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We’re protecting and regenerating nature to help combat climate change

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Deforestation is a driver of climate change. Lana Kristanto, sustainable sourcing specialist, explains how we’re working towards a deforestation-free supply chain and why protecting and regenerating nature is a key part of our climate strategy.

Green trees tower upwards in a tropical rainforest, Malaysia
Picture of Lana Kristanto. She has dark hair and is wearing a blue patterned dress against a forest backdrop.
Lana Kristanto, Assistant Manager for Sustainable Sourcing at Unilever

Our Climate Transition Action Plan (PDF 10.15 MB) sets out the steps Unilever will take to achieve net zero across our value chain by 2039 and play our part in safely limiting a global temperature rise to 1.5°C. In a series of interviews, we put the spotlight on some of the many people helping to deliver our action plan and make change happen.

Lana Kristanto, Assistant Manager for Sustainable Sourcing at Unilever, explains how our work to create a deforestation-free supply chain, re-establish forest cover and regenerate nature is part of our climate solution.

What does your daily job involve?

My team, based mostly in South-East Asia, ensures we source our palm oil sustainably, supporting our global commitment to having a deforestation-free supply chain for palm oil, paper and board, tea, soy and cocoa. I support the management of our landscape programmes, oversee compliance and engagement with suppliers and NGO stakeholders, and work with the data from our monthly deforestation monitoring.

How is your work practically supporting nature?

One way we’re supporting nature and people – while working to reduce our climate impact – is by taking part in landscape-wide programmes to support sustainable agriculture. We partner with government, growers, communities and civil society to agree how best to develop an area sustainably.

We have six palm oil landscape programmes in Indonesia and Malaysia. In Aceh, our partnership with IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative has helped 500 farmers start cooperatives and obtain the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification. We’re also working with the local government and the Leuser Conservation Forum (FKL) to protect and restore forests in the Leuser Lowlands of Aceh. The Leuser Ecosystem is home to species such as orangutans, rhinos, sun bears, elephants and tigers.

And in neighbouring North Sumatra, working with Conservation International, we are helping protect 127,000 hectares of forests, establish an agroforestry plot on previously degraded land and provide over 22,000 seedlings and fruit trees to restore the area and generate extra income for the local communities.

Why is traceability so important?

Communities, economies and businesses are already facing problems that result from nature loss and climate change, including an increased risk of flooding and food security being undermined. Palm oil, for example, is a commodity that is very much tied to forest conversion and land rights issues. We see traceability as key to identifying where these risks lie in our supply chains, so they can be addressed.

We’ve developed a direct sourcing strategy for purchasing palm oil for our North Sumatra processing facility from nearby independent mills. We are currently working with 12 mills, investing in programmes that help them improve their sourcing practices, mapping farms and learning to monitor, report and verify deforestation in their supply base.

How important is technology to our success?

It’s vital. We have invested a lot in technology to help us ‘see’ and understand what is happening to forests globally, including the forests and peatlands around the critical ‘first mile’ from where raw material is grown and where it’s first processed. This allows us to identify issues within our supply chain more quickly so we can take proactive measures.

We’re also working with our suppliers and technology partners, combining our land monitoring and work in traceability to plantations so that when we say we are sourcing deforestation-free, we can back that up with data.

How are our brands getting involved?

There’s a growing demand from consumers that products are produced sustainably. Unilever’s Climate & Nature Fund, which has a mandate to spend €1 billion, offers our brands a way to invest in meaningful climate and nature projects this decade. For example, in partnership with the Rimba Collective, Dove will help protect and restore 123,000 acres of rainforest in South-East Asia – an area eight times the size of Manhattan – over five years.

Are you optimistic that business will tackle the climate and nature crises?

Increasingly, yes. Businesses have a very important role in tackling climate change. Unilever is piloting tech-based solutions and collaborating with others in our shared value chains to make sure we are playing our part. But I know we also need governments to do more. And that’s why I’m pleased Unilever is at COP28 and calling for additional support for nature.

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