Yum! Brands Commits to Using Deforestation-Free Palm Oil By 2017

The Union of Concerned Scientists’ palm oil scorecard shines a spotlight on big brands’ environmental practices

Image via pixabay user sarangib

From fried chicken and french fries to shampoo and face wash, palm oil is a near-ubiquitous ingredient used in many of your favorite products.

About 50 million tons of the stuff is produced annually in oil palm plantations worldwide which cover a total area of over 40.6 million acres, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. Concocting such enormous amounts of the edible vegetable oil has been shown to have profound effects on areas surrounding plantations. In countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia, where 85 percent of oil palm is grown, deforestation to make room for more plantations is commonplace, locals are subject to severe human rights violations, and endangered species like orangutans are either displaced or hunted down.

In an effort to motivate corporations to be more conscientious of their environmental impacts, the Union of Concerned Scientists released a scorecard this month rating major brands on a 1-10 scale each determined by their individual commitment to more sustainable palm oil sourcing.

“Until companies commit to palm oil produced without deforestation or destruction of peatlands, consumers will have cause for concern,” reads the executive summary. “To understand the scope and trends of the problem, this scorecard—a follow-on to last year’s scorecard—evaluates 40 of the largest companies selling products in the United States on their commitments to ending the destruction of forests and carbon-rich peat swamps associated with their use of palm oil.”

The scorecard evaluates 10 companies and brands in four categories: packaged food, personal care, fast food, and store brands. In order to come up with the exact numbers, UCS took into account each company’s commitment to using palm oil gathered without causing deforestation and peatland destruction, as well as their traceability, transparency, and current sourcing methods.

Chart via Union of Concerned Scientists

Chart via Union of Concerned Scientists

Already, as a response to its abysmal score of 0, Yum! Brands, the parent company to KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut, announced this past Thursday their zero deforestation plan for its palm oil sourcing, which they promise to ramp up to total success by 2017. And as more companies seek to boost their scores, others in the industry are forced to follow suit largely because of consumer pressure.

“Seventy percent of the companies scored in 2014 listened to consumers and improved their palm oil commitments or sourcing practices to address the risk of deforestation and peatland destruction,” said the UCS in its conclusion. “However, many companies have no commitment whatsoever or still have a long way to go in adopting commitments that protect all tropical forests and peatlands to minimize climate change emissions.”

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Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" debuted the first episode of its final season last week.

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Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

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The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

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In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

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Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?


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