Safeway will give preference to suppliers of 100% verified sustainable palm oil and set a goal of using only sustainable palm oil in all of its Safeway-brand products, said New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli in a statement, Tuesday.
The New York State Common Retirement Fund, which held shares valued at over $63 million as of the end of the state fiscal year March 31, 2013, spurred the action via a sustainable palm oil shareholder proposal.
"Safeway is sending a strong message to its suppliers that safeguarding the environment is a business priority,” said DiNapoli, in a statement. “Safeway’s new policy protects the company and its shareholders from reputational harm associated with environmental destruction.”
Harvesting palm oil from unsustainable sources has been linked to deforestation, the cause of an estimated 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions, destruction of rainforests and the promotion of climate change.
Under its new policy, Safeway will ask suppliers for verification that all of their palm oil and derivatives products are “free of deforestation, free of expansion of carbon-beat lands … and free of human rights violations including forced and child labor, human trafficking and poor working conditions.”
The Rainforest Action Network, which has engaged with Safeway for several years with the hopes of increasing the company's use of sustainable palm oil, praised the retailer's decision.
"Safeway has made a bold move by publicly committing to eliminate Conflict Palm Oil from its supply chain, which will reduce the company's environmental and social impact," said Ginger Cassady, program director at Rainforest Action Network, in a statement. "By directly engaging its suppliers to tackle the urgent issue of rainforest destruction, Safeway will ensure that it's values are upheld throughout its palm oil supply chain and will preent reputational risk for the company."
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