12 May 2008 | Paul Snell
Unilever has announced plans to ensure all the palm oil it buys is certified as sustainable by 2015.
The group also said it would support an immediate end to further deforestation in Indonesia related to the cultivation of the plant. The company will begin using certified oil by the second half of 2008, and all the oil it buys will be fully traceable by 2012.
Patrick Cescau, chief executive at the consumer goods firm, said the programme would build upon the sustainable sourcing schemes it has employed for fish and tea.
"Suppliers need to meet the criteria by getting certified both the palm oil from their own plantations and the palm oil they buy from elsewhere," he said.
The company had previously criticised the difficulty for buyers to trace palm oil back to the plantations where it was produced.
"Given there is no certified sustainable material on the market today, our challenge is to build a coalition of like-minded companies who can work towards this goal and establish a global system of certification and traceability," added Cescau.
The World Wildlife Fund and environmental expert Jonathan Porritt have both supported the move. "These are ambitious targets, and Unilever's readiness to take a leadership role in establishing secure, certified supply chains for palm oil is particularly significant," said Porritt. "Things now need to move much faster if further damage to the world's rainforests and other ecosystems is to be avoided."