The Greenpeace campaign
in Europe (that started with the Dove parody
) to get Unilever to stop using the rainforest damaging palm oil has returned quick results.
Despite insisting a week ago that they wouldn’t be bounced into taking action, Unilever boss, Patrick Cescau performed a swift about turn today and announced that his company is supporting our call for a moratorium – a complete halt – on rainforest destruction in Indonesia.
A moratorium would buy time, and allow proper regulations to be put in place that protect the rainforest in years to come. Unilever’s announcement is potentially good news for orang-utans and for the climate.
Speaking at the May Day Climate Change Summit attended by Prince Charles and the UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, he also promised that all of Unilever’s palm oil would be sustainably sourced by 2015. Although we’ve already warned him that promises of sustainable palm oil will amount to nothing unless Unilever’s suppliers stop trashing Indonesia’s rainforests. Now we want to see some of the other big palm oil buyers, like Nestle and Procter & Gamble, join with Unilever to create change on the ground.
Only last week, we launched a new campaign asking Unilever, the company behind some of the world’s most famous brands including Dove, to join us in pushing for a moratorium on rainforest destruction in Indonesia.
Early morning Monday April 21st, Unilever’s workers in the UK, the Netherlands and Italy, were greeted by our very own screeching orang-utans clambering over their headquarters. The orang-utans aim? To highlight one of the biggest environmental crimes of our time – the destruction of their homes for, amongst other things, our beauty products.
The destruction of the world’s rainforests and peatlands to make way for increased palm-oil plantations is driving climate change and pushing species, such as the orang-utan, to the brink of extinction. Every time rainforest is trashed, huge amounts of greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere. The destruction of rainforests accounts for a fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions – that’s more than all the planes, trains and cars in the world.
Tens of thousands of people joined in by signing our open letter to Dove, contacting Unilever directly and spreading the word.
Palm oil and forest destruction
Rampant expansion of palm oil plantations is the leading cause of rainforest destruction in Indonesia. Unilever, as the world’s biggest consumer of palm oil, is driving this expansion and as a result is fuelling rainforest destruction. For every 20 litres of palm oil produced in Indonesia, one litre ends up in Unilever’s hands.
The main problem is that Unilever continues to buy palm oil from dodgy suppliers who burn rainforest and drain peatlands that are protected under Indonesian law to clear space for more plantations. Having lost their homes, orang-utans are forced to look elsewhere for food and often palm plantations are the nearest source. It’s estimated that over 1600 orang-utans were killed on palm oil plantations in 2006 alone.
To coincide with the launch of the campaign we published a new report – ‘How Unilever’s suppliers are Burning up Borneo’ - containing new evidence from field research carried out by Greenpeace which showing the devastating effect that the palm oil sector is having on biodiversity. By mapping out areas controlled by Unilever’s suppliers, the report explains how the companies with direct links are now clearing the last remaining orang-utan habitats.
So, where now for our campaign? Well, whilst we think Unilever has made a good first step, we need to keep up the pressure to make sure that they stop trading with rainforest destroying suppliers and more importantly that some of the other big companies, like Nestle and Procter & Gamble get onboard.
They need to act fast – orang-utan numbers have already declined by 90 percent and time to save the climate is running out. It’s going to take serious and fast action by the big corporate players, like Unilever, as well as the political clout of governments to deliver the sorts of changes we need to see. With your help, we'll continue to keep up the pressure on Unilever and other companies to make sure we see real action on the ground and an end to rainforest destruction.