How NY's pension is making Dunkin' Donuts more sustainable

Here's a way shareholders in the U.S. can make a difference in agriculture and treatment of the natural environment around the world.

New York owns about $1.9 million in Dunkin' Brands stock.  According to the Associated Press, and other news outlets,  state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has used the  leverage of the state pension fund to push Dunkin' Donuts' to change its palm oil purchases.

The company has now agreed to source its palm oil from sustainable sources.

Palm oil is derived from the palm fruit, which is grown on the African oil palm tree.

A palm oil field in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. Photo: Angela Sevin CC

The website says that while oil palms originated in West Africa, they can flourish wherever it's hot and rainy.  Almost all palm oil today is produced in Indonesia and Malaysia, and is exported to companies like Dunkin' Donuts.  They've got a pretty comprehensive list of what products contain palm oil.  The problem is that tens of thousands of acres of pristine rainforest is:

 "…slashed and burned in order to make way for oil palm plantations. Many orangutans and other animals are killed in the process, for the production of palm oil used in many of our everyday foods and products. This large-scale deforestation is pushing orangutans to extinction, along with many other native species of Borneo and Sumatra."

The Union of Concerned Scientists says it's also a big contributor to climate change.

"Tropical deforestation accounts for about 15 percent of global warming pollution in the world today—which is more than the heat-trapping emissions from all the cars, trucks, ships, and planes on earth combined"

DiNapoli says the Dunkin' Brands Group plans to set a target date for either sourcing 100-percent of its palm oil from sustainable sources, or purchasing off-set certificates for palm oil that is not sustainably sourced.

The Massachusetts-based parent company of Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin-Robbins joins a growing number of chains making similar pledges.

Dunkin' Brands says they take the issue seriously and have been engaged with it for some time.

DiNapoli, who is the trustee of New York's pension fund, is withdrawing a shareholder resolution that asked the company to address the social and environmental concerns associated with palm oil production.


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