Unilever to stop buying palm oil from Indonesia

Palm Fruit harvest in Indonesia

Palm Fruit harvest in Indonesia

Top consumer goods manufacturer Unilever has reportedly told dealers to stop buying palm oil from Indonesian planter Duta Palma due to concerns over rainforest destruction.

Unilever, who has been one of the world’s foremost palm oil buyers, halted their contract with the planter shortly after a documentary aired by the BBC which showed Duta Palma staff clearing rainforests for oil palm estates that produce the oil used in Unilever products including Dove soap and Stork margarine.

The consumer products giant uses around 1.3 million metric tons of palm oil annually. Targeted by environmentalists sand green-minded consumers for their deforestation and peatland clearance practices, Unilever has pledged to only purchase from certified sustainable palm plantations after 2015.

Deforestation makes way for palm oil plantations

Deforestation makes way for palm oil plantations

Indonesia and Malaysia produce at least 80 percent of the world’s palm oil supply.

One could be cautiously optimistic about this announcement. However, based on my observations and limited research last Fall into the real sustainability of palm oil, I wonder if perhaps this is a simply case of finding a better way of looking good while continuing to make hand-over-fist profits.

One Response

  1. Good post. I think companies do feel pressure and will respond when they think consumers might react against them. As I understand it, the ‘sustainable’ and legal forest clearing for palm oil in Indonesia is a fraction better than the much larger illegal industry. It is, however, grossly unsustainable, highly and irrevocably destructive to forests and biodiversity, but is sanctioned by government and is more open to scrutiny. I guess that is a step in the right direction.
    Recently the Indonesian government made a committment to keep palm oil planations within areas already disturbed (though many in the government are skeptical this will last, and appear to lack any real conviction). Pressure from the bio-fuels industry, notably in Britain, will place an extraordinary burden on Maylasia and Indonesia to expand their industries into old growth forests, generating unprecented levels of carbon into the atmosphere, and drastic species / habitat loss.

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