Are Kellogg's Snacks a Threat to Global Climate?

Are Kellogg's Snacks a Threat to Global Climate?
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John Bryant, CEO of snack food giant Kellogg’s, found himself in hot water last week on a quarterly earnings call when one investor took the company to task for its part in destroying vital Indonesian peatlands that store vast amounts of climate-polluting carbon, and rainforests home to the last 400 remaining wild Sumatran tigers in the world.

Tony the Tiger is probably pretty embarrassed at the moment.

At issue is a recent partnership struck between Kellogg’s and an Indonesian company called Wilmar, who is the largest supplier of palm oil in the world. Wilmar is rated the least sustainable publicly traded company in the world by Newsweek, lagging behind companies like Monsanto, Coal India, Dow Chemical and ExxonMobil.

In order to plant the palm trees that produce the palm oil, Wilmar destroys thousands of hectares of virgin Indonesian rainforest and peatlands every year. The last remaining 400 Sumatran tigers call these rainforests home and the peatlands are very important when it comes to climate change, as they store more carbon than the world emits in 9 years.

Kellogg’s recently struck a partnership with Wilmar to buy their palm oil to use in the cheap snack foods it sells.

It’s mass rainforest destruction in the name of Pringles.

Corporate watchdogs and their hundreds-of-thousands of members are rightly ticked about the connection between Kellogg’s and Wilmar and are ratcheting up the pressure.

On the investors call where the Wilmar partnership was brought up, Kellogg’s CEO John Bryant brushed off the criticism saying that, “It’s something that the activists should really take up with Wilmar to determine the best path forward with them.”

When Bloomberg News asked Wilmar for comment, a company spokesperson had this to say:

“Wilmar is committed to developing and cultivating its plantations in a responsible and sustainable manner that looks into safeguarding the intrinsic value of the ecosystem, including endangered fauna like the orangutans and Sumatran tigers.”

So Kellogg’s says it is not their problem, even though they are creating a market for rainforest destruction to make snack food, while Wilmar says they do care, despite the (dis)honor of being the least sustainable company in the entire world.

This is classic PR spin. But spin only works for a short time, and eventually the image your company ends up with is the one closest to reality, and ultimately the one it deserves. If Kellogg’s wants to remain a popular and well-liked brand, it is going to have to stop spinning and either demand Wilmar change its ways posthaste, or cut ties with the palm oil-giant altogether.

Are Kellogg's Snacks a Threat to Global Climate?

Kevin is a contributor and strategic adviser to DeSmogBlog.

He runs the digital marketing agency Spake Media House. Named a “Green Hero” by Rolling Stone Magazine and one of the “Top 50 Tweeters” on climate change and environment issues, Kevin has appeared in major news media outlets around the world for his work on digital campaigning.

Kevin has been involved in the public policy arena in both the United States and Canada for more than a decade. For five years he was the managing editor of DeSmogBlog.com. In this role, Kevin’s research into the “climate denial industry” and the right-wing think tank networks was featured in news media articles around the world. He is most well known for his ground-breaking research into David and Charles Koch’s massive financial investments in the Republican and tea party networks.

Kevin is the first person to be designated a “Certified Expert” on the political and community organizing platform NationBuilder.

Prior to DeSmogBlog, Kevin worked in various political and government roles. He was Senior Advisor to the Minister of State for Multiculturalism and a Special Assistant to the Minister of State for Asia Pacific, Foreign Affairs for the Government of Canada. Kevin also worked in various roles in the British Columbia provincial government in the Office of the Premier and the Ministry of Health.

In 2008 Kevin co-founded a groundbreaking new online election tool called Vote for Environment which was later nominated for a World Summit Award in recognition of the world’s best e-Content and innovative ICT applications.

Kevin moved to Washington, DC in 2010 where he worked for two years as the Director of Online Strategy for Greenpeace USA and has since returned to his hometown of Vancouver, Canada.

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