Unilever drops palm oil supplier over “deforestation” claims

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 14th December 2009

A Greenpeace report claiming that a major supplier of palm oil to Unilever is engaged in illegal deforestation has prompted the company to suspend all future purchases from the company.In a statement released today (11 December), Unilever said that it would not buy palm oil from Indonesia’s PT Smart, part of the Sinar Mas group, until they provide “verifiable proof” that none of their plantations are contributing to the deforestation of “high conservation value” forests and expanding onto peat land.

 

Earlier this year, Unilever commissioned an independent audit of its major palm oil suppliers, which revealed “several areas of concern” relating to the practices of a number of palm oil suppliers.

 

The Anglo-Dutch food giant said that these are being addressed on an individual basis. However, the group continued, new evidence contained in the Greenpeace report prompted Unilever to take “immediate action” against PT Smart.

Unilever’s chief procurement officer Marc Engel explained that the Greenpeace claims were of a nature that Unilever “can’t ignore”.

“Unilever is committed to sustainable sourcing. Therefore, we have notified PT Smart that we have no choice but to suspend our future purchasing of palm oil,” he revealed.

A spokesperson for the group told just-food the move came as a “last resort”.

“Our first choice, and indeed the route we initially took, was to engage and collaborate with Sinar Mas to encourage best practice. Unfortunately, in the light of new evidence from Greenpeace we have had no choice but to suspend purchasing from Sinar Mas. We will continue to engage with other suppliers to work towards creating sustainable practices,” the spokesperson said.

Greenpeace welcomed the move and called on other multinational corporations to follow Unilever’s lead.

“Unilever’s decision could represent a defining moment for the palm oil industry. What we’re seeing here is the world’s largest buyer of palm oil using its financial muscle to sanction suppliers who are destroying rainforests and clearing peatlands,” Greenpeace executive director John Sauven said.

 “This has set a new standard for others to follow. Major corporations that wish to be seen as environmentally responsible must immediately stop using Sinar Mas products in their household brands.”

Greenpeace revealed that a number of food companies, such as Nestle, Kraft Foods and Procter & Gamble use palm oil supplied by Sinar Mas in household products including KitKat, Philadelphia and Pringles.

Sinar Mas is Indonesia’s largest palm oil producer and the second-largest globally.

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