Unilever buying CPO from peat forest destroying mills

(foresthints.news) - After making public lists of the suppliers and mills from which it has been sourcing for years (Feb 16), many of which have untrustworthy reputations, giant multinational consumer goods company Unilever has clearly and incontrovertibly revealed itself to be among the ‘kings of deforestation and peat destruction’, in this case of Indonesian forests and peatlands.

It seems remarkably strange that such a prominent company would continue to retain supply chains which are directly linked to the destruction of peat forests. This shows that the company’s 2013 sustainable palm oil sourcing policy - later revised in 2016 - merely serves to mislead its global consumers and stakeholders.

This is the second news report focusing on Unilever’s questionable supply chain network which, as of now, involves mills still engaged in peat destruction.

In its previous report, foresthints.news (Feb 21) disclosed how much Unilever relies on supply chains which, either directly or indirectly, continue to participate in the removal and destruction of the habitat of the critically-endangered Bornean orangutan.

Controversial supply chains retained

As earlier reported by foresthints.news (Jan 28), two palm oil companies owned by the CAA group are continuing to expand their palm oil plantations by clearing peat forests in Central Kalimantan’s Pulang Pisau regency, one of Indonesia’s peat restoration priority regencies.

The palm oil mills in question (PT TM and PT BKI) are found in Unilever’s list of mills whose palm oil it uses. This means that Unilever’s supply chains are directly associated with mills which are actively destroying Indonesian Borneo’s peat forests.

The photos below were taken during a ground inspection conducted by the Indonesian Ministry of the Environment and Forestry in July last year. Expansion of these palm oil plantations remains ongoing, as divulged by foresthints.news (Jan 28).

At the time this news report was posted, Unilever was still having its palm oil tanks fed by these two CAA group-owned mills, thereby demonstrating that it has yet to change its controversial business-as-usual practices.

Right thing?

In an interesting statement posted on its website with regard to the publishing of its lists of suppliers and mills, Unilever claims that “as a business, we have a long history of doing the right thing.”

This raises the very pertinent question as to whether sourcing directly from mills that continue to destroy peat forests - as the photos below clearly show Unilever to be doing - is the right thing?

In fact, it would be quite bizarre, if not completely nonsensical, for Unilever to regard the peat forest destruction depicted in the above photos as the right thing.

Instead, Unilever ought to consider acknowledging its true long history of involvement in deforestation and peat drainage, both directly and indirectly, purely in the interests of its consumer foods business - particularly in Indonesia. As much as it may wish to do so, Unilever cannot erase this history.

In an interview with foresthints.news in late July last year, Glenn Hurowitz - CEO of Washington-based global environmental protection organization Mighty Earth - warned against companies using the assertion of business transformation to enable them to undertake even more forest clearing and peat drainage.

Hurowitz’s caution seems especially relevant when it comes to Unilever, as this supposedly responsible corporate giant merely keeps quiet and does nothing whatsoever to disengage from its supply chains which remain inextricably linked to deforestation and peat destruction.

Unilever’s silence and inaction can only result in one conclusion - that the so-called business transformation it is pursuing is a destructive form of transformation, leading as it does to even greater forest clearance and peat drainage.