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Sweet: Dunkin' Donuts and Krispy Kreme Pump Up Pledge On Palm Oil

Krispy Kreme and Dunkin' Donuts have pledged to source palm oil from suppliers who are not clear-cutting rain forests.
Meredith Rizzo
Krispy Kreme and Dunkin' Donuts have pledged to source palm oil from suppliers who are not clear-cutting rain forests.

Environmentalists say two major doughnut chains got a little sweeter this week.

Krispy Kreme and Dunkin' Brands have both made new commitments to source palm oil for frying their goodies from suppliers who are not clear-cutting forests.

As we reported back in June, leading doughnut retailers have been sourcing some of their palm oil from suppliers who have a history of clear-cutting rain forests and destroying wildlife habitat and carbon-rich peatlands.

The practices were outlined in a report called "Deforestation Doughnuts," by the rain forest protection coalition Forest Heroes.

This week, Forest Heroes is applauding the industry. "The one-two punch of Dunkin' Donuts and Krispy Kreme going deforestation-free signal a rapid shift in the U.S. fast food industry," Deborah Lapidus, campaign director of Forest Heroes, writes in a statement.

"Now, consumers who care about forests and wildlife can know that indulging in a tasty treat won't threaten tigers and orangutans," Lapidus says.

Krispy Kreme updated its palm oil sourcing policy on its website, committing to 100 percent responsible sourcing of palm oil.

"Krispy Kreme will work with its suppliers to meet these commitments as rapidly as possible, with a deadline for full compliance by the end of 2016. Suppliers who are found not in compliance will be required to submit a viable action plan for closing any identified gaps, or risk removal from the brand's supply chain," the policy says.

And in a news release, Dunkin' Donuts made a similar announcement: "Dunkin' Brands will work with its suppliers and its franchisee-owned purchasing cooperative to source palm oil that is 100 percent fully traceable to the mill by the end of 2015, and to the plantation by the end of 2016 for use in Dunkin' Donuts U.S. restaurants," the statement reads.

The Union of Concerned Scientists has weighed in on the new commitments as well.

"We all know that fast food isn't great for our health, but Dunkin' Brands and Krispy Kreme have demonstrated it doesn't have to be bad for the health of the planet as well," writes Calen May-Tobin, the lead analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists' Tropical Forest and Climate Initiative.

May-Tobin previously put together an analysis that examined palm oil sourcing practices for 30 leading consumer brands.

"These announcements demonstrate the power that consumers can have to move companies," May-Tobin writes.

As we've reported, environmental and consumer groups have used lots of tactics to get the attention of company leaders. For instance, a shareholder advocate for Green Century Capital Management, a mutual fund company that attracts green-minded investors, got on an earnings conference call in August 2013 with the CEO of Kellogg to ask about the company's palm oil policy.

And though Kellogg was already at work drafting a new policy, the shareholder questioning may have helped to nudge the process along.

The Rainforest Action Network points out that lots of other big food companies have stepped up to strengthen their palm oil purchasing commitments, including Nestle, Mars, Mondelez, and ConAgra Foods.

The advocacy group applauds the announcements of the big doughnut chains.

But is there a holdout? Forest Heroes says it is waiting for action by another large chain, Tim Hortons, which was recently bought by Burger King and is a big player in the doughnut biz.

"If Americans can eat deforestation-free doughnuts, what is Tim Hortons waiting for, eh?" Kevin Grandia, Forest Heroes' Canada campaign coordinator, says in a statement.

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Allison Aubrey is a correspondent for NPR News, where her stories can be heard on Morning Edition and All Things Considered. She's also a contributor to the PBS NewsHour and is one of the hosts of NPR's Life Kit.