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Unilever leads the way in aiming to use only ‘traceable’ palm oil



Anglo-Dutch consumer goods firm Unilever has announced that by the end of 2014, any palm oil in its products will be traceable in order to determine whether it comes from a sustainable source.

The company committed to buying 100% sustainable palm oil by the end of 2012 and reported that focusing on sustainability had helped its growth.

Unilever is also a founding member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which certificates sustainable palm oil. The certification system was recently criticised by some charities over inaccuracies.

The firm is the third largest consumer goods company in the world and one of the major international buyers of palm oil, purchasing around 1.5m tonnes each year.

Marc Engel, chief procurement officer at Unilever, said, “Market transformation can only happen if everyone involved takes responsibility and is held accountable for driving a sustainability agenda.

“Our progress has been made possible by the commitment and efforts of a number of our strategic suppliers. We will continue to engage with our suppliers, NGOs, governments, RSPO, end users and other industry stakeholders to develop collaborative solutions to halt deforestation, protect peat land, and to drive positive economic and social impact for people and local communities.”

Unilever was strongly criticised by environmental groups in 2008 but since then has started to work in order to source its ingredients more sustainably.

Richard Holland, director of WWF’s market transformation initiative, said, “Unilever’s 2014 commitment marks a very promising step on the continuing journey towards real market transformation to sustainable palm oil.

“But the journey is not over. We will continue to work with Unilever and others through the RSPO to encourage further certification by growers and buying of certified palm oil by manufacturers and retailers.

“We urge other companies along the palm oil value chain to follow the lead shown by Unilever.”

Further reading:

Investigation shows inconsistency among ‘sustainable’ palm oil firms

Skincare companies under scrutiny over palm oil use

Unilever report maps how sustainability has contributed to its growth

Unilever scoops second successive sustainability trophy

Businesses taking steps to improve sustainable palm oil sourcing


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