Sustainable palm oil - our progress

To achieve our goal to eliminate deforestation from our supply chains and reach 100% physically certified sustainable palm oil by 2019, we need to ensure our own purchases are fully traceable and certified sustainable as committed in our Sustainable Palm Oil Sourcing Policy (PDF | 97KB). We first launched our policy in 2013 and refreshed it in 2016 with stronger commitments to human rights, smallholder inclusion and traceability implementation.

Being open and transparent about the progress we make as a company and ultimately as an industry is key to a more sustainable business model for palm oil production and trade.

Measuring equipment

Time-bound implementation plan

Our commitment and progress to date

We have put in place a time-bound implementation plan to achieve our goal of only sourcing physically certified sustainable palm oil by 2019. We regularly publish our progress towards achieving our sustainable palm oil sourcing targets.

Total physically certified

Actuals - %


Actuals - absolute volumes

288,000 metric tonnes
577,000 metric tonnes*

*For our core volumes in 2016, we achieved 41% or 573,000 tonnes. Core volumes exclude derivatives of palm fatty acid distillates (which are by-products of the refining process), tail ingredients and materials processed by third-party manufacturers

What is physically certified?

Physically certified palm oil is sustainable palm oil certified through either the RSPO Mass Balance or Segregated certification standards or an equivalent standard that is independently verified by a third party. These options contribute to the protection of forests and enhance the livelihoods of farmers and local communities on the ground. For more information about certification and the RSPO see

Increasing visibility of our supply chain

Unilever is working toward greater visibility of the mills where our palm oil is processed – we currently have visibility of approximately 1,300 mills. Mill locations are an important indicator of where palm fruit is processed and therefore tell us more about where palm plantations are located.

Unilever has partnered with the World Resources Institute (WRI) on the PALM Risk Tool which helps us better understand the potential risks related to the location of the mills where our palm oil originates. This helps us assess where action on the ground is needed to ensure we stop deforestation and encourage sustainable agricultural practices.

The initial results from the PALM Risk Tool pilot in 2016 are a first indication of areas that may pose a deforestation risk. We are working with WRI and Daemeter on a more detailed analysis of the identified mills – this work includes research on forest cover, peat lands and fires.


Mills located in an
area of high
deforestation risk*

*A risk index is applied against five environmental factors (i) fire severity, (ii) extent of forest, (iii) recent deforestation, (iv) peat, and (v) overall risk across these factors based on mill data generated from the Global Forest Watch Commodities platform. At present, there is no standardised method of measuring social risks. For more information, visit the Global Forest Watch Blog.

Our work with smallholders

The majority of the palm oil we buy is grown in Malaysia and Indonesia – the biggest producing countries worldwide. Smallholder farmers play an important role in palm oil production – they represent 40% of all palm oil production in South East Asia. We aim to support 25,000 smallholder farmers by sourcing directly from independent smallholders and working with NGO partners to help smallholders adopt sustainable management and agricultural practices.

An example of our work in this area is the three-year Memorandum of Understanding we signed in 2016 with the provincial government of Central Kalimantan, district government of Kotawaringin Barat, and Yayasan Penelitian Inovasi Bumi (INOBU). This is to support a jurisdictional approach for sustainable palm oil at village level which will initially impact around 600 independent smallholder farmers on around 1,400 hectares of land. Read more about our work in Central Kalimantan and other smallholders projects on our smallholder farmer map.

Our key implementation partners are:

  • Daemeter logo Daemeter
  • IDH blue logo IDH
  • Profirest logo Proforest
  • UTZ logo UTZ Certified
  • WRI logo World Resources Institute (WRI)

At Unilever we believe initiatives with key stakeholders are essential to drive transformational change in the palm oil industry. We work together with a number of NGO, government and industry partners to transform the industry, fight deforestation and make a real impact on the ground.

Read more about our efforts to fight deforestation here.

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