The Problem with Palm Oil: Cargill’s Use of Conflict Palm Oil Campaign

Lead Group: Rainforest Action Network (RAN)

Support Groups: Girl Scouts Madison and Rhiannon, Greenpeace, Green Century Funds, Union of Concerned Scientists, Forest Heroes and the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit, 2014 – Parties to the New York Declaration on Forests Action Statement and Action Plans.

Large or Small Campaign:

In 2007, at a time when very few Americans had yet heard the words “palm oil,” RAN recognized that this innocuous seeming vegetable oil was becoming one of the biggest threats to rainforests across the world. That’s when RAN launched an ambitious and large campaign targeting agribusiness giant Cargill, the largest privately held company in the world and the biggest importer of palm oil into the U.S. The corporate behemoth makes $135 billion a year and has no shareholders to answer to and no well known brands on grocery store shelves to target.

This campaign was large, ambitious and required ongoing efforts from RAN over a seven year period and support from a number of other allies and NGO’s to secure the transformation of this agribusiness giant in 2014.

What makes this a CORPORATE campaign? (i.e. is it influencing corporate leadership, investors,shareholders, suppliers, customers, etc. to reform a corporation or industry, or to transform the role of corporations in society?)

Cargill is the largest importer of palm oil to the US and has significant influence in the global palm oil supply chain. This campaign aimed to reform and transform Cargill into a leader in the agribusiness sector working to eliminate deforestation and human rights violations from global commodity supply chains.

Description of the problem(s) the campaign is seeking to address:

RAN has actively pressured Cargill for the last seven years on deforestation and human rights abuses in its supply chain, specifically in relation to its trading and selling of palm oil. Palm oil is a leading driver of rainforest destruction, species extinction, carbon pollution, and human and labor rights violations.

Description of Campaign Victory or Significant Achievement:

In September, at the UN Climate Summit in New York City, Cargill’s CEO announced its new commitment to implement “deforestation free” policies covering ALL of Cargill’s commodities trading business worldwide.

Date of Victory or Significant Achievement (must be between May 1, 2013 and October 1, 2014)

23rd of September

Description of the long-term impact of the Victory or Significant Achievement:

This commitment marks the beginning of another long journey toward implementation and accountability — the on-the-ground reforms that will bring about the long term changes so desperately needed for communities, rainforests, endangered species including orangutan populations, and our climate. But it is also a momentous milestone that is part of a much larger sea change taking place across the palm oil industry. Cargill may help break the link between a number of commodities – palm oil, soy, beef, and paper – that are driving negative social and environmental impacts across the globe. This campaign shows that when people take persistent action they can create real, systemic change in the global food system. Once these commitments have been implemented in full, it will mean a better future for Indigenous communities, rainforests, tigers, orangutans and our shared climate. Click here to view a photo journey through RAN’s hard fought reform of Cargill, America’s biggest palm oil importer