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Nestlé under fire for destroying orang-utan habitat

Ecologist

19th March 2010

Nestlé is ignoring the social and environmental crimes of its palm oil suppliers says Greenpeace

Orang-utans are losing their forest homes to palm oil plantations that supply Nestlé, according to a report published by Greenpeace.

Sinar Mas, which supplies palm oil to food giants Nestlé and Cargill, is at the centre of an ‘ecological disaster’ the report says, as critical orang-utan habitat and carbon-rich peatland are destroyed. 

As Indonesia’s largest palm oil producer, Greenpeace says that Sinar Mas has the largest 'land bank' in the world, with 1.3 million hectares of land available for plantation expansion.

But as palm oil plantations replace forests orang-utans are losing their habitat and food sources, and being hunted as pests, said the authors of Caught Red Handed.

‘The Centre for orang-utan protection estimates that at least 1500 orang-utans died in 2006 as a result of deliberate attacks by plantation workers and loss of habitat due to the expansion of oil palm plantations,’ they added. 

The report also highlighted social conflicts arising from the activities of Sinar Mas as people who depend on forests for their livelihoods are being forced to change their way of life. 

Gruesome advert

The report coincides with the launch of an advert by Greenpeace (below), which shows an office worker biting into orang-utan fingers rather than a Nestlé Kit-Kat during their morning break.

Nestlé has been quick to respond to the campaign, saying it shared ‘the deep concern about the serious environmental threat to rainforests and peat fields in South East Asia’ and that they had taken steps to cancel direct contracts with Sinar Mas.

But Greenpeace said Nestlé was still using Sinar Mas palm oil through its third-party suppliers:  

‘Nestlé is the world's largest food and beverage company. They can use their very strong position to change the way their suppliers like Cargill are buying from Sinar Mas.’

The campaign group also urged Nestlé to stop suppressing criticism of their activities, which has involved removing posts from the company's facebook page.

‘If Nestlé put as much effort into sorting its supply chain as it did into trying to protect its image, it wouldn’t be in this position in the first place,’ said Ian Duff, Forest Campaigner at Greenpeace.

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