it was looking for a new palm oil supplier for the 176 Burger King restaurants supplied by Sinar Mas.
"In addition, we are notifying our suppliers of our intent to discontinue the use of palm oil supplied by Sinar Mas in the manufacturing of our products."
Sinar Mas Agro Resources and Technology has been struggling to repair its image after a Greenpeace name-and-shame campaign led several foreign buyers to cancel major contracts.
Greenpeace says the company is clearing high-value peat forest against Indonesian law and failing to wait for environmental studies before starting plantation operations in sensitive areas of Borneo island.
The company has accepted mistakes have been made in small areas but denies it is a "forest destroyer" as claimed by environmentalists.
Rampant deforestation, much of it illegal, is a major reason Indonesia is the world's third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases and is driving species like Sumatran tigers and orangutans to extinction.
SMART's credibility took a blow last month when auditors Control Union Certification and BSI Group, authors of the independent verification report, complained that it had misrepresented elements of their findings.
The company had trumpeted their report as evidence that Greenpeace's allegations were false, but the auditors said the probe's "key findings" included that it had violated Indonesian law on forest management.
It also found that SMART had launched operations on almost 94,000 acres of land on Borneo before mandatory environmental studies had been completed.
The company was also found to have planted palm oil crops in high-value deep peatland, but not to the extent claimed by Greenpeace.
Greenpeace welcomed Burger King's announcement and urged other US fast food chains to follow suit.
Greenpeace forest campaigner Rolf Skar wrote in a blog: "This is another blow for Sinar Mas, which had hoped its self-commissioned audit would convince corporate customers and the media that it was a sustainable company.
"But, this obvious exercise in greenwash isn't going well for them."
He said the announcement was "good news for rainforests, orangutans, tigers, and our climate."
SMART president director Daud Dharsono has rejected any suggestion the company was trying to dodge the findings of its own audit or mislead shareholders.
Copyright 2010 AFP American Edition