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
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.