New commitment on palm oil

Unilever has announced it will reach its target of 100% certified sustainable palm oil covered by GreenPalm Certificates by the end of 2012, three years ahead of schedule. However we recognise that the GreenPalm Scheme is only a step along the road towards sustainable palm oil, not the end game.

That’s why we have now set a new target of buying all our palm oil from traceable sources by 2020. This means we will be able to track all the certified oil we buy back to the plantation on which it was grown.

GLOBAL PALM OIL

Palm oil is a nutritious vegetable oil that is a staple foodstuff for billions of people around the world. It is used in many products – both food and non-food – from margarine, soups and ice cream, to shampoo, skin lotions, soap and candles.

Palm oil is extracted from the fruit of oil palm, which is a high yielding and highly productive plant. Around 50 million tonnes of palm oil are produced annually, on a planted area of about 12 million hectares.

Oil palms grow in equatorial conditions in Asia, Latin America and Africa. Over 80% of the world’s supply comes from Malaysia and Indonesia. The rapid expansion of the industry has accelerated deforestation. An area the size of Greece is cleared every year. Since the 1990s, the area of land used for palm oil cultivation has increased by about 43%.

Deforestation accounts for some 20% of all greenhouse gases – making Indonesia the third-highest emitter after the US and China.

UNILEVER AND PALM OIL

Unilever is one of the world's largest purchasers of palm oil. We buy around 1.5 million tonnes every year, or about 3% of global production.

Unilever has  been actively involved in trying to break the link between palm oil and deforestation over many years and was one of the first large companies to commit to moving to 100% certified sustainable palm oil.

We started developing Good Agricultural Practice Guidelines for oil palm in the mid-1990s, as part of Unilever’s Sustainable Agriculture Programme.

In 2004 we became a founding member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) – a multi-stakeholder initiative set up in co-operation with WWF. The aim of the Roundtable is to move towards an industry-wide approach to sustainability in palm oil cultivation. The current President of the RSPO is Jan Kees Vis, Global Director, Sustainable Sourcing Development, Unilever.

In 2011 Unilever bought 64% of its palm oil from from sustainable sources, in the form of Green Palm certificates. Unilever is the biggest single buyer of Green Palm certficates globally.