No more tears for tigers as Johnson & Johnson cleans up its palm oil

Posted by Richardg — 6 May 2014 at 11:21am - Comments
All rights reserved. Credit: UNKNOWN

On Friday, Johnson & Johnson announced it would stop buying palm oil from companies destroying the rainforest. Now the onus is on the palm oil industry as a whole to leave its forest destruction behind.

Our campaign to clean up the palm oil trade launched in earnest last year, when we exposed the murky supply chains that linked household brands like Head & Shoulders and Colgate to the destruction of Indonesia's rainforest.

Between 2009 and 2011, more forest was destroyed for palm oil production than for any other reason. In some parts of Indonesia, almost three-quarters of deforestation was for palm oil plantations.

This reckless destruction has to stop, so we challenged companies that use palm oil to demand better of their suppliers. Other environmental campaigners were following the same strategy, and our combined pressure soon paid dividends.

Ferrero announced a new zero deforestation policy last year, and a number of other companies began reviewing their policies. Then the largest palm oil trader in the world, Wilmar International, pledged to stop selling palm oil from any company that was clearing the rainforest by the end of next year.

Every few weeks a new policy would arrive, as L'Oreal, Colgate Palmolive, Delhaize, General Mills, Kelloggs and Mars each agreed to break their links with forest destruction.

Procter & Gamble proved more stubborn, so in March we turned up the heat. As climbers abseiled down their offices, hundreds of thousands of us demanded that the company change its ways.

With nowhere to hide, P&G soon threw up its hands and agreed to do the right thing and stop buying palm oil from destruction companies.

The pressure is now on the palm oil industry to prove that it can act responsibly.

Palm oil can be made without destroying forests - but for that to happen, the industry needs to change the way it operates. Only time will tell if it's willing to take responsibility for its behaviour - but whatever happens, we'll be watching.

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