Illegal palm oil supplier outed

Posted on 11 Dec 2009 by The Manufacturer

Multinational consumer goods manufacturer Unilever has cut ties with its Indonesian palm oil supplier who had been sourcing the raw material illegally through protected rainforests.

Unilever cut the contract in the last few days as Greenpeace prepared to publish evidence of the wrongdoing, which it has done today. However, The Times reports that Unilever has been aware of Sinar Mas’ misdemeanours for two years.

The charity presented Unilever with evidence that Indonesia’s biggest palm oil company was using rainforest that has been protected as habitat for endangered orang-utans. The company then agreed the evidence could no longer be ignored.

“What we’re seeing here is a major buyer of palm oil using its financial muscle to punish a supplier for destroying rainforests and clearing peatlands,” said Greanpeace executive director John Sauven. “This has set a new standard for others to follow. Companies that wish to be seen as environmentally responsible must immediately stop sourcing products from the Sinar Mas group.”

As a whole, Indonesia is now the third largest CO2 producer in the world, behind China and the US. Most of this is attributed to its deforestation.

Unilever is the biggest consumer of palm oil in the world. It uses the material as an ingredient in many of its soaps and spreads lines including its Flora, Stork and Dove brands. It has vowed to source all of its palm oil from sustainable sources by 2015.

Greenpeace says it will now pressure the likes of Nestle, Kraft and Procter & Gamble to also stop using Sinar Mas palm oil. You can see a PDF of the charity’s findings against Sinar Mas by clicking here.

In other Unilever news James Lawrence has resigned his position of chief finance officer at multinational consumer goods manufacturer Unilever

Lawrence, 57, has held the post for just two years but denies a rift with the board is the reason for his departure. Lawrence said: “It’s been an excellent time for me and I have made many good friends among my colleagues in the company,” he said.

“I’m delighted that Unilever is in such great shape for our shareholders and, having seen the company through an important period of transition, I’m now looking forward to pursuing new opportunities.”

Mr Lawrence will help the company with the handover to his replacement early in the New Year.

Unilever has headquarters in Rotterdam and London and has production sites around the world. Most of its brands fall under the food or personal care categories and include, Persil, Wall’s, Lipton, PG Tips, Pot Noodle, Lynx, Dove and Surf.