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Activist Pomona Freshman Celebrates a Major Victory with Kellogg Commitment on Palm Oil

Activist and first-year student Madison Vorva

Activist and first-year student Madison Vorva

Pomona first-year student Madison Vorva, who has spent seven years trying to get the Girl Scouts to use deforestation-free palm oil in their cookies, celebrated a major victory on Friday when Kellogg announced a global commitment to use “fully traceable palm oil, produced in a manner that's environmentally responsible, socially beneficial, and economically viable.”

Vorva’s campaign against unsustainable palm oil began in 2007 as a Girl Scout Bronze Award service awareness project detailing how palm oil can contribute to deforestation, destruction of orangutans’ habitat, climate change and human rights abuses. She and her partner, Rhiannon Tomtishen, then discovered that Girl Scout cookies contained that very ingredient and began Project ORANGS, a campaign to get the organization to use deforestation-free palm oil.

“The Girls Scout cookie campaign was really the bridge to Kellogg,” says Vorva. “They’re one of two bakers of Girl Scout cookies. They are also a Michigan company, right in my backyard. Because big corporations like Kellogg use a lot more palm oil than the Girls Scouts, we wanted to influence them as well.”

Kellogg, with sales of $14.8 billion, is the world's leading cereal company and the second largest producer of cookies, crackers and savory snacks. By its own estimate, the Kellogg Company purchases one out of every thousand tons of palm oil produced worldwide.

“We had an in-person meeting [with Kellogg] in April 2012 and promised to stay in touch,” explains Vorva. “Last August, we delivered over 115,000 petitions to Kellogg's headquarters in partnership with an organization called SumofUs. The petitions asked Kellogg to use their influence to persuade Wilmar - a Singaporean company with whom they have major joint ventures - to adopt a deforestation-free palm oil policy.” Wilmar trades 45 percent of the world's palm oil, and last December, they announced their deforestation-free policy." During the campaign, the activists partnered with the Forest Heroes Campaign, the Rainforest Action Network and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“Kellogg’s new policy is really the strongest commitment by an American company taking a stand to prevent deforestation for palm oil production because of its traceability guidelines and implementation timeline,” says Vorva, “and it means the portion of Girl Scout Cookies the company bakes will also be deforestation-free. I've been working on this since I was 11 years old, and all of this hard work finally translated into a truly responsible policy. It’s very much a victory!”

The Rainforest Action Network concurs. Kellogg’s announcement “is notable in that it goes beyond the often-criticized standards of ‘sustainable’ palm oil certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).”

Next up for Vorva is ABC Bakers, the other Girl Scout cookie baker and Cargill, a large palm oil supplier. “Our goal for the past seven years has been 100% traceable, deforestation-free sources of palm oil in Girl Scout cookies.”

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