Sustainable Palm Oil

Unilever is playing a leading role in the transformation of the palm oil industry, helping it move towards sustainable cultivation.

Our sustainable sourcing journey

Unsustainable cultivation of palm oil is contributing to deforestation. Sustainable, traceable sourcing has the potential to help stop global warming, which is a by-product of the deforestation of large tracts of forestland. That is why, in 2010, we committed to sourcing 100% of our palm oil from certified, sustainable sources by 2015. We are proud that we achieved this target three years ahead of schedule, primarily through the purchase of GreenPalm certificates.

In 2012, we pledged a landmark target to purchase all palm oil sustainably from certified, traceable sources by 2020. Although this is a hugely complex task because of the enormous volumes we purchase, we are on track to meeting this goal. Our new processing plant in Sei Mangke, Indonesia, once operational, will source palm oil from known and certified sources for our global use. This plant represents a $130 million investment.

In November 2013, we announced that we would accelerate market transformation towards sustainable palm oil. By the end of 2014, all the palm oil we buy globally will be traceable to known sources ie from the originating crude palm oil mills.

At the same time, we launched our Sustainable Palm Oil Sourcing Policy, which comprises three key principles: halting deforestation, protecting peat land and driving positive economic and social impacts for people and local communities.

Through the Tropical Forest Alliance, the Consumer Goods Forum, the Banking Environment Initiative and our own work with suppliers we are committed to transforming the market and seeking the elimination of deforestation linked to palm oil.

But we can only end deforestation if all parties join forces. If we meet all of our own sourcing targets but no-one else follows us, we will have failed.

A panel of internationally renowned, independent scientists is being assembled to undertake research that will help define a standard for High Carbon Stock (HCS) forests. This is about validating current standards which drive change that is good for forests, orangutans and local communities.

This scientific work is being led by Professor John Raison, Chief Research Scientist at the Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and is being undertaken under the auspices of the Sustainable Palm Oil Manifesto group (see: opens in a new window)). We will also be engaging with key stakeholders including Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Forest People’s Programme (FPP), Rainforest Alliance and others to ensure a proper governance structure is being put in place to implement the output of this process.

While the review is being undertaken, we believe that commitments must be made by all participating companies to halt forest clearance of potentially high conservation areas. In the absence of an agreed forest conservation standard, these growers should demonstrate that they will meet the RSPO’s New Planting Procedure, make this transparent and adhere to the principle of not planting afresh on peat lands. We will work with all our suppliers to encourage this.

The majority of plantations where our palm oil is sourced from are in Malaysia and Indonesia.