Combating Deforestation

Deforestation is seen as a key contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions. It is responsible for up to 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions and has an adverse impact on ecosystems and biodiversity.

Our approach

Unsustainable patterns of cultivation of some of our raw materials such as palm oil and soy have the potential to exacerbate the destruction of remaining tropical rainforests.

As part of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, we have targets in place to source palm oil, soy, meat and paper and pulp sustainably. In 2012, we announced that we would reach our 2015 target to source 100% of palm oil from sustainable sources three years ahead of schedule. This has been achieved primarily through the purchase of GreenPalm certificates.

We recognise that these make a significant contribution to a more sustainable palm oil industry, but they are only a first step. We have taken action in this area since 2008 when we agreed to support a moratorium on further deforestation in South-East Asia.

At the November 2009 meeting of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) we supported the inclusion of greenhouse gas emissions associated with palm oil production in the RSPO Principles & Criteria. In conjunction with RSPO, we have contributed to the development of the Palm GHG tool. This is a GHG calculator specific to the palm oil sector. To be released in 2014, it will be used by the RSPO and members to report on GHG emissions from palm oil plantations and refinery operations.

Around 15% of palm oil is now certified as sustainable by the RSPO, but only half of the available GreenPalm certificates are being purchased. In 2012, Unilever joined key players in industry and government for the China Sustainable Palm Oil Supply Chain Forum, for talks on promoting faster uptake in China, the world’s largest consumer of palm oil.


Advocacy is an important part of our work to reduce deforestation. We are engaging with governments to stress the importance of implementing national energy policies that take into account the full greenhouse gas emission implications of land-use change.

We were one of 35 companies that responded to the first Forest Footprint Disclosure (FFD) project request for information. Initiated in 2008, the project is designed to improve corporate understanding of a ‘forest footprint’. This means the use of five key forest risk commodities, namely soy, palm oil, timber, cattle products and biofuels, both in operations and across supply chains.

In 2013, we were one of 139 companies that responded to the CDP Forests programme’s request for information. Formerly known as the Forest Footprint Disclosure Project (FFD), the CDP Forests programme helps companies understand how they are contributing to deforestation. Through this programme, companies track their use of the five agricultural commodities that are responsible for most deforestation.

Unilever was recognised as the 2013 leader of the Packaged Foods, Meats/Brewers & Soft Drinks industry sector by the CDP Forests programme. In 2012, we were named joint leader of our sector. It is essential that we eliminate deforestation from our supply chain and surveys such as these provide an objective review of how our management of this complex issue compares to our peers.

We will continue to work in partnerships to improve traceability of our supply chain across all key agricultural resources.

The Consumer Goods Forum

The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) is an industry association that brings together over 400 retailers, manufacturers, service providers and other stakeholders across 70 countries. It aims to increase industry collaboration on non-competitive matters and supports the exchange of knowledge and good practice. Unilever CEO, Paul Polman sits on the board of the CGF and co-chairs the Board Strategy Advisory Committee.

Unilever co-chaired the team charged with delivering the deforestation and refrigeration pledges of the CGF at the UN Climate Change Conference in 2010. Participating companies agreed to mobilise their resources to help achieve zero net deforestation by 2020.

The target aims to create funding streams that incentivise forested countries to protect their natural environment, whilst enabling them to reach zero net deforestation, and meet their own economic development goals.

Tropical Forest Alliance

Unilever led the process which resulted in the creation of the Tropical Forest Alliance (TFA).

The TFA is a public-private partnership between the 400 companies of the Consumer Goods Forum, the governments of the USA, UK, Norway, the Netherlands, Indonesia and Liberia and a large number of international NGOs.

The principal goal of the TFA is to eliminate any trace of deforestation from the supply chains of consumer goods companies. The initial focus is on palm oil, soy, paper and beef products.

The specific objectives are to:

  1. Drive deforestation out of South-East Asia, where a lot of progress has been made in winning over big companies such as Wilmar, Golden Agri and APP. We are now helping smallholders achieve RSPO certification.

  2. Drive it out of Latin America, where it is primarily linked to soy and animal feeds.

  3. Prevent it becoming an issue in Africa as the continent increases its production of palm oil. In 2014 Unilever signed a partnership agreement with Solidaridad to promote RSPO certification and sustainable farming practices in West Africa.

Good progress is being made on all these objectives.


We welcomed the Joint Statement from the governments of the UK, Norway, the US, Germany and Australia that was made in November 2012. This highlighted the urgency of tackling climate change and committed continued support to the UN REDD+ programme, the United Nations’ collaborative initiative on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) in developing countries. We are confident that our commitment to combating deforestation through sustainably-grown crops will lead to increased yields with the resultant reduction in input costs. The final outcome is intended to provide a win-win situation for farmers, consumers and our planet.

Global Forest Watch

In February 2014, Unilever joined a group of more than 40 partners to launch a dynamic online monitoring and alert system to help protect forests worldwide.

Global Forest Watch, convened by the World Resources Institute, is the first platform to unite the latest satellite technology, open data and crowd-sourcing to guarantee access to timely and reliable information about forests.