Connecting the dots: The link between Head & Shoulders and buried orangutans

by Joao Talocchi

February 26, 2014


Orangutans are fascinating animals. They make and use simple tools as branches to collect honey, search for insects, reach fruits that are a bit too far out. They use large leaves as umbrellas to protect their skin from the sun or rain and small leaves as napkins or gloves. What’s even more incredible is that some behaviors are present in some orangutan populations but not in others, a sign that some scientists link to learned traditions, or a very basic form of “culture”. And while orangutans are not the most social of apes, it is believed that only humans have a more intense relationship with their mothers.

Orangutan Feeding Platform near Tanjung Puting National Park

But one specific behavior hasn’t been reported in any orangutan population so far. Burying their dead.

So when, in August 2013, a Greenpeace International investigation with Friends of National Parks Foundation (FNPF) documented an orangutan skull that had been buried in a shallow grave just a few meters away from the edge of a palm oil concession, we knew there was only one species to blame. Humans.

Orangutan bones inside an oil palm plantation owned by PT Bumilanggeng Perdanatrada,

Orangutan bones inside an oil palm plantation owned by PT Bumilanggeng Perdanatrada.

This prompt a police investigation by the provincial police, and no firm conclusions can be drawn as to which humans are responsible until the authorities make their conclusions known. What is even more worrying is that further remains have been found within that same plantation’s land as recently as November 2013 and that this is not an isolated case. Orangutan and other wildlife populations have declined quickly in the last 50 years. In Sumatra, orangutan populations are quickly declining and there are as few as 400 Sumatran Tigers left.


Greenpeace continued to investigate recent cases of deforestation, habitat destruction, forest fires and other abuses by some of the players in the palm oil industry and today we released the results of those investigations. These 10 cases are a small window to a twisted reality. Indonesia’s forests are disappearing at a rate of about 140 Olympic swimming pools every hour to clear land for palm oil cultivation!

A network of access roads on former orangutan habitat.

A network of access roads on former orangutan habitat.

And know what… we might all be, unknowingly, a part of this. Our investigation shows that Procter & Gamble buys from several companies whose palm oil comes from controversial plantations connected to widespread forest devastation. This means that every time you and your family reach for a bottle of Head & Shoulders, Gillette shaving cream or Wella, from the supermarket shelf to the bathroom cabinet, P&G is making you a part of this scandal.

tophat half

Palm oil is a common ingredient in detergents, shampoos, cosmetics and other household goods that the company manufactures. That’s not to say palm oil is the problem, but palm oil from forest destruction dirty palm oil is.

Our analysis of the company’s sourcing policies mean that the palm oil in its supply chain could be coming from companies linked to forest fires and habitat destruction that is pushing the Indonesia’s wildlife ever closer to extinction.

Excavators clear forest inside a palm oil concession

Excavators clear forest inside a palm oil concession

Can P&G do anything to change this? The answer is yes. Actually, other companies are already moving to eliminate forest destruction from their supply chains. Among them are P&G competitors, Unilever and L’Oreal, which have committed to removing deforestation from its supply chain, as well as Kellogg’s, Ferrero and Nestl.

But don’t be fooled! Procter & Gamble will say they are committed to 100% sustainable palm oil by 2015. The problem is that, in this case, the word sustainable has been sequestered. Procter & Gamble’s commitment is to source 100% certified palm oil from a certification given out to members of the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). The problem is that the companies identified in our investigations as forest destroyers are members of the RSPO.

Greenpeace has confronted P&G for the last eight months with how it is exposing consumers to forest destruction. Instead of taking urgent action it is trying to greenwash its actions. It’s time Head & Shoulders commits 100% to forest protection and stop making its customers a part of the Sumatran tiger’s and orangutan’s extinction.

Tambling Wildlife Nature Conservation

You can be a part of this! Join us in our call to end forest destruction and keep it away from our homes. Already over 200,000 people have joined the movement demanding forest-friendly products. Now tell P&G to clean up its act and Protect Paradise!

Thank you!





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