US food giant Kellogg has defended its joint venture with Wilmar International following claims the Singapore-based agri-giant is involved in illegal palm oil activities.

A report published by the WWF last month, entitled Palming off a National Park, revealed that Wilmar was found to be involved in the trade of a oil palm fruit illegally grown inside the Tesso Nilo forest complex in Sumatra. The report was based on an investigation carried out between February 2011 to April 2012.

The report triggered a petition by consumer activist group Sum of Us calling on Kellogg to end its joint venture with Wilmar.

“It’s easy to produce deforestation-free palm oil, but companies like Wilmar are cutting corners to avoid basic sustainability standards (and they’re getting away with it due to widespread corruption). Under intense consumer pressure, Kellogg agreed to some sustainability guidelines for its palm oil purchases. But now it’s giving billions of dollars worth of business to Wilmar, a company that’s sourced palm oil from natural parks and other protected areas.

“If Kellogg can’t reign in its business partner, this deal could wipe away the impact of all its sustainability initiatives.”

The activists said Kellogg’s needs to insist its business partner stop cutting down the rainforest altogether.

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Kellogg, however, defended its position and said it “recognises and respects” concerns about the sustainability of palm oil and has gone to “great lengths” to ensure it is doing its part on this issue.

“We use a very small percentage of the global supply of palm oil, palm oil represents a very small percentage of our total ingredients, and most of our cereals do not contain it,” said Diane Holdorf, chief sustainability officer of Kellogg.

“As part of our commitment with the Consumer Goods Forum to help achieve zero net deforestation by 2020, we have made aggressive changes to our sourcing of palm oil since 2011. Today, all of the palm oil we use is 100% sustainably sourced through a combination of GreenPalm certificates, mass balance and segregated sustainably grown supply. Kellogg is committed to continuing to doing our part on this important issue by working toward the development of a sustainable palm oil supply that is environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable.”