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Sisters' Impassioned Plea To Save Endangered Orangutans Moves Kellogg's Execs To Change Their Global Palm Oil Policy

Harvinder Dhinsa /SWNS.COM

Bosses at food giant Kellogg's were so moved by the plea of two young sisters to help save endangered orangutans that they've changed their entire global palm oil policy.


Asha Fitzpatrick, 12, and her 10-year-old sister Jia stopped eating Kellogg's cereals, and petitioned the firm to improve its palm oil policy after watching a documentary about orphaned orangutans.

From humble beginnings, their petition gained more than 780,000 signatures and caught the eye of Kellogg's chiefs who invited the determined sisters to a meeting.

Harvinder Dhinsa /SWNS.COM

The sisters first met with the firm's executives in 2018 to discuss possible changes to the way they source palm oil. Harvesting palm oil has been blamed for devastating the orangutans' natural habitat.

Now impressed Kellogg's bosses have pledged to appoint "trusted NGOs" to oversee the firm's planned switch to segregated palm oil, a more sustainable form of the substance widely used in food and cosmetics.

Alison Last, a spokeswoman for Kellogg's, said:

"In February 2020, Kellogg's updated its Global Palm Oil Policy and launched its Global Deforestation Policy, as well as plans that reflect an evolution of the company's strategies and actions to further drive impact at scale."
"As a socially responsible company, Kellogg's is committed to working with its global palm oil suppliers to source fully traceable palm oil that is produced in a manner that's environmentally responsible, socially beneficial, and economically viable, which includes helping to mitigate deforestation."

In a policy document handed to the Fitzpatricks, Kellogg's confirmed it is "committed" to work toward sourcing "100 percent" of its palm oil sustainably by 2025.

The firm currently sources 15 percent of its palm oil from uncertified producers and offsets the costs by purchasing environmental "credits" from the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil group.

In addition, the food giant has also pledged to partner with "trusted" NGOs and work with smallholders to "combat deforestation and support forest restoration."

Harvinder Dhinsa /SWNS.COM

The company announced the move in a meeting with the sisters on Friday, 18 months after they first launched their petition.

Harvinder Dhinsa, the girls' delighted mom, said:

"They were really surprised by the announcement. They weren't expecting such a commitment. I'm really proud of them."
"It shows no matter how small you are that you have a voice and people will listen."

The consultant, of Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, England, said her daughters have decided to keep the petition active to ensure Kellogg's bosses keeps their word.

She added:

"If they don't follow through, we will be on their backs."
"The announcement is great, but we need to keep their feet to the fire and ensure changes are made before we can say it's done.
"That's why the petition stays open and we are still calling for signatures."

Asha and Jia were moved by Channel Four's Orangutan Jungle School documentary, which followed a group of young and endangered orangutans orphaned due to the deforestation of Borneo's rainforests.

Harvinder Dhinsa /SWNS.COM

On their change.org petition, they wrote:

"We are sisters and we love orangutans."
"We were really upset when we saw that the numbers of orangutans that are being killed and orphaned every year are being increased by companies who want cheap palm oil - and it has to stop now."

They asked Kellogg's to start tracing the palm oil from "seed to shelf" and to inform the public exactly where it came from.

Harvinder said the girls' petition gained momentum after Greenpeace, an environmental charity, launched a cartoon video called, Rang-tan: The Story of Dirty Palm Oil as part of its own campaign to save the endangered creatures.

The girls first met with Kellogg's chiefs including, Oli Morton, managing director for Western Europe, in 2018.

Harvinder, 47, said:

"The first meeting was a bit of a charm offensive. They gave the girls cereal boxes, posed for photos and spoke about changing their policy."

In the second meeting last year, Harvinder said the girls left "disappointed" after the managers seemed to backtrack on their previous claims.

Kellogg's factory sign on an building in Bremen, Germany/Getty Images

She said:

"They rolled back on the commitment saying they were a small player in the global palm oil market without much power to change things."
"But on Friday, our third meeting, the firm's tone became very positive."
She added:
"I'm certain that increased media coverage on climate change, the Australian forest fires, and figures like Greta Thunberg have encouraged their new stance."

Harvinder said Kellogg's bosses have agreed to meet with the girls again in six months to update them on their progress, and to tell them which NGO they have appointed.

Now the young sisters are considering approaching other firms to see whether they will "step up" and follow Kellogg's lead.

Harvinder added:

"Now one company has done it, I hope more will follow."