As a nature lover and someone who cares deeply about all human beings and animals, I am honored to share today a guest post written by Laurel Sutherlin of the non-profit group Rainforest Action Network (RAN). Today RAN has released a new video discussing the impact of palm oil on orangutans in honor of their new campaign that aims to remove “Conflict Palm Oil” from America’s snack foods by convincing major food companies to implement responsible palm oil policies. The companies who were publicly announced at the Chicago Board of Trade are being called “The Snack Food 20” and include some of America’s most popular brands such as Pepsi, Heinz, Hershey’s, Kraft and Smuckers. Here is the story.

Photo credit: Rainforest Action Network

Photo credit: Rainforest Action Network

The facts are clear: Orangutans are going extinct for palm oil.  Palm oil is a cheap product used in much of the Western world’s snack food products. Take a look at the label on your food and you will see for yourself that palm oil is often a main ingredient because it is cheap and plentiful.

Photo credit: Rainforest Action Network

Photo credit: Rainforest Action Network

Yet have we ever stopped to take a look at what our use of palm oil is doing to the environment and more so, to some of the most precious wildlife we have on Earth?

“In the 21st Century customers don’t want to buy crackers and cookies that are responsible for pushing the world’s last wild orangutans to extinction and for horrifying child labor violations. That’s why Rainforest Action Network is putting these top 20 snack food companies using ‘Conflict Palm Oil’ on notice that it’s time to develop responsible policies and create products that reflect the values of their customers and the needs of our planet,” said Lindsey Allen, the Executive Director of Rainforest Action Network.

Rainforest Action Network

Photo credit: Rainforest Action Network

Before I present the facts in a guest post below, please take a moment to watch this beautiful short two-minute video on what palm oil in our snack food is doing to threaten the orangutans. The video is a touching exchange in sign language between a young girl and an orphaned orangutan whose home has been destroyed by palm oil. You are sure to be very moved by it.

The video is crafted to help launch RAN’s new national palm oil campaign targeting the US snack food industry for its widespread use of palm oil connected to orangutan extinction, child labor and climate change in Indonesia and Malaysia.

The Last Stand of the Orangutan: The Power is in Your Palm

Photo credit: Rainforest Action Network

Photo credit: Rainforest Action Network

Guest post written by Laurel Sutherlin of Rainforest Action Network (

For the last several months, Rainforest Action Network (RAN) has teamed up with the creative geniuses at Free Range Studios to make this poignant two minute film about the impacts of palm oil on orangutans–as seen through the eyes of a little girl communicating to an orphaned orangutan through sign language.

RAN is doubling down on its campaign to protect the last wild orangutans and their rainforest homes from Conflict Palm Oil and we need lots of help to do it. Just last month, we launched our newest national campaign, The Last Stand of the Orangutan: The Power is in Your Palm, targeting 20 of the top snack food companies using Conflict Palm Oil. We’ve dubbed them The Snack Food 20 and they control some of America’s most well known household brands including Pepsi, Heinz, Hershey’s, Kraft and Smuckers.

Now we need your help to share this video far and wide so it can be as effective of a tool as possible to help us jumpstart a national conversation about the extreme consequences hidden behind some of the common food products most of us take for granted every day.

Photo credit: Rainforest Action Network

Photo credit: Rainforest Action Network

Palm oil is found in roughly half the products sold in grocery stores and its production on vast industrial plantations is now one of the leading causes of rainforest destruction worldwide. It is the single biggest threat driving orangutans toward extinction and it’s responsible for widespread human rights violations including displacement of Indigenous Peoples, land conflicts with forest dependent communities, and forced and child labor.

On top of that, deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia, where nearly all palm oil is grown, is responsible for more carbon pollution into earth’s atmosphere each year than all the cars, trucks, planes, trains and ships in the United States combined. In fact, due to deforestation, Indonesia has the world’s third largest greenhouse gas emissions behind only China and the United States.

But we can do something about it!

Photo credit: Rainforest Action Network

Photo credit: Rainforest Action Network

From moving Disney to stop sourcing paper from endangered rainforests to getting Burger King to stop using cattle grazed in the Amazon, RAN has learned well that an effective way to pressure and inspire companies to change is by nationalizing controversy over an issue and making sure the company knows that association with that issue is risky for their reputation and bottom line.

This video is designed to speak to the customers that the Snack Food 20 care so much about –us–and to help catapult Conflict Palm Oil into the national consciousness in a way that The Snack Food 20 can’t ignore.

The Snack Food 20 spend millions a year to instill brand loyalty and trust in their customers and they really do care what we think. It is crucial that these companies hear from you right now that you will not stand for Conflict Palm Oil in your food. Together we can convince these brands to take action and change the destructive way Conflict Palm Oil is currently grown.

Rainforest Action Network’s goal is to collect 60,600 #InYourPalm photo petitions – that’s one person standing for each orangutan remaining in the wild – to be delivered to each of the Snack Food 20 companies.

RAN is demanding that each of these companies implement policies to ensure they only buy truly responsible palm oil that can be traced back to its source and is not driving deforestation, expansion onto carbon-rich peatlands or human and labor rights violations.

Orangutans are among our closest relatives in the animal kingdom. They are amazingly like us in how they learn, play, and care for their young. But unlike us, if their homes fall they cannot move on. We believe the power to save these incredible orangutans is in your palm.

Please share this short film with your friends and family today and ask them to do the same!

Photo credit: Rainforest Action Network

Photo credit: Rainforest Action Network 

Additional Resources

Source: Rainforest Action Network Press Release (Thursday, September 12, 2013)

Coinciding with the video is the release of a new report, entitled Conflict Palm Oil: How US Snack Food Brands are Contributing to Orangutan Extinction, Climate Change and Human Rights Violations, which details and exposes the increasingly severe environmental and human rights problems caused by palm oil production. The report finds that none of the Snack Food 20 companies currently can verifiably ensure that their products do not contain palm oil connected to rainforest destruction, carbon pollution and human rights abuses. It also concludes the Snack Food 20 have the market influence to engage their supply chains and make demands of major palm oil traders like Cargill with the leverage to transform the destructive way palm oil producers currently grow Conflict Palm Oil.

“Palm oil is found in nearly 50 percent of the packaged foods on our grocery store shelves, and tragically it is also the leading cause of orangutan extinction and rainforest destruction in Indonesia and Malaysia. The Snack Food 20 can and must solve their problem with Conflict Palm Oil before it’s too late for the great red ape.”

“Rainforest Action Network has developed a clear roadmap for companies to follow to eliminate Conflict Palm Oil from their products, and we are ready and willing to work with the Snack Food 20 now to make it happen.”

-Gemma Tillack, Rainforest Action Network’s Senior Agribusiness Campaigner.

Palm oil is one of the world’s leading causes of rainforest destruction and its use in the United States has grown nearly 500 percent in the past decade. This rapidly growing demand has pushed palm oil plantations into the heart of some of the world’s most culturally and biologically diverse ecosystems. Palm oil is among the biggest threats driving iconic wildlife species like the orangutan to the brink of extinction in Indonesia and Borneo Malaysia. Scientists estimate just 60,600 orangutans remain in the wild.

The “Snack Food 20” group of companies are Campbell Soup Company; ConAgra Foods, Inc.; Dunkin’ Brands Group, Inc.; General Mills, Inc.; Grupo Bimbo; Hillshire Brands Company; H.J. Heinz Company; Hormel Foods Corporation; Kellogg Company; Kraft Food Group, Inc.; Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Corp.; Mars Inc.; Mondelez International, Inc.; Nestle. S.A.; Nissin Foods Holdings Co., Ltd.; PepsiCo, Inc.; The Hershey Company; The J.M. Smucker Company; Toyo Suisan Kaisha, Ltd.; and Unilever.

The full Conflict Palm Oil report can be downloaded here:

What you can do?

  • Share this post or video with friends and family.
  • Demand snack food companies to stop using palm oil in their foods.
  • Visit Rainforest Action Network’s website to learn more about palm oil and its threat by clicking here.
  • Submit an #InYourPalm photo petition to the 20 snack food companies who purchase palm oil connected to deforestation, human rights violations and massive carbon pollution.

I did. Here is mine:



  1. Wow. I’m sorry to say I didn’t know most of this. How fascinating, but mostly how sad–tragic really. I’m grateful to live in a country with few processed foods.

    Hugs from Ecuador,

    1. I honestly didn’t know either Kathy until they contacted me and sent me all the info. It deeply saddens me how much we are ruining our world. I can only hope that we are helping by our advocacy.

  2. Ok, this did make me cry! I did not know this and it’s horribly tragic and selfish of us! I am sure their is a way to modify all our snack foods by using a different ingredient, one that does not destroy their habitat!

  3. This is an important subject and I’ve always cared for orangutans. Now that I’ve seen them in the wild in Malaysia I’m even more passionate about their survival. Thanks for spreading the word.

    1. Your welcome! Sign the petition. I already got a letter back from General mills about their future plans to stop using palm oil in conflict zones! 🙂

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