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Unilever signs up to Global Forest Watch

Unilever has joined with a group of more than 40 partners to launch a dynamic online monitoring and alert system to help protect forests worldwide.

Innovative alert system to tackle deforestation

Global Forest Watch is the first platform to unite the latest satellite technology, open data and crowdsourcing to guarantee access to timely and reliable information about forests.

The world lost 2.3 million square kilometres (230 million hectares) of tree cover from 2000 to 2012 – equivalent to 50 soccer fields of forest lost every minute of every day for 12 years, according to data from the University of Maryland and Google. The countries with the highest tree cover loss are: Russia, Brazil, Canada, US and Indonesia.

Encouraging positive change

Global Forest Watch will have far-reaching implications across industries. Financial institutions can better evaluate if the companies they invest in adequately assess forest-related risks. Buyers of major commodities such as palm oil, soy, timber and beef can better monitor their compliance with local laws, sustainability commitments and standards. And suppliers can credibly demonstrate that their products are ‘deforestation free’ and legally produced.

The platform can also support indigenous communities who can upload alerts and photos when encroachment occurs on their lands, while NGOs can identify deforestation hotspots, mobilise action and collect evidence to hold governments and companies accountable.

At the same time, it will help governments to design smarter policies, enforce forest laws, detect illegal forest clearing, manage forests more sustainably, and achieve conservation and climate goals.

Good for business

“Deforestation poses a material risk to businesses that rely on forest-linked crops. Exposure to that risk has the potential to undermine the future of businesses,” says Paul Polman.

“That is why Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan has set targets to source 100% of agricultural raw materials sustainably. As we strive to increase the visibility of where the ingredients for our products come from, the launch of Global Forest Watch – a fantastic, innovative tool – will provide the information we urgently need to make the right decisions, fostering transparency, enforcing accountability and facilitating partnerships.”

View a video on YouTube of Paul talking about the launch.

Unilever has targets in place to source palm oil and soy sustainably. In November it set itself a new target to make 100% of its palm oil traceable to known sources by 2014, marking a major milestone in its plans to accelerate transformation in the sustainable palm oil market. Unilever is also in line to sustainably source all soy beans by 2014 and all soy oils by 2020.

Find out more information about Global Forest Watch and discover how Unilever is tackling deforestation.

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