Cadbury bars leave orangutans on ‘brink of extinction’ thanks to ‘destructive’ palm oil

Your Cadbury chocolate bars, Oreo cookies and Ritz crackers are leaving orangutans on the "brink of extinction", campaigners warn.

Greenpeace says orangutans are "literally dying for a biscuit" in a new report that slams snack giant Mondelez over its controversial use of "destructive" palm oil – which is created by destroying rainforest habitats.

Palm oil shot to nationwide attention this month after Iceland's Christmas TV ad about the ongoing crisis was banned in the UK.


The notorious substance is widely used in products found in British supermarkets, and the ad drew attention to its impact on orangutans.

Voiced by actress Emma Thompson, the ad tugged at heartstrings by showing the destruction of a young orangutan's home – but was deemed too political by Britain's ad watchdog.

Now new mapping by Greenpeace has linked Mondelez – which makes Cadbury, Oreo and Ritz products – to the destruction of a major orangutan habitat in Indonesia.

"It's outrageous that despite promising to clean up its palm oil almost 10 years ago, Mondelez is still trading with forest destroyers," said Kiki Taufik, who leads Greenpeace Southeast Asia's Indonesia forests campaign.

"Palm oil can be made without destroying forests, yet our investigation discovered that Mondelez 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 biscuit," Kiki added.

Mondelez' own records show it purchased more than 300,000 tonnes of palm oil and palm oil products in 2017.

And Greenpeace says 95% of this is purchased using the "weakest of the certification models" – a regulatory shortcut, basically.

"This means that the plantations and producer groups from which the overwhelming majority of the palm oil that Mondelez purchases is sourced are not governed by any sustainability initiatives," the report blasts.

Mondelez is part of several industry groups working towards sustainable palm oil usage.

But Greenpeace warns: "Mondelez continues to source palm oil from rainforest destroyers, despite its stated commitment to responsible sourcing."

Earlier this year, Greenpeace published a report detailing "recent rainforest destruction" by 25 palm oil producers in Southeast Asia.

According to Greenpeace, Mondelez was sourcing palm oil from 22 of these groups – between them, over 70,000 hectares of rainforest was destroyed between 2015 and 2017.

Of that area, 25,000 hectares were "forested orangutan habitat".

But Greenpeace warns that the scale of the problem may be even worse: "These are just the cases that Greenpeace was able to identify – Mondelez sources from hundreds of palm oil companies and this destruction is likely just the tip of the iceberg."

The report claims that Mondelez gets lots of its "dirty palm oil" from Wilmar International, the world's biggest trader.

Greenpeace says that Wilmar fails to monitor its suppliers, and has "refused to make the radical changes that would end its trade with forest destroyers."

It's not just wildlife at risk, either.

It's claimed that Mondelez palm oil suppliers have been accused of "child labor, exploitation of workers, illegal deforestation, forest fires and land grabbing".

"Mondelez's new tagline, revealed in September, is 'snacking made right', but there's nothing right about palm oil produced by killing orangutans and fuelling climate change," said Richard George, Greenpeace UK Forests Campaigner.

"This must be a wake up call to Mondelez and other household brands to take action, starting with cutting off the dirtiest palm oil trader of all, Wilmar, until it can prove its palm oil is clean.

"Ultimately, if big brands can't find enough clean palm oil to make their products, they need use to less."

Oreo, one of the products named in the report, is a hit with vegans due to the fact that it contains zero animal products.

But the use of palm oil that contributes to the destruction of the rainforest will raise concerns about the ethics of Oreo consumption.

We spoke to Elisa Allen, director at animal welfare charity Peta, who said: "PETA supports the move towards sustainable palm oil, which doesn't involve devastating destruction of orangutans' homes.

"We encourage consumers to check labels on food and – if they contain palm oil – purchase products that have been certified by the Palm Oil Innovation Group in order to ensure that no new deforestation has occurred to create palm plantations," Elisa told The Sun.

She went on: "Of course, anyone who's serious about protecting the environment – and the animals who live in it – knows that the meat industry is responsible for an enormous amount of deforestation (for instance, 70 percent of the Amazon rainforest has been cleared for raising cattle), and we can do our part by eating a wholefoods–based vegan diet."

Responding to the report, a Mondelez spokesperson told The Sun: "Mondelez International is committed to eradicating deforestation in the palm oil supply and we’re actively working with our suppliers to ensure palm oil is fully traceable.

"We’re calling on our suppliers to further map and monitor the plantations where oil is grown so we can drive further traceability. We’re excluding 12 upstream suppliers from our supply chain who have not met our standards.

"For many years we have been calling for 100% sustainable and 100% traceable palm oil and we’re making good progress on our Palm Oil Action Plan.

"This includes actionable steps to ensure the palm oil we buy is produced on legally held land, does not lead to deforestation or loss of peat land, respects human rights -- including land and labour rights - and does not use forced or child labor.

"At the end of 2017, 96% of our palm oil was traceable back to mill and 99% was from suppliers with policies aligned to ours.

"We're calling on our suppliers to improve practices across their entire operations and to engage their third-party suppliers to ensure their palm oil production is 100% sustainable and traceable.

"We will continue to prioritize suppliers that meet our principles, and exclude those that don't."

This story originally appeared in The Sun.