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Walmart and Unilever announce forest sustainability initiatives at the Global Climate Action Summit

London / Bentonville – Today, at the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) in San Francisco, USA, Unilever committed to supporting work in Sabah, Malaysia as part of the strategy to achieving a deforestation free supply chain and further reducing emissions. Unilever will help sustainably certify 60,000 hectares in Sabah, Malaysia as part of a programme led by Forever Sabah, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Malaysia and PONGO Alliance. Sabah is pushing to certify 100 percent of the state’s palm oil production to Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification by 2025. According to WWF, this will help to reduce 17 million metric tonnes of CO2e in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Aerial view of a forest

Unilever’s commitment will:

  • Look to cover 60,000 hectares with RSPO certification
  • Benefit approximately 200 to 300 palm oil farmers
  • Help restore two ecological corridors and two riparian reserves (area of habitat connecting wildlife population)

Unilever Chief Sustainability Officer, Jeff Seabright said: “At the COP 21 climate negotiations we pledged to support a jurisdictional approach of production and protection. This means we are moving our sourcing to areas that have good forest management and work in partnership to reconcile competing, social, economic and environmental objectives. Our ultimate ambition is to help drive a sustainable palm oil industry.”

As part of their participation at GCAS, Walmart announced it is developing a platform within one of its key emission reduction initiatives, Project Gigaton, to link its suppliers who are sourcing commodities from regions with deforestation risk to create and support place-based partnerships. Walmart launched Project Gigaton last April, seeking to work with suppliers to reduce emissions from the company’s value chain by a gigaton, or one billion metric tons, by 2030.

Kathleen McLaughlin, Senior Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer for Walmart said: “Walmart commends Unilever on helping implement this model in Sabah and we invite other suppliers to join us in working to reduce deforestation through innovative sourcing strategies like jurisdictional approaches. These multi-stakeholder initiatives in critical regions are needed to reduce forest loss and degradation, and improve the health and sustainability of the people who depend on forests.”

As part of Project Gigaton, Walmart is collaborating with Conservation International, Environmental Defense Fund, The Nature Conservancy and World Wildlife Fund to identify jurisdictions with deforestation risk and connect suppliers with guidance on how to best support these multi-stakeholder efforts.

“Forests provide enormous benefits to people, the planet and business and it is clear that governments have a critical role to play in the battle to manage our forests sustainably,” said Dr. M. Sanjayan, CEO of Conservation International. “We applaud Unilever for partnering with government to support transitions to sustainable agriculture at scale. Their efforts to drive sustainable practices on the ground, combined with their global reach, can help spread these good ideas and models around the world.”

Through this announcement, Unilever and Walmart are further demonstrating their commitment to stop deforestation. The wider programme of Project Gigaton aims to drive industry-wide transformation by bringing together value chain partners and other stakeholders in critical sourcing geographies such as Sabah, Malaysia; North Sumatra, Indonesia; and Mato Grosso, Brazil to achieve sustainable landscapes through the implementation of jurisdictional approaches.

Environmental Defense Fund President, Fred Krupp said: “Simply put, we cannot solve our climate challenges without healthy forests. The good news: working solutions are now up and ready to go, pointing the way towards stopping deforestation on the scale of entire landscapes. EDF has long supported the idea that jurisdictional approaches are the critical next wave of corporate forest leadership. We applaud Walmart and Unilever for their leadership, and encourage other companies to join them.”

The Nature Conservancy Chief Executive Officer, Mark Tercek said: "The Nature Conservancy applauds Walmart and Unilever for today's announcement. Avoiding deforestation is one of the most effective and efficient tools available to help slow the effects of climate change. But to do this at scale, we must work together. When corporate leaders work with governments and local communities to source sustainable commodities, it’s a win for people, nature, and the bottom line. Today's commitment is an important step toward a climate-friendly future."

"With this partnership Walmart and Unilever are advancing an innovative new approach to help companies meet their climate goals," said Carter Roberts, President & CEO of World Wildlife Fund-US. "Decoupling supply chains from deforestation would deliver three important benefits – reducing greenhouse gas emissions, securing essential habitat, and restoring species like orangutans and elephants that call Sabah their home. And any success along this front could spur similar collaboration and results for key industries and regions across the world.”

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