Kellogg’s, a local Michigan cereal company, finds itself in hot water following an August shareholders meeting in which the company’s partnership to Wilmar International, a large palm oil producer, was questioned.
Singapore-based Wilmar International is the world’s largest processor and merchandiser of palm oil, one of the largest oil palm plantation owners and the largest palm oil refiner in Indonesia and Malaysia.
Palm oil can be found in hundreds of everyday products including soaps, cosmetics and margarine.
Kellogg’s partnered with Wilmar International in a joint venture late last year as an effort to gain a foothold in China’s cereal market by manufacturing and selling cereal and crackers.
In 2012, Newsweek ranked Wilmar International in the top 500 least sustainable corporations in the world, joining Exxon Mobil, Shell and British Petroleum (BP). Wilmar International made the list as a result of deforesting rain forests and partnering with farmers who also practice deforestation.
Environmental activists have accused Wilmar International of endangering the natural habitats of elephants, rhinos, orangutans and the animal of focus, the endangered Sumatran tiger.
The World Wildlife Federation (WWF) has listed Sumatran tigers as a critically endangered species with fewer than 400 remaining. The tigers are found exclusively in the rainforests of Sumatra, Indonesia, which is where Wilmar International and its partners harvest palm oil.
About a week ago, the Calvin sustainability coordinators (SC) and the Environmental Stewardship Coalition (ESC) decided to get involved in a petition campaign through West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC).
The campaign was first started by Forest Heroes, an online community that wants Kellogg’s to end its partnership with Wilmar International until it ends its practice of deforestation. Forest Heroes is working toward 5,000 signatures.
Cassidy Richard, a sophomore from South Bend, Ind., the SC for Schultze–Eldersveld, voiced the importance of mutual respect.
“It’s all about respect for the earth, for our fellow creatures and for our brothers and sisters who call that forest home,” Richard said, referring to the indigenous people who reside in the respective forests.
Richard voiced optimism that Kellogg’s would make a positive change as she explained why she was passionate about the subject.
“We are in a great position here to make a change because Kellogg’s has time and time again been shown to be a great and respectable company that makes wise and responsible decisions. Right now they’re not making the healthiest decision, and we hope that if we let them know that we care about their actions, they will realize that they’re going against this image that they have worked long and hard to build up properly,” Richard said.
Richard mentioned the company’s competitors’ effort to sustain the environment.
“Nestle, for instance, made a commitment to only purchase their palm oil from responsible suppliers who make sure that none of their product is harvested from deforested land.”
There is still an ongoing discussion as to when the petition will be passed to Kellogg’s and if the petition would impact the cereal producer, but Richard hopes for the best.
“I believe in power in numbers, and never before have I been so involved in a group so big that really had the potential to do such great things.”
Richard encourages fellow Calvin students to get involved by signing the petition onwww.forestheroes.org and to keep an eye out for events by the SCs and ESC in relation to Kellogg’s venture. They will be helping out with getting signatures at ArtPrize this weekend.