Palm oil company protested by students

By Amia Davis, For the Daily
Published November 4, 2013

University students and the Ann Arbor residents are teaming up with the Forest Heroes campaign, a group protesting the deforestation and displacement of endangered species in Indonesia, to urge the Kellogg Company to break its significant partnership with Wilmar International, a Singapore-based palm oil corporation.

In 2011 and 2012, Newsweek ranked Wilmar, the world’s largest palm oil trader, as the least sustainable corporation in the world. Opponents say the company has deforested parts of Indonesia in order to produce its product and is said to be responsible for the endangerment of species, including the orangutan and the Sumatran tiger.

Forest Heroes has organized protest efforts and coalitions in the Ann Arbor area for some time. In October, the campaign held a statewide call-in day where volunteers made 600 phone calls to the John Bryant, chief executive of Kellogg Company, to break their partnership with Wilmar. Kellogg produces cereals like Frosted Flakes and Rice Krispies.

On Nov. 20, Forest Heroes will travel to Kellogg’s Battle Creek, Mich. headquarters to protest against the companies relationship with Wilmar. Kellogg is one of the palm oil supplier’s biggest customers.

Eva Resnick-Day, campaign organizer of Ann Arbor’s section of Forest Heroes, said the organization is recruiting students to get involved in efforts to pressure Kellogg to break its partnership. She said the group is also petitioning in several areas around Ann Arbor, including the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market. The campaign’s online petition has over 150,000 signatures.

Resnick-Day said it is possible to produce deforestation-free palm oil, as corporations such as Nestle have done in the past.

Public Policy senior Alex Leader, a member of Forest Heroes, said if Kellogg breaks ties with Wilmar, the event would have a “tipping-point effect.” And if Wilmar becomes a more sustainable corporation, other corporations will follow their example, he said.