Sustainable Palm Oil

Unilever is playing a leading role in the transformation of the palm oil industry, helping it move towards sustainable cultivation.

Our sustainable sourcing journey

Unsustainable cultivation of palm oil is contributing to deforestation. Sustainable, traceable sourcing has the potential to help stop global warming, which is a by-product of the deforestation of large tracts of forestland. That is why, in 2010, we committed to sourcing 100% of our palm oil from certified, sustainable sources by 2015. We are proud that we achieved this target three years ahead of schedule, primarily through the purchase of GreenPalm certificates.

In 2012, we pledged a landmark target to purchase all palm oil sustainably from certified, traceable sources by 2020. Although this is a hugely complex task because of the enormous volumes we purchase, we are on track to meeting this goal. Our new processing plant in Sei Mangke, Indonesia, once operational, will source palm oil from known and certified sources for our global use. This plant represents a $130 million investment.

In November 2013, we announced that we would accelerate market transformation towards sustainable palm oil. By the end of 2014, all the palm oil we buy globally will be traceable to known sources ie from the originating crude palm oil mills.

At the same time, we launched our Sustainable Palm Oil Sourcing Policy, which comprises three key principles: halting deforestation, protecting peat land and driving positive economic and social impacts for people and local communities.

Through the Tropical Forest Alliance, the Consumer Goods Forum and our own work with suppliers we are committed to transforming the market and seeking the elimination of deforestation linked to palm oil.

But we can only end deforestation if all parties join forces. If we meet all of our own sourcing targets but no-one else follows us, we will have failed.

Forest conservation standards

A major stumbling block to sustainable sourcing of palm oil is the lack of consensus and agreement on a globally accepted and scientifically robust forest conservation standard.

A panel of internationally renowned, independent scientists is being assembled to define a standard. Other key stakeholders, including NGOs like Greenpeace and WWF, and industry bodies such as the RSPO, are being invited to participate as observers. A proper governance structure is being put in place to safeguard the integrity of the process.

This is about validating, not weakening, current standards which drive change that is good for forests, orangutans and local communities.

While the review is being undertaken, we believe that commitments must be made by all participating companies to halt forest clearance of potentially high conservation areas. In the absence of an agreed forest conservation standard, these growers must demonstrate that they will meet the RSPO’s New Planting Procedure, make this transparent and adhere to the principle of not planting afresh on peat lands.

Watch the video above to learn about palm oil, how we use it and how we are sourcing it sustainably.