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US doughnut giants make deforestation-free pledge

Global food brands Dunkin’ Donuts and Krispy Kreme impose a 2016 deadline on suppliers, joining other food and consumer MNCs in their sustainable palm oil commitment.

Doughnut giants Dunkin’ Donuts and Krispy Kreme have made pledges to source deforestation-free palm oil for the sweet treats they produce – a first for the industry.

American doughnut and coffee chain Dunkin’ Donuts on Tuesday declared it would commit to frying its doughnuts in palm oil from suppliers that do not clear forest or peat areas by 2016, and within 24 hours, competitor Krispy Kreme followed suit.

While Dunkin’s pledge applies only to its United States outlets, Krispy Kreme’s commitment requires its international outlets to meet the 2016 deadline as well. US-based rainforest advocacy group Forest Heroes called the latest moves “a race to the top”.

Dunkin’ has more than 10,000 outlets worldwide while Krispy Kreme has 884. In Asia, both firms own more than 1,000 stories across 11 countries.

Typically, doughnuts are fried either in pure palm oil or in a mixture of palm and other oils. About 90 per cent of palm oil originates from Indonesia or Malaysia, where the industry’s growth has been held responsible for the often illegal clearing of tropical forests and draining of peat swamps, causing the release of their stored carbon into the atmosphere.

Species such as orangutans and tigers have also been threatened by land-use change in these tropical forests, while dry-season fires on dried-out peatlands are to blame for the dense smoke haze that envelops the region each year.

Dunkin’ Donuts, which has outlets in close to 60 countries worldwide, committed by March next year to “include steps towards implementing Dunkin’ Brands’ palm oil initiatives by requiring that 100 per cent of the palm oil sourced for use in the company’s international business is responsibly produced”, it said in a release.

The firm made a further commitment to review its global supply chain before 2016.

The momentum being created by these industry leaders is forcing both suppliers and consumer companies to conform to these new zero-deforestation standards.

Glenn Hurowitz, Forest Heroes campaign chair

Dunkin’ Brands senior director of corporate social responsibility Christine Riley Miller said: “Sourcing even limited amounts of palm oil irresponsibly can contribute to deforestation, loss of natural habitats and other environmental and human rights concerns. Therefore, Dunkin’ Brands has created clear guidelines for our suppliers, and to ensure independent verification that our principles are being met, so that by 2016 we can meet our targets of sourcing only responsibly-produced palm oil.”

The doughnut chains are just the latest on a growing list of firms that have committed to buying their palm oil from sustainable sources, following pressure from Forest Heroes, Greenpeace, the Rainforest Action Network and other advocacy groups.

Forest Heroes campaign chair Glenn Hurowitz told Eco-Business that with industry leaders demanding higher standards, suppliers would have to follow. “The momentum being created by these industry leaders is forcing both suppliers and consumer companies to conform to these new zero-deforestation standards,” he said.

In 2013, palm oil giant Wilmar pledged to eliminate deforestation, labour exploitation, and peatland development in any of its businesses. Meanwhile, food and consumer products firms Nestle, Unilever, Cargill and others have made similar commitments. 

Currently, some 60 per cent of the global palm oil trade is covered by zero-deforestation policies which have deadlines starting from this year.

In its various forms, palm oil is an ingredient in processed foods, biodiesel, and consumer products such as soap and cosmetics.

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