Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Unilever & the Forests


For many years, forests in the Indonesian islands of Sumatera and Kalimantan have been cut, burned and transformed into Palm Plantations.

In order to slow down destruction of the forests, environmental activists like Walhi and Greenpeace have protested frequently against the Palm Oil Manufacturers, their buyers as well as the Department of Forestry who granted permit for transformation of the forests into commercial plantations.

As a result of those protests, the Food Magazine reported that Unilever as the world's largest buyer of Palm Oil has announced that it is suspending future purchases from Indonesian Palm Oil supplier PT Sinar Mas (SMART). The move followed allegations Smart's plantations are contributing to the destruction of high conservation value forests and expanding onto peat lands.

According to Unilever's Chief Procurement Officer Marc Engel, the company is committed to sustainable sourcing and is taking a stance against a supplier who is accused of breaking the law.

I hope that Unilever's move will be followed by other buyers of Palm Oil, so that our forests can be maintained, and endangered species living there like Orangutan, Tigers and Rhinos can be saved from extinction.

Photo: Courtesy of How Stuffs Works.

2 comments:

colson said...

Being a member of the Dutch "green" political party ( GroenLinks), I could be expected to be jubilant at the news.

Well without any doubt it's a good thing if Unilever twists the arm of an illegal logger. So that's okay, though a little bit late.

However the announcement by the multinational deserves to critical remarks in the margin.

First: what will be done to compensate the numerous small farmers who, as a consequence of the measure, will loose ( a part of) their income?

Secondly: Actually only 5% of the 1.3 million tons of palmoil Unilever uses is from Sinar Mas ( well PT Smart). So it is not a substantial supplier. At the moment 85% of the palmoil Unilever buys each year, is uncertified still.

H. Nizam said...

Colson,

Thanks for the details.

Smart is one of the largest producer of palm based products like palm oil, margarine, etc. therefore they should be able to accommodate palm produced by the small planters.

If only 5% of Unilever's palm is supplied by Smart, and the rest still not certified, then they are only using the Smart case for publicity stunt. Which means that Greenpeace and Indonesia's Walhi should check, and warned them not to fool around.