ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
And I'm Audie Cornish. If you lucked into a free donut this morning, you already know what I'm going to say. It's Donut Day. Chains including Krispy Kreme and Dunkin' Donuts were offering freebies and special deals. But a coalition of environmental activists is using the buzz about donuts to call attention to the connection between the fried dough, palm oil and deforestation. NPR's Allison Aubrey explains.
ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: Like a lot of us, Glenn Hurowitz knows a good doughnut. We met up at a Krispy Kreme in Washington, D.C.
GLENN HUROWITZ: We've got chocolate ice custard filled's, brownie batter, and there's the original glaze, the famous one. But I have - actually I have not eaten a donut in three years.
AUBREY: That's when he pieced together how America's love of donuts could destroy forests halfway around the globe. He chairs the rain forest campaign called Forest Heroes. And he explains the big donut chains including Dunkin' Donuts, Krispy Kreme and Tim Horton's, fry their donuts in palm oil or blends of oil that include palm. And the production of this oil on plantations in Southeast Asia has led to massive clear-cutting of forests and labor abuses where workers do dangerous jobs for little pay.
HUROWITZ: I just got back from Indonesia a couple weeks ago, and I drove for hours through palm oil plantations. You don't see any other kind of vegetation on what was, until recently, a thriving tropical rainforest teeming with orangutans and tigers and elephants.
AUBREY: To be fair, palm oil is not the only industry contributing to the loss of rain forest. But as its role has come to light, there has been a huge push from environmentalists to get the big multinational companies involved in palm oil to make changes. Hurowitz says the big breakthrough has been new commitments to source oil from suppliers who are not cutting down forests or destroying carbon-rich peat land
HUROWITZ: We've seen Kellogg's, Mars, Hershey's, Safeway - all take steps to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains, but the donut industrial complex is lagging behind.
AUBREY: I reached out to the three major donut retailers, all of whom declined interviews. But in emails they told us they are actively working on the issue, and all three say their goal is to purchase all of their palm oil from sustainable sources. Krispy Kreme pointed us to an industry-supported group called the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil that certifies producers who have adopted more responsible practices.
DANIELLE MORLEY: Palm oil growers are making very, very promising changes.
AUBREY: That's the Roundtable's Danielle Morley. She says, until a decade ago, there was no agreed-upon system to certify deforestation-free palm oil. Now, about 16 percent of the global supply is certified. Many environmentalists say this is a start, but they argue the certification criteria could be tougher, and that more companies using palm oil need to commit to change. Allison Aubrey, NPR News.