Find Out If Your French Fries, Lipstick, and Laundry Detergent Are Killing or Saving Orangutans and Tigers

A ranking of fast-food, personal-care, and brand-name products shows whether companies are obtaining palm oil from deforestation.

(Photo: CIFOR/Flickr)

Apr 3, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Taylor Hill is an associate editor at TakePart covering environment and wildlife.

How much does your favorite fast-food joint care about orangutans? Do the makers of your deodorant want to keep tropical forests fresh too?

With the release of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ 2015 Palm Oil Scorecard, you can find out what companies are committed to sourcing the oil they need for their food, health, and beauty products without decimating rainforests and peatlands (wetlands with a thick waterlogged soil layer) critical to wildlife habitat.

Palm oil practices such as the cutting and burning of forests can lead to large scale forest fires. (Photo: Flickr)

Palm oil is increasingly becoming the oil of choice in products from french fries and donuts to lipstick and laundry detergent. With palm oil’s rise comes a massive increase in palm oil plantations popping up in wildlife-sensitive regions such as Indonesia and Malaysia—the source of nearly 85 percent of the product.

Replacing those country’s lush jungles with palm plantations has destroyed critical habitat for endangered tigers, orangutans, rhinos, and elephants, as well as the forests that absorb massive amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

This year’s palm oil scorecard shows which of the world’s largest companies with palm oil–based products are committed to obtaining their oil without ruining forests.

(Scorecard: Courtesy UCSUSA.org)

In the fast-food world, Dunkin Brands, including Dunkin Donuts and Baskin-Robbins, scored the highest, as it was the first company to declare that 100 percent of the palm oil used in its domestic operations will come from sustainable sources by 2016.

At the bottom of the fast food list was Yum!, parent company of fast-food giants Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut. But the day after the report card was released, Yum! announced it would source all the palm oil for its 41,000 restaurants from responsible and sustainable sources by the end of 2017.

Other palm oil–using markets on this year’s scorecard include store brands, packaged-food companies, and companies selling personal-care products.

Only eight of the 40 companies UCS ranked have commitments in place to source all of their palm oil sustainably and without deforestation.

(Scorecard: Courtesy UCSUSA.org)

Packaged-food companies such as Nestle with its Toll House and Gerber brands, Kellogg’s with Pop-Tarts and Nutri-Grain, and Pepsico with Quaker Oats and Frito-Lay are leading the responsibly sourced palm oil charge, while fast-food companies such as Wendy’s, Dairy Queen, and Starbucks lag behind.

The report is the follow-up to UCS’ original 2014 Palm Oil Scorecard.