Tell Dunkin’ Donuts: Become a Forest Hero!

Tomorrow, May 6th, Dunkin’ Brands shareholders will gather in Quincy, MA to take stock of — and talk stocks of — the company. Presumably they’ll snack on some glazed and Boston Creme doughnuts during the breaks.

Hopefully, some bold shareholders will also bring up the reputational risk lurking in Dunkin’s ingredient list: palm oil. Palm oil, which Dunkin’ uses to fry all its doughnuts, is a crop that’s driving destruction of much of the world’s tropical rainforests, and pushing Sumatran tigers, orangutans, and elephants to the brink of extinction.

Hopefully, Dunkin’s leaders will be ready tomorrow to announce they’re going to clean up their menu and commit to a strong deforestation-free and exploitation-free palm oil sourcing policy, completed by the end of next year. 

Palm oil is a pervasive ingredient in everything from snack foods to Girl Scout cookies to soaps – to doughnut frying oil. In fact, commercial doughnuts like Dunkin’ are almost unique in the Western world, where palm oil is usually used as an additive and not consumed directly in large quantities. In a Dunkin’ Donut, palm oil is the second listed ingredient, after flour. When you wipe your hands after eating one and see the grease on the napkin, that’s palm oil.

Want to help? 

Click on these Tweets below and send a message to Dunkin’ right away:

And then cut and paste this link —  http://tinyurl.com/lurdp95 — and post it on Dunkin’s facebook page. 

To meet demand and create more palm oil plantations, growers have cleared more than 30,000 square miles of pristine rainforest in Indonesia and Malaysia. That’s an area about three times as large as Dunkin’s home state of Massachusetts.

Dunkin’ Brands buys its palm oil from Cargill and Bunge, two huge commodity traders that buy the oil from growers and ship it to companies in the United States and other countries.  Unfortunately, it turns out these two companies are lagging behind while the palm oil industry as a whole is shifting to truly sustainable, deforestation-free production practices. They have no firm standards for where they get their palm oil — encouraging rampant deforestation, the destruction of carbon-rich peatlands, and tragic exploitation of workers and indigenous communities.

With its highly visible use of palm oil and its worldwide brand recognition, Dunkin’ is a company that could make a huge difference in the industry as a whole.  But their current approach is to wait until 2020—and then adopt a notoriously weak standard called the “Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil” that doesn’t prohibit palm oil sourced from deforestation or carbon-rich peatlands.

Fortunately, today, the company is hinting that it might order up some much improved, more truly sustainable palm oil policies.

It wouldn’t even be that hard to do. Palm oil can easily be grown without destroying forests or peat lands, or exploiting local communities. There are already tens of millions of acres of heavily degraded land in the tropics that are suitable for palm oil, and could be cultivated without endangering wildlife. Many companies are doing just that.

Late last year, Asia’s largest agri-business company, Wilmar International, committed to rapidly ending deforestation in its supply chain. Wilmar controls a whopping 45 percent of global palm oil trade, and is already implementing its commitment. Other palm oil traders like Golden Agri-Resources, also the world’s second largest palm oil plantation company, have followed suit. Today, more than half the world’s palm oil is covered by responsible, deforestation-free sourcing policies.

That means companies have a choice. Already, consumer products giants Nestlé, Kellogg’s, Mars, Mondelez and several others have committed to totally eliminating palm oil from deforestation from their supply chains.

It’s time for shareholders and customers to demand that Dunkin’ follow the lead of these other forward-looking companies. Dunkin’ needs to keep its word, and stop glazing its doughnuts with Cargill’s rainforest destruction.

Today, Dunkin’ runs on deforestation. But tomorrow, it could become a Forest Hero. For investors and customers alike, those doughnuts are going to taste a whole lot sweeter.

On May 5, 2014
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