A defining moment for the palm oil industry as Unilever breaks link with forest destruction?

Posted by ianduff — 11 December 2009 at 1:34pm - Comments

As world leaders line up in Copenhagen to agree a new climate treaty, we've also been working hard to secure a result that will have a positive impact on the global climate - by protecting Indonesia's forests.

Today we're publicly releasing new evidence that Sinar Mas, Indonesia’s biggest palm oil producer, has been persistently engaging in widespread illegal deforestation and peatland clearance. We presented presented the evidence in this dossier to one of their biggest customers, the giant Unilever corporation. Now Unilever has decided to stop buying palm oil from Sinar Mas.

"What we're seeing here is a major buyer of palm oil using its financial muscle to sanction a supplier for destroying rainforests and clearing peatlands. This has set a new standard for others to follow"
John Sauven, Executive Director, Greenpeace UK

The reasons? Well, not only are Sinar Mas’ operations devastating forest biodiversity, they're also releasing vast amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere through the clearance of forest peatland, which are some of the most carbon rich landscapes in the world. It's activities like this which have helped to push Indonesia to the unenviable position of being the world’s third largest greenhouse gas emitter, after China and the US.

Unilever is the world’s largest consumer of palm oil. As such its announcement is expected to have far reaching implications for the palm oil sector, as other producers and suppliers move to avoid similar sanctions and position themselves as good environmental citizens.

Executives at Unilever confirmed that the evidence against Sinar Mas was now too strong to ignore and action had to follow. Ending contracts with this company is the only way to send strong signals that palm oil consumers want to break the link between the palm oil they use and forests and peatland clearance.

According to Greenpeace Director John Sauven Unilever's decision "could represent a defining moment for the palm oil industry. What we're seeing here is a major buyer of palm oil using its financial muscle to sanction a a supplier for destroying rainforests and clearing peatlands. This has set a new standard for others to follow. Companies that wish to be seen as environmentally responsible must immediately stop sourcing products from the Sinar Mas group."

The Sinar Mas group is a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, an industry association intended to promote environmental sustainability in the palm oil industry. Evidence of Sinar Mas wrongdoing, presented in our report, shows that membership of the RSPO alone is not sufficient proof of a company's environmental credentials.

Sinar Mas is the largest palm oil company in Indonesia and the second largest in the world. It's also behind Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), Indonesia's most notorious paper producer. Greenpeace estimates that the carbon emissions associated with the company's operations in Riau province alone are responsible for 2.5 million tonnes of C02 each year.

Major brands including Nestle, Kraft, and McDonalds continue to buy Sinar Mas palm oil. Other companies such as Proctor and Gamble and Mars, by purchasing palm oil through traders such as Cargill, can't yet confirm that they have suspended all purchases from Sinar Mas. Cargill remains one of Sinar Mas's largest customers. Greenpeace is calling on these companies to follow Unilever's example and remove Sinar Mas from their supply chains immediately.

Read the report - RSPO Greenwash: case studies of Sinar Mas »

Updated 21st January 2010

Thank you Greenpeace for exposing Unilever, however this is just the tip of the iceberg, these big corporations have a lot of hidden agendas and portray to be green on the outside but fail miserably on the inside, what goes on in their boardrooms is different to what is presented to the general public ! Keep up the good work and expose these giants for who they really are.

goldensgreengirl, I'm afraid you didn't read this article properly. Greenpeace has actually exposed a palm oil supplier, Sinar Mas. When informed about this, Unilever accepted the consequences of the information and publicly dropped Sinar Mas as a supplier.

Greenpeace is actually saying that Unilever's behaviour is 'setting a new standard for others to follow'.

It's an easy knee-jerk reaction to shout 'evil' every time you see a large companies name but that's not a constructive attitude. We need to recognize progress with large companies when it's there. And in this case it's clear that Greenpeace is actually commending Unilever.

I do agree with the stand that Unilever are taking at least is a small step, however they have known about Sinar Mas for over 2 years please read this article http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article6952288.ece
They also say they are pledging to buy from only sustainable sources from 2015 !! Surely a HUGE company like them can make the difference sooner.
Sorry but the world cannot wait !

Thanks for your input goldensgreengirl.
I have been doing a bit of research on this and it seems that both Proctor & Gamble and Unilever are guilty, as guilty as HSBC (and Nestle prior to the greenpeace advert!). But what is even more interesting is that I work for one of the UK Wildlife Trusts, I have become very suspicious of thier corporate members list (which includes Proctor & Gamble and Unilever). It seems that they are cashing in on multinational corporations thirst for environmental organisations endorsement of their company, "proving to your clients and customers that you are acknowledging your environmental responsibilities." Bollocks! I wonder how many other well known UK environmental organisations are cashing in on ECOCIDE.
..And at a much bigger scale, check this article out:

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/polluted-b...

Thank you Greenpeace for exposing Unilever, however this is just the tip of the iceberg, these big corporations have a lot of hidden agendas and portray to be green on the outside but fail miserably on the inside, what goes on in their boardrooms is different to what is presented to the general public ! Keep up the good work and expose these giants for who they really are.

goldensgreengirl, I'm afraid you didn't read this article properly. Greenpeace has actually exposed a palm oil supplier, Sinar Mas. When informed about this, Unilever accepted the consequences of the information and publicly dropped Sinar Mas as a supplier. Greenpeace is actually saying that Unilever's behaviour is 'setting a new standard for others to follow'. It's an easy knee-jerk reaction to shout 'evil' every time you see a large companies name but that's not a constructive attitude. We need to recognize progress with large companies when it's there. And in this case it's clear that Greenpeace is actually commending Unilever.

I do agree with the stand that Unilever are taking at least is a small step, however they have known about Sinar Mas for over 2 years please read this article http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article6952288.ece They also say they are pledging to buy from only sustainable sources from 2015 !! Surely a HUGE company like them can make the difference sooner. Sorry but the world cannot wait !

Thanks for your input goldensgreengirl. I have been doing a bit of research on this and it seems that both Proctor & Gamble and Unilever are guilty, as guilty as HSBC (and Nestle prior to the greenpeace advert!). But what is even more interesting is that I work for one of the UK Wildlife Trusts, I have become very suspicious of thier corporate members list (which includes Proctor & Gamble and Unilever). It seems that they are cashing in on multinational corporations thirst for environmental organisations endorsement of their company, "proving to your clients and customers that you are acknowledging your environmental responsibilities." Bollocks! I wonder how many other well known UK environmental organisations are cashing in on ECOCIDE. ..And at a much bigger scale, check this article out: http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/polluted-b...

I do agree with the stand that Unilever are taking at least is a small step, however they have known about Sinar Mas for over 2 years please read this article http://www.profischnell.com ece They also say they are pledging to buy from only sustainable sources from 2015 !! Surely a HUGE company like them can make the difference sooner. Sorry but the world cannot wait !

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I hope other companies will follow Unilever's actions. We should take care of our planet, and make it our top priority. If our planet continues to deter, then we don't have anyone to blame but ourselves.

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Greenpeace is actually saying that Unilever's behaviour is 'setting a
new standard for others to follow'. It's an easy knee-jerk reaction to
shout 'evil' every time you see a large companies name but that's not a
constructive attitude. We need to recognize progress with large
companies when it's there.
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