UPDATED – 3/12/2015: Silk Soy Milk — The Evolution (Or Not) of Corporate Thought

UPDATED 3/12/2015:  Well, because Silk never got back to me from over a MONTH ago, I wrote them again.  This time, I got their attention.  Here’s what they said:

Thank you for your recent email to Silk®.

I am very sorry you have not received a response. In order to provide you with the most accurate information we need to further investigate your inquiry. We apologize for the delayed response but will get back to you as soon as we gather this information.
Thanks again for contacting the Consumer Affairs Department.

Sincerely,
XXXXXXXX
Consumer Connections Representative

Ref: N1971875

So as soon as I get their response from their” further investigation” (how long should that take?), I’ll print their latest response.

UPDATED 2/11/2015 I bought some soymilk today, really craving it.  I know their soybeans are grown in North America, so aren’t deforesting South American rainforests (how about Mexico, though?). But the palm oil thing still bothers me, despite their big touting of RSPO membership below (see the below trail for where I’ve been with Silk). So, I decided to write to them again.  Here’s what I wrote this time:

From where do you source the VAST amounts of palm oil in your products?  In 2013 you touted that you lived by RSPO principles, which is a real yawner, because the RSPO is toothless and hasn’t stopped deforestation or the death of critically endangered species, like the orangutan.  It’s a greenwashing organization so corporations like yours can make yourself appear to be sustainable. Again, what is your CURRENT policy on buying ONLY traceable sustainable palm oil?  I will print your reply on my palm oil blog, as I have been doing for years. I love your product, but HATE PALM OIL.  I will no longer buy your product if you still think being an RSPO member means shit.

I will print their response as SOON as I get it. ___________________________________________________________ PREVIOUS HISTORY Ever since somebody at my gym “pushed” a sample of Silk soy milk on me in 2008, I’ve loved it. Unfortunately, there’s Vitamin A palmitate in it — palm oil. I’m not sure when I became educated about the evils of non-sustainable palm oil, but I guess it was at least around 2008. Concerned by this ingredient then, and prone to memory lapses (obviously), I wrote to Silk’s corporate mothership WhiteWave repeatedly over the years and never posted their responses (not sure why either). This is a great opportunity to see how corporate thought on palm oil has evolved over the years for this company, from a sort of shallow nonchalance, to activist in its apparent need for palm oil sustainability. Why can’t all corporations do right by the environment? From 2008:

Thank you for your recent e-mail to Silk®. We appreciate your interest in our products.

The source of the vitamin a is a combination of palmitic acid and retinol. Vitamin A is naturally preserved. Thanks again for contacting the Consumer Affairs Department.

I pressed further, so they responded with this:

Thank you for your recent e-mail to Silk®. We appreciate your interest in our products.

We use Palm oil as a source of fat/oil in our products. The oil is obtained from the fruit of the palm tree. However, at any given time, new concepts can be developed and tested by consumer focus groups.

Thanks again for contacting the Consumer Affairs Department.

I wrote again in 2012. They responded then with this — a clear change in their sourcing:

We purchase high-quality food grade palm oil from two carefully selected and reputable suppliers, both of which source and produce palm oil products in an ethical and sustainable manner. Additionally, both companies are members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an organization dedicated to the education and promotion of sustainable farming practices from social, economic and environmental perspectives.

The benefits associated with the use of palm oil as a food ingredient include a high content of vitamin E, zero cholesterol and an alternative to oils containing harmful trans fat. For these reasons, palm oil is on track to become the top vegetable oil procured in the world.

With regard to the countries where palm oil is sourced, the economic development to regions with limited or no government assistance is an important factor in determining their viability.

Partnering with producers who value sustainable business is an important part of our company’s mission.

Thanks again for contacting the Consumer Affairs Department.

Not remembering I wrote them a year ago, I wrote again yesterday, here in 2013, wanting to get back to drinking my Silk. They responded with approximately the same pro- sustainable palm oil email as above, but with a tweak (emphasized below):

Thank you for your recent e-mail to Whitewave Foods. We appreciate your interest in our company.

We purchase high-quality food grade palm oil from two carefully selected and reputable suppliers, both of which source and produce palm oil products in an ethical and sustainable manner. Additionally, both companies are members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a 184-member organization dedicated to the education and promotion of sustainable farming practices from social, economic and environmental perspectives. The benefits associated with the use of palm oil as a food ingredient include a high content of vitamin E, zero cholesterol and an alternative to oils containing harmful trans fat. For these reasons, palm oil is on track to become the top vegetable oil procured in the world. With regard to the countries where palm oil is sourced, the economic development to regions with limited or no government assistance is an important factor in determining their viability. Partnering with producers who value sustainable business is an important part of our company’s mission. We hope this information is helpful.

Not sure why the slight update. But I’m happy that WhiteWave/Silk is allegedly purchasing sustainable palm oil. Back to drinking it guilt free? Hopefully. UPDATED 10/7/2013:  Some outstanding news from WhiteWave.  I found this story today:  here it is in a nutshell:

WhiteWave Foods Becomes One of the First U.S. Companies to Source Sustainable Palm Oil with Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil In order to be considered certified sustainable, palm oil must meet eight principles and 39 practical criteria of sustainable production. These principles and criteria are designed to prevent undue environmental and societal harm. “The progress from WhiteWave Foods in converting a verbal commitment to a tangible delivery to ensure that all palm oil used in its products is fully sourced according to rules set by the RSPO deserves praise,” said Darrel Webber, secretary general of the RSPO. “Consumers in the United States of America, and all around the world, are becoming increasingly discerning in their responsible buying decisions. More awareness will be gained as more companies commit to responsible sourcing of sustainable palm oil… Purchasing CSPO through the mass balance system provides an important mechanism to increase demand for CSPO and support the transition to fully segregated CSPO markets in the future,” said John Buchanan, senior director of food security at Conservation International. “Conservation International applauds WhiteWave’s actions and hopes that other companies will follow this example.” WhiteWave also launched Responsible Sourcing Principles, which are designed to provide guidance for the sourcing of ingredients and materials. The Responsible Sourcing Principles are currently being implemented across the company’s North American brands, including Silk, International Delight, Horizon Organic and LAND O LAKES…” http://www.fool.com/investing/businesswire/2013/09/25/whitewave-foods-becomes-one-of-the-first-us-compan.aspx

OK, we still need to be suspicious because we all know the severe lies and shortcomings about RSPO certification.  But hopefully, this will help turn the tide against ANY non-sustainable palm oil.  Hey, it’s something.  I might even go back to drinking Silk!

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5 Responses to UPDATED – 3/12/2015: Silk Soy Milk — The Evolution (Or Not) of Corporate Thought

  1. What about Almond Milk? I go through 1 half gallon a week (I use it in my smoothies and/or vegan protein drinks)? Now I have to check the carton. I sure hope there’s not palm oil otherwise I’m going to be bummed out. I don’t want blood on my hands.

    • Ally says:

      So Delicious is now Palm oil free. New Barn Almond milk is po free. The rest (in the US) usually have Palm oil in them in the form of Vitamin A Palmitate.

  2. Deanne Pace says:

    Just found your blog – love it! I especially love your ‘About’ page – it could very well be my own ‘About’ page. Very inspiring and affirming to find like-minded people out there, even if we are currently in the minority 🙂 Thanks for all you do!

    • Thanks, Deanne! Glad to have a kindred spirit out there. :). I should post more often, I know, but life gets in the way! (Well, not mine, I don’t have a wife or kids but I guess I could say I’m busy at work, if I need an excuse.)

  3. Thanks for this post! This is precisely why I’ve avoided Silk for so long. Too much of a grey area for me. I can’t wait to see how they respond to you, haha…

    Recently, I did a post on Eden Soy (here) and they had informed that they are palm-oil free company. Are you familiar with them? Similarly, MALK is an alternative milk brand in Texas that is palm-oil free but I think that because they have no preservatives, they are just local for now.

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