At the request of shareholders and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, Panera Bread Company has become one of the first restaurant chains to promise to use only responsibly and sustainably sourced palm oil, Panera announced.

The company has pledged to use 100 percent sustainably grown and harvested palm oil and its derivatives by 2016.   

The new food policy includes three areas of focus: clean ingredients, transparent menu and positive impact, says Panera. Panera says it believes customers deserve to know where their food ingredients come from and how the restaurant is impacting the environment.

Panera will demand verification that the palm oil it uses will not contribute to the degradation of peat lands; that the palm oil plantation owners do not have significant conflicts related to the land; that the suppliers are not engaged in child labor, human trafficking or slavery; and that they support the protection of indigenous rights.

Sister Sue Ernster of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, the lead filer of a shareholder proposal on palm oil at Panera, says, “As a community of Catholic women, we are concerned about the least of our brothers and sisters and the integrity of creation. When it is not sourced sustainably, [the] palm oil [industry] is known to have devastating impacts, including deforestation and forced child labor. We are gratified to see that through our engagement, management is formally recognizing the importance of sourcing sustainable palm oil."