Usumacinta River, 2013 - the Pasión River is a tributary of the Usumacinta
Nestlé, the world’s largest food and drinks company, has announced that it will cease commercial ties with Reforestadora de Palma del Petén SA (REPSA), a Guatemalan oil palm firm connected to environmental degradation, corruption and obstruction of justice, by September.
The move by Nestlé follows that of US agribusiness giant Cargill, which suspended its business relationship with REPSA in November last year.
As reported by Earthsight last June, REPSA’s oil palm plantation in Sayaxché, Peten province, has been linked to a massive toxic spill in Guatemala’s Pasión River, which killed thousands of fish and destroyed the plant life in the river.
According to a report published by Oxfam last year, the spill impacted the food security of thousands of local families. Oxfam’s analysis highlighted the efforts made by REPSA to stall the official investigation called for in a court judgement, which had ordered REPSA to suspend its operations pending the investigation.
The report also showed that REPSA had not taken any action to ensure that affected communities had access to any kind of compensation or remedy, and that local activists had faced intimidation, threats and defamation campaigns.
Friend of the Earth has called Nestlé’s decision “a victory for all the activists who have fought for years to bring REPSA’s actions to light”. However, it lamented the fact that the company had taken so long to sever its ties with REPSA, a decision that came only after the Guatemalan firm was charged with corruption and bribery earlier this month.
According to Friends of the Earth, Colgate-Palmolive, Conagra Brands, Dunkin’ Brands, Grupo Bimbo, The Hershey Company, Kellogg Company, The Kraft Heinz Company, Krispy Kreme, Mars, Mondelēz, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble and Unilever are among the brands that “may still be sourcing from REPSA or from suppliers that continue to do business with REPSA or the company’s parent conglomerate, Grupo Hame/Grupo Olmeca”.
The organisation has called on all companies still sourcing palm oil from REPSA to cancel their contracts with the company.