In reply to a question from a Greenpeace representative about deforestation at Nestlé’s annual general meeting in Lausanne, the food group’s chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe claimed that it is not Nestlé’s 320,000 tonnes of palm oil that brought about deforestation in Asia but a political decision to use food as a source for biofuels.
And he claims that almost 500,000 tonnes of palm oil was used in Britain and Germany alone for lower emissions biofuels for cars.
At the AGM, Brabeck called for a moratorium on tropical deforestation and he stressed that Nestlé was making progress reduction of palm oil in its products.
Greenpeace activists had abseiled into the Lausanne AGM and, dressed as orang-utans, also handed out leaflets outside of the conference centre, claiming Nestlé is still using palm oil in some of its chocolate bars sourced from crops planted after vast tracts of Asian rainforests had been cleared.
Last month, the Swiss food group announced it was dropping Indonesia company, Sinar Mas, the world’s largest palm oil producer from its supply chain, but this was three months after Anglo-Dutch multinational Unilever had publically cut ties with the same supplier over deforestation claims.
However, last week Greenpeace said that the Nestlé was still buying palm oil indirectly from Sinar Mas through suppliers such as commodities group, Cargill.
In an open letter to the environmental NGO dated 13 April, Brabeck protested that all purchasing through Sinar Mas by Nestlé was halted and that this situation would continue as long as there was verifiable evidence of rainforest destruction by that firm.
"We have made it clear in writing to our suppliers of blended palm oil, including Cargill, that we will not tolerate the presence of oil from non-sustainable sources in what they sell us," he continued.
And Brabeck reiterated previous statements from Nestlé in relation to its pledge to source only certified sustainably sourced palm oil by 2015, saying it was working with providers of certified palm oil to increase its availability.
He further said that the Swiss food group is calling for a coalition of all stakeholders involved in food, lumber, paper production, bio-fuels, soy, animal protection, financial interests and governments to make a moratorium on the deforestation of rainforests a reality.
Meanwhile Cargill said that it has demanded that Sinar Mas respond to claims it is devastating forests rich in carbon and wildlife and the commodities giant added that it has sought an investigation by an industry body, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) in relation to this.