Orang-utans swing into action to stop Dove destroying rainforests for palm oil

Posted by jamie — 21 April 2008 at 8:22am - Comments
All rights reserved. Credit: John Cobb / Greenpeace

Today, we're launching the next stage in our campaign to protect the rainforests of Indonesia from the expansion of the palm oil industry. Our volunteers, dressed as orang-utans, are currently climbing over the London headquarters of the company behind Dove, which uses palm oil as one of its ingredients. Our latest research shows that Unilever, the makers of Dove, is buying palm oil from companies that are destroying valuable rainforest and peatland areas, which is bad news not only for the millions of people who depend on them for their way of life and endangered species such as the orang-utan, but also for the global climate.

Right now, four 'orang-utans' are perched on a balcony at Unilever's headquarters in London, telling passers-by why Dove is responsible for the devastation happening in South East Asia. Down below on the road, a giant billboard mounted on a truck parked below apes (sorry) Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty advertising campaign, and huge speakers are playing jungle noises at top volume. Meanwhile, at a Unilever factory at Port Sunlight near Liverpool, sixty volunteers (many in orang-utan cosutmes) have overrun the premises, decorating the front entrace with a huge banner. The factory makes Persil, which also contains palm oil.

Write to Patrick Cescau, group chief executive, and tell Unilever to clean up its act.

Why Dove and Unilever? For a start, Unilever is one of the largest users of palm oil in the world, funnelling up to one in every 20 litres produced from Indonesia into some of the many well-known brands it owns. This one fact means Unilever has a huge influence on the way palm oil is made.

And being chair of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), Unilever has even more clout. The RSPO is a group of retailers, manufacturers and suppliers whose aim is create standards for the production of sustainable palm oil. But as things are, it's little more than a greenwashing operation because card-carrying members of the RSPO continue to be involved in the destruction of Indonesia's rainforests. The RSPO has developed a certification scheme, but as yet not a drop of certified oil is available, six years after the scheme was set up. Even when certified palm oil becomes available later this year, there is nothing to prevent certified palm oil being blended with non-certified palm oil. This will make it impossible for RSPO members to guarantee that their palm oil does not come from recently deforested areas. Just ask Unilever.

This was documented in the Cooking the Climate report we produced last November and Unilever featured prominently, but since then we've collected fresh evidence of Unilever's role in deforestation. Our latest report, How Unilever's Palm Oil Suppliers Are Burning Up Borneo, details how some of Unilever's key palm oil suppliers - Sinar Mas, Wilmar, Sime Darby and IOI among them - are devastating forest and peatland areas in Central Kalimantan. Not only are millions of people who live in or rely on the forests for their survival being put at risk, but as these areas are destroyed many endangered species are at even greater risk of extinction, including Sumatran tigers, Javan rhinoceroses and orang-utans.

There are also devastating consequences for the climate. As the forests and tropical peatlands of Indonesia are destroyed and converted into oil palm plantations, huge volumes of greenhouse gases are released, accelerating climate change. Indonesia is the third largest emitter of these gases in the world, in large part due to the destruction of its forests at the hands of the palm oil industry.

This is not great going for a company that paints itself as green and responsible: Unilever's website makes a great deal of its efforts to be both environmentally and socially responsible, but when it comes to palm oil the reality is very different.

We want Unilever to clean up its act, not just with the palm oil it uses in Dove but in all its products. To start the ball rolling, we've devised a three-point action plan for Unilever to follow:

  1. support an immediate moratorium on the destruction of rainforest and peatland areas in Indonesia to grow palm oil;
  2. stop trading with palm oil suppliers who are involved in this destruction;
  3. pressure the RSPO to also support a moratorium.

Last year, we threw a spotlight on the environmental catastrophe unfolding in Indonesia; now we're at Unilever's doorstep, demanding that the company uses its power and influence to help bring the devastation to an end. That's why we're currently swinging around on various buildings up and down the country, but we also need your help.

Two years ago, we asked you to persuade McDonald's to stop buying soya grown in newly deforested areas of the Amazon, and it worked, so we'd like you to do the same with Unilever.

Write to Patrick Cescau, group chief executive, and tell Unilever to clean up its act, and we also have some snazzy banners for your website.


Update, 1 May 2008: Success! Thanks for all your emails and photos, because Unilever have agreed to help stop the destruction in Indonesia's rainforests - read the full story.

I understand the need for change I really do. I am also a huge animal lover and I despise animal cruelty in any form. I also understand the need for action, but generally I doubt many people in the Port Sunlight area would have appreciated been woken up at 6.30 am to the sound of jungle calls.

It has left me with a quite negative feeling towards Greenpeace when really I should be positive.

This isn't to say I don't support the action against Unilever and its destruction of the rainforests in Indonesia, I just felt it was an unnecessary way of getting a point across. Some of us work long hours and late hours, and regardless of the motive, it has just annoyed me.

The sound system was only at Unilever's headquarters in Blackfriars, which isn't a residential area. I'm still waiting to hear detailed reports, but I think the Port Sunlight event was a much quieter affair.

web editor
gpuk

A guy from a few doors up had to come out and tell them to turn down the megaphone, as it was that loud at 6.30am that it woke everyone up.

It was far from a quiet affair at 6.30am, now at 9.21am with the media circus its quieter than it was.

I think the action is an great way of making the point. Because we are saturated in images and words, using sound in this way is effective - as well as the strong image of apes up on the roof! Although I'd temporarily sympathise if anyone was woken up at 6.30am (which appears not to be the case, as it wasn't in a residential area) it seems petty to complain about a short-lived side-effect, considering what is at stake. People would be far more pissed off if they were woken by floods in their homes, which as we all know is already happening in many places - a direct consequence of climate change, worsened by deforestation like that we're seeing in Indonesia.

Excuse me, do you want me to send you a picture of me outside my house and the 10 yards to the factory?

Our houses are also listed buildings, meaning the front windows can't have any double glazing, so it was literally like the jungle calls were in our house!

I am seeing the bigger picture, and I do support the action, I have already emailed this guy you all want me to email (even though I got an Out of Office message from someone who wasn't the CEO) - but I don't think kicking off about having monkey calls in my ear at 6.30am is being petty.

I have been working 10 hours a day for the last 3 days, I have to go to work today for another 10 hours, and the same tomorrow. So excuse me if I was a little annoyed at being woken up.

I'm not attacking you. Sure, I absolutely know how annoying it is to be woken up when you work hard. But will it matter in a year? In six months?
I stand by my opinion. What if you were having to bail water out of your front room at 6.30am? It could happen. That's all i can say.

Sorry Nick, from the wording of your first message I took it to mean you weren't in the area, but were speaking up on behalf of Port Sunlight residents. I hadn't realised megaphones were being used. But xini has a point that it's a one-off disruption which will hopefully have far-reaching consequences.

And thanks for taking part in the campaign - the results should be worth the early start :)

web editor
gpuk

It won't matter in a year no, but my first impression of Greenpeace this morning wasn't a positive one, and surely what Greenpeace is all about is positive action.

The fact that they turned down their megaphones on the request of a disgruntled member of the public proves that they accepted that what they initially done was wrong and disrespectful to people who live in this area.

Without sounding like someone who doesn't care (which isn't the case) I don't live in an area where I would need to bail water out of my house. I also doubt that this action will have any kind of effect on the environments surge towards disaster.

I work in an industry where first impressions count, and at the moment mine is a negative one, and you are just elevating that impression.

Its about first impressions, negative and positive. My first impression was a negative and an angry one. If your group felt that they were justified in using extremely loud megaphones at 6.30am then why did they turn them down?

You seem to have made up your mind to be angry, so perhaps there's nothing I can say. But really - I personally am elevating a negative impression of an organisation I don't represent, by giving my opinion?

My first message was written before I saw your second, so that contained a mistake - I accept that it was noisy where you live. Otherwise, I have not said anything against you but you seem to be taking it personally.

I see no point in arguing any further. I've had my say and so have you. Have a good day, I genuinely wish you all the best.

@Xini,

Oh I'm not arguing, I just think there are ways of doing things, and ways of not doing things. I hadn't taken it personally - just felt bull in a china shop approach wasn't required.

I'm not angry now, but I do have a negative view on some of the protesters.

The way they went about it was arrogant and completely selfish against the people who live here. We don't live in Indonesia and not many people in Port Sunlight are aware of the problems, I just felt that getting everyone up at an unreasonable hour was, well unreasonable.

Out of interest, does Greenpeace protest at the Indonesian government? Maybe I'm a little naive but surely their government has control over what produce is removed from their shores.

The first thing I saw on exit from Blackfriars were the orang-utans. I could see them draped over the Unilever building, some lying upside down with their legs in the air - we could all hear the screeching coming from loud speakers. At that point I would bet that hardly anyone knew what Unilever had done or why these people had dressed up and gone to such lengths. They were quite a spectacle, lorries slowed, cab drivers gawped and office workers laughed at it - but did anyone know what Unilever had done? Well.. we all do now and I can report that many of us are now reading about Unilever buying its palm oil for companies destroying the Indonesian rainforests. Well I sprayed dove under my arms this morning, and I washed my face with Dove soap, not to mention my Dove shower lotion. But I wont be buying Dove again, and I will be watching and learning all about this now. So well done to Greenpeace, to the Orang-Utans and bah humbug to all those "locals" who begrudge them their moment, in one morning they have achieved so much, they may not be here tomorrow but they have made a hugely important point.

The houses here are at most 10 metres from the main entrance to the site, I can assure you. The noise this morning was terrifying, believe me.

I fully support greenpeace in this protest - I just think it could have been a little more considerate at the port sunlight site perhaps?

Nick, indeed we are working on the Indonesian front. Aside from all the activity in Sumatra at the tail end of last year, there was conference this morning in Jakarta to launch the new report. The Indonesian government does have a large part to play, but it's also keen to expand its palm oil industry so we need to tackle the problem at this end as well.

web editor
gpuk

Good video on the BBC site which includes an interview with Greenpeace campaign Sarah Shoraka, a statement from Unilever and a talented Orang-utan: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7358971.stm

Why do people care so much about being woken up a little bit earlier by jungle noises? I mean, it's not exactly harming you and it's hopefully doing some good in helping to stop rainforest reduction! I'm sure my family has been using Dove's products for a while but after seeing this peaceful protest I don't see why I should buy off them ever again..

click the link below

Stop Buying Dove !!

I love animals and the enviroment more than anything. I've created this group to try and help spread the word faster through the modern media.

Lets all make a difference..

Thank you so much for bringing this to my attention Greenpeace!!

Regards

Matt

@Abbo92,

Because 6.30am, is early when you have been working till 2am, and are doing a 12 hour shift the next day.

It showed a lack of respect for the residents of the village, many of whom probably support Greenpeace in their actions, just not the way it was announced.

I epect you are in your nice cosy, warm, comfortable bed now, sleeping quite soundly especially after being woken up so rudely after working for 10-12 hours, and making your point about being woken up from your sleep at 6.30 in the morning. So where are the Orang-utans sleeping, apart from the fact that they have nowhere, when they do find some place to sleep, what time are they being woken up by chain saws, timber moving machines, bark strippers and the like. and while you are tucking in to your usual brekky, how far do they have to go to find food. just remember they were on the earth before humans xcept they can't grizzle and whinge like we can.

I accept your point, but two wrongs don't make a right now do they?

Are any of you people listening?

Its all about impressions, and first ones that count!!! For me and many people it was a negative impression because nobody knew what the hell was going on. Port Sunlight is a very sleepy village, nothing much happens here.

I have to also reiterate, if the protesters were not in the wrong for blasting out their megaphones, why did they turn them down?

Okay, I think we've established it's a matter of perspective. And Nick, I spoke earlier to Andy, one of our campaigners who was in Port Sunlight yesterday morning, and you're quite right. He said they quickly realised it was a residential area so they turned the megaphones down; it was something that was missed in the planning and a mistake because our beef is with Unilever, not those that happen to live nearby. Please accept our apologies.

web editor
gpuk

The activity in Port Sunlight has been great for raising awareness to the issues here. I am an animal lover, in particular the orangutan and have even been to Borneo myself to see them. I was aware of the problems surrounding palm oil plantations and yet had no idea that Unilever were such a major offender and influencer in the growth of this industry. Up until yesterday I even used Dove products in ignorance of the issues surrounding this. Due to the activity in Port Sunlight and subsequent media coverage I am now fully aware of the implications and have not only stopped using Dove products (and Persil) but am now educated as to how I can get involved with taking action on this subject.
I think an early morning wake up call for everyone, not just those in Port Sunlight! Well done Greenpeace.

@Jamie,

Thanks mate, it is appreciated. I do hope that it can be sorted, I believe Unilever are going to take steps, so that's good.

Click onto the Unilever site and there is a whole swag of products not just Dove and Persil. if we all stopped using them ,well just Imagine!!!!

Can you explain how the loss of generating power from nuclear fuels can be replaced? Wind energy is a joke. Insulation will not save a significant amount given the nature of the existing housing stock. Tidal power has environmental problems. Coal energy with sequestration is beyond the imagination of the profit system as is geothermal energy. Biofuels are just a means of exploiting much needed farming land. Wild life around the one serious peacetime nuclear accident is thriving because man has been removed from the equation. We need a very serious look at the extremely wasteful lifestyle that has evolved before the planet takes its revenge. Bill Mathieson

First off, we have a film (and a huge amount of discussion) on nuclear vs genuinely sustainable energy here, and a virtual city laying out our energy vision here.

To summarise though, the largest source of emissions in the UK isn't from electricity but from heat. Nuclear only generates electricity and won't replace the vast amounts of natural gas we use for heating.

We need a sensible system that will slash emissions from both electricity production and heat production - a mixture of efficiency, combined heat and power (CHP) and renewables.

We could be producing huge amounts of electricity from renewables (between them, wind, wave and tidal power could deliver more than twice as much electricity than the new fleet of nuclear reactors - and the renewables would be built more quickly). We could produce both heat and electricity from CHP. And, as you say, efficiency is vital (every year, we throw away more than eight times the amount of energy supplied by all of the UK's nuclear power stations combined).

It's political will that's stopping us.

Fair points on coal and unsustainable biofuels.

Cheers,

Bex
gpuk

Unilever have said on their website that, as yet, there's no sustainable palm oil available on the world market.

But The Body Shop apparently use sustainable palm oil from a certified producer in Colombia (Daabon) - and manage to make 14.5 million bars of soap from it.

Do Unilever not know or are they lying?

Oh how absolutely brilliant. Greenpeace use noise pollution to get a point across. Hypocrites as usual.
Strange that man is an animal and yet Greenpeace seem intent on causing that particular breed as many problems as possible. Greenpeace would rather see 200 families starving.

Surely Greenpeace should forget about sustainable palm oil for soap and instead campaign to have it replaced by tallow?

Take a minute to ask yourself the question what do I mean when I use the term 'Sustainable'?

I believe Unilever refer to the RSPO principles and criteria as a definition of sustainable palm oil. Can you explain the definition of ‘sustainable’ when referring to the oil sourced from Colombia (Daabon)?

A perspective question to finish with. How many tonnes of palm oil are required to make 14.5 million bars of soap?

I presume it means "not involving new deforestation". Certainly there are vast quantities of palm oil produced in places like peninsular Malaysia which have been plantations for a century or more.

I find the focus on use of palm oil for soap very odd - biofuels is surely a far greater issue now? What should soap be made of? It has been made of vegetable oils for centuries.

I suppose whale blubber could be used to make soap; but can see some scope for objection there too.

As to "How many tonnes of palm oil are required to make 14.5 million bars of soap?"; a bar of soap is ~100g; so assuming oil is the largest constituent by mass; about 1 million kilos; or 1000 tonnes. Measured in terms of the tankers that deliver petrol; about 30 tankers-full.

Palm oil yields about 250kg/hectare. So for 1000 tonnes you need a plantation 4 miles by 4 miles.

Whilst deforestation forms part of the defination of sustainability the RSPO goes further including social,economic and legal to protect the indeginous population of palm oil growing regions. These are concerns which don't seem to get any media coverage.

Visit the website www.rspo.org for further information. One other point Greenpeace appear to have ommitted from their commentary that the RSPO is a multi-stakeholder organisation not only involving members of the palm oil industry but also leading NGO's covering environmental and social concerns.

I also would comment on the yield of palm oil produced per hectare, I believe the average yield is nearer 4mt/hect.

Having revisited my source (wiki) I see that it is you, Real world, who is in the real world; and that I am guilty of over-hasty reading, having leapt to the end without checking the start.

"For each hectare of oil palm, which is harvested year-round, the annual production averages 10 tonnes of fruit, which yields 3,000 kg of pericarp oil, and 750 kg of seed kernels, which yield 250 kg of high quality palm kernel oil as well as 500 kg of kernel meal."

So my "4 miles square" was wrong by a factor of 16 and should be ONE mile square. If that is the total volume in issue it seems too trivial for words.

I have emailed Proctor & Gamble, Nestle and Kraft the following and thought other members might like to do the same to let them know of customer feeling:-

"Please can you tell me which of your products contain PALM OIL so that I, my family and friends can avoid buying them as we do not wish to contribute to the destruction of the Indonesian rainforest. Also, what are your plans to remove palm oil from your products and what will you replace it with?"

Contact details are on the company web sites.

I am glad this campaign helped to stop the destruction of the rainforest. The consequences would have been dramatic otherwise. You guys are doign an amazing job. Thanks

This is an interesting website related to rainforest projects: www.rainforestsos.org.

The Palm Oil situation has recently become a massive concern for me. But after all the amazing work Greenpeace and similar are doing (in no way underestimating that - perhaps no rainforest left if it wasn't for them), i am still finding it completely impossible to do any shopping, even with some knowledge of P.Oil and by spending longer at the shops. ie:

I have purchased so called ECO products only to find that some contain P.O.
I have purchased 'Sustainable' labelled products only to find this has nothing to do with not containing P.O. What is sustainable about that?
Half the contents of my kitchen probably contains P.O. because of lack of honest labelling.
Half the Christmas presents i will recieve will contain it!
The people i work with don't have a clue about P.O. and how can i tell them and not give them ideas on what to buy when i cannot get to the bottom of this myself?
Its no use me making it a personal battle to source P.O. free products when the majority of consumers are buying, unwittingly, from the local Asda etc.

Honest Labelling right now please?
Big companies should be loud and proud about their 'non P.O. products - if they really cared.......and label it so.

This is a scam and if even half the general public knew what was going on then Supermarkets might act responsibly and DEMAND changes on our behalf.
Cally

I understand the need for change I really do. I am also a huge animal lover and I despise animal cruelty in any form. I also understand the need for action, but generally I doubt many people in the Port Sunlight area would have appreciated been woken up at 6.30 am to the sound of jungle calls. It has left me with a quite negative feeling towards Greenpeace when really I should be positive. This isn't to say I don't support the action against Unilever and its destruction of the rainforests in Indonesia, I just felt it was an unnecessary way of getting a point across. Some of us work long hours and late hours, and regardless of the motive, it has just annoyed me.

The sound system was only at Unilever's headquarters in Blackfriars, which isn't a residential area. I'm still waiting to hear detailed reports, but I think the Port Sunlight event was a much quieter affair. web editor gpuk

A guy from a few doors up had to come out and tell them to turn down the megaphone, as it was that loud at 6.30am that it woke everyone up. It was far from a quiet affair at 6.30am, now at 9.21am with the media circus its quieter than it was.

I think the action is an great way of making the point. Because we are saturated in images and words, using sound in this way is effective - as well as the strong image of apes up on the roof! Although I'd temporarily sympathise if anyone was woken up at 6.30am (which appears not to be the case, as it wasn't in a residential area) it seems petty to complain about a short-lived side-effect, considering what is at stake. People would be far more pissed off if they were woken by floods in their homes, which as we all know is already happening in many places - a direct consequence of climate change, worsened by deforestation like that we're seeing in Indonesia.

Excuse me, do you want me to send you a picture of me outside my house and the 10 yards to the factory? Our houses are also listed buildings, meaning the front windows can't have any double glazing, so it was literally like the jungle calls were in our house! I am seeing the bigger picture, and I do support the action, I have already emailed this guy you all want me to email (even though I got an Out of Office message from someone who wasn't the CEO) - but I don't think kicking off about having monkey calls in my ear at 6.30am is being petty. I have been working 10 hours a day for the last 3 days, I have to go to work today for another 10 hours, and the same tomorrow. So excuse me if I was a little annoyed at being woken up.

I'm not attacking you. Sure, I absolutely know how annoying it is to be woken up when you work hard. But will it matter in a year? In six months? I stand by my opinion. What if you were having to bail water out of your front room at 6.30am? It could happen. That's all i can say.

Sorry Nick, from the wording of your first message I took it to mean you weren't in the area, but were speaking up on behalf of Port Sunlight residents. I hadn't realised megaphones were being used. But xini has a point that it's a one-off disruption which will hopefully have far-reaching consequences. And thanks for taking part in the campaign - the results should be worth the early start :) web editor gpuk

It won't matter in a year no, but my first impression of Greenpeace this morning wasn't a positive one, and surely what Greenpeace is all about is positive action. The fact that they turned down their megaphones on the request of a disgruntled member of the public proves that they accepted that what they initially done was wrong and disrespectful to people who live in this area. Without sounding like someone who doesn't care (which isn't the case) I don't live in an area where I would need to bail water out of my house. I also doubt that this action will have any kind of effect on the environments surge towards disaster. I work in an industry where first impressions count, and at the moment mine is a negative one, and you are just elevating that impression.

Its about first impressions, negative and positive. My first impression was a negative and an angry one. If your group felt that they were justified in using extremely loud megaphones at 6.30am then why did they turn them down?

You seem to have made up your mind to be angry, so perhaps there's nothing I can say. But really - I personally am elevating a negative impression of an organisation I don't represent, by giving my opinion? My first message was written before I saw your second, so that contained a mistake - I accept that it was noisy where you live. Otherwise, I have not said anything against you but you seem to be taking it personally. I see no point in arguing any further. I've had my say and so have you. Have a good day, I genuinely wish you all the best.

@Xini, Oh I'm not arguing, I just think there are ways of doing things, and ways of not doing things. I hadn't taken it personally - just felt bull in a china shop approach wasn't required. I'm not angry now, but I do have a negative view on some of the protesters. The way they went about it was arrogant and completely selfish against the people who live here. We don't live in Indonesia and not many people in Port Sunlight are aware of the problems, I just felt that getting everyone up at an unreasonable hour was, well unreasonable. Out of interest, does Greenpeace protest at the Indonesian government? Maybe I'm a little naive but surely their government has control over what produce is removed from their shores.

About Jamie

I'm one of the editors of the website, and I do a lot of work on the Get Active section, as well as doing web stuff for the forests campaign. I've worked for Greenpeace since 2006 and, coming from a background as a freelance writer and web producer, it's been something of an education to be part of a direct action organisation. I'm from Cumbria originally but now I live in north London - I came to study here and somehow have never left.

My personal mumblings can be found @shrinkydinky.

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