The areas razed to the ground include 25,000 hectares of habitations in Indonesia that are home to the critically endangered orangutan.
Mondelez, which is one of the world’s biggest buyers of palm oil, uses it in many of its most popular products, including Cadbury and Roses chocolates, Oreos and Ritz crackers.
The new investigation, carried out through mapping Indonesia, discovered that between 2015 and 2017, 22 of the company’s palm oil suppliers cleared at least 70,000 hectares of rainforest – an area bigger than the City of Chicago, where Mondelez is based.
In a 31-page report detailing the supply chains of the main brands the charity says are responsible for destruction, Greenpeace points the finger largely at the producer of some of Britain’s favourite chocolates and snacks.
The report says that although Mondelez claims to have been purchasing entirely responsible palm oil since 2013, “in practice almost 95 per cent of the palm oil it buys is covered by ‘book-and-claim’ certificates – by far the weakest of the certification models offered by the main palm oil industry body, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)”.
“This means that the plantations and producer groups from which the overwhelming majority of the palm oil that Mondelez purchases is sourced are not governed by any sustainability initiatives,” the study claims.
Greenpeace’s campaign against destructive palm oil hit the headlines over the weekend when a video that Iceland repurposed for a Christmas advert was banned from television for being “political”.
Campaigners have warned “it’s now or never” for Indonesia’s critically endangered orangutans, which are being killed at a rate of 25 a day as natural vegetation is bulldozed to make way for palm plantations.
In September this year Greenpeace International published Final Countdown, a report that showed Mondelez was sourcing palm oil from 22 of 25 destructive producer groups. “Alarmingly, these are just the cases that Greenpeace was able to identify – Mondelez sources from hundreds of palm oil companies and this destruction is likely just the tip of the iceberg,” it said.
Kiki Taufik, head of Greenpeace Southeast Asia’s Indonesia forests campaign, said: “It’s outrageous that despite promising to clean up its palm oil almost 10 years ago, Mondelez is still trading with forest destroyers.
“Palm oil can be made without destroying forests, yet our investigation discovered that Mondelez suppliers are still trashing forests and wrecking orangutan habitat, pushing these beautiful and intelligent creatures to the brink of extinction.
“They’re literally dying for a biscuit.”
Bornean orangutan numbers have halved in 16 years, studies show, and both the Sumatran and newly discovered Tapanuli orangutan lost more than half their habitat between 1985 and 2007.
All three species are classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as critically endangered, along with the Sumatran tiger and Sumatran rhino.
A spokeswoman for Mondelez International told The Independent the company was committed to eradicating deforestation in the palm oil supply and it was actively working with suppliers to ensure palm oil was fully traceable.
“We’re calling on our suppliers to further map and monitor the plantations where oil is grown so we can drive further traceability. We’re excluding 12 upstream suppliers from our supply chain who have not met our standards.
“For many years we have been calling for 100 per cent sustainable and we’re making good progress on our palm oil action plan.
“This includes actionable steps to ensure the palm oil we buy is produced on legally held land, does not lead to deforestation or loss of peat land, respects human rights and does not use forced or child labour.
“At the end of 2017, 96 per cent of our palm oil was traceable back to mill and 99 per cent was from suppliers with policies aligned to ours.”
She added that Mondelez was calling on suppliers to improve practices and to engage third-party suppliers to ensure production was fully sustainable and traceable.
“We will continue to prioritise suppliers that meet our principles, and exclude those that don’t,” she said.