14 December 2009 | Jake Kanter
Consumer goods giant Unilever has suspended all purchases of palm oil from one supplier following a damning Greenpeace report.
The company put on hold its contract with PT SMART, a subsidiary of Indonesian group Sinar Mas, until the vendor can provide “verifiable proof” that none of its palm oil plantations are contributing to the destruction of forests.
The Greenpeace report alleged that Sinar Mas has been “persistently engaging in widespread illegal deforestation” and its operations are “devastating” to forest biodiversity and the environment.
Unilever uses palm oil in products including Dove soap and margarine brand Stork. The firm’s chief procurement officer Marc Engel said in a statement: “The Greenpeace claims are of a nature that we can’t ignore. Unilever is committed to sustainable sourcing. Therefore, we have notified PT SMART that we have no choice but to suspend our future purchasing of palm oil.”
Unilever conducted independent audits of all its major palm oil suppliers earlier this year, revealing “several areas of concern”. It said these issues were being addressed on an individual basis.
Greenpeace director John Sauven said Unilever’s decision to shelve Sinar Mas was significant. “What we're seeing here is a major buyer of palm oil using its financial muscle to sanction a supplier for destroying rainforests and clearing peatlands. This has set a new standard for others to follow.”
Sinar Mas was not available for comment.