Unilever's Chief Executive Officer, Paul Polman, today called for governments to support a moratorium on deforestation as a crucial measure to tackle climate change.
Speaking at the World Business Summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen, Polman said: "The destruction of the world's tropical rainforests accounts for about 20% of greenhouse gases – more than the entire transport sector. We believe that we are at a point in time where, if government and industry work effectively together to address the problem of deforestation, we can make real progress."
One of the drivers of deforestation in South East Asia, particularly in Indonesia, is the palm oil industry. As a large user of palm oil, over the past year Unilever has assembled a large coalition of international businesses, including L'Oréal, Colgate, Cadbury, Tesco, Procter & Gamble and Shell, that are keen to tackle this critically important issue.
In his speech Polman said that the consumer goods industry must exert pressure on the growers, through the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and through buying decisions and commitments to purchase certified sustainable palm oil made available by suppliers.
He appealed to governments, both in the West and in South East Asia, to agree on, and implement, financing mechanisms currently under development by the World Bank and other institutions to encourage affected nations to protect their rainforests.
Polman also made a commitment to the rigorous measuring and management of Unilever's climate change impacts across the whole value chain. This would involve looking beyond the greenhouse gases coming from the factories and lorry fleets and including the impact from both the sourcing of raw materials and from to consumer use.
The commitment will involve a review of a network of 250 Unilever factories around the world, as well as an evaluation of how agricultural raw materials are sourced and the impact of 2 billion consumers using the products. Polman concluded: "We need to focus on where the impacts are greatest and where we can make a difference. None of these things are easy, but we must not squander any opportunity to make progress."
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Notes to editor:
Unilever has been working to develop sustainable agronomic practices for oil palm since the early 1990s. In 2004 we co-founded, with WWF, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. In May 2008 we announced that by 2015 all of our palm oil would be sustainably sourced and that we would support Greenpeace's call for a moratorium on any further deforestation associated with the Palm Oil industry.
For more information about Unilever's sustainability initiative, please see the section on palm oil within our 2008 Sustainable Development Report.
Unilever's mission is to add vitality to life. We meet everyday needs for nutrition, hygiene and personal care with brands that help people feel good, look good and get more out of life. Unilever is one of the world's leading suppliers of fast moving consumer goods with strong local roots in more than 100 countries across the globe. Its portfolio includes some of the world's best known and most loved brands including thirteen €1 billion brands and global leadership in many categories in which the company operates. The portfolio features brand icons such as: Knorr, Hellmann's, Lipton, Dove, Axe, Omo, Cif and Vaseline. Unilever has around 174,000 employees in approaching 100 countries and generated annual sales of €40 billion in 2008.
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