Greenpeace protesters dressed as orang-utans at Nestle offices in March

Greenpeace protesters dressed as orang-utans at Nestle offices in March

Nestle has pledged to stop buying palm oil from companies owning or managing high-risk plantations or farms linked to deforestation.

The world's largest food group has entered into a partnership with non-profit organisation The Forest Trust (TFT) to review its palm oil supply chain and audit suppliers for evidence of illegal activity.

The partnership will focus on assessing suppliers’ performance on meeting responsible sourcing guidelines drawn up by Nestle and the TFT. The plan also proposes to provide technical support to those who currently do not meet the requirements.

Environmental campaigners at Greenpeace, who had embarked on a two-month campaign to highlight Nestle’s use of palm oil in products such as KitKat, welcomed the food giant's agreement.

Pat Venditti, Greenpeace International forest campaign head, said: “We are delighted that Nestlé plans to give orang-utans a break and we call on other international retailers, such as Carrefour and Wal-mart, to do the same. Since the beginning of our campaign, hundreds of thousands of people have contacted Nestle to say that they will not buy products linked to rainforest destruction.”

Nestlé has already set a goal to use only palm oil from sustainable sources by 2015.

The company said it has made “strong progress” toward that target, with 18% of its palm oil purchases in 2010 coming from sustainable sources. Nestle said it expects to lift that amount to 50% by the end of 2011.