Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Unilever targeted in orang-utan protest


Unilever targeted in orang-utan protest

This article was first published on guardian.co.uk on Monday April 21 2008.

Environmental protesters dressed as orang-utans today staged demonstrations against the consumer goods giant Unilever to highlight the destruction of the Indonesian rainforest.
More than 50 Greenpeace activists staged protests at two Unilever sites – a factory in Port Sunlight, on Merseyside, and at the Anglo-Dutch conglomerate's headquarters, Unilever House, on Victoria Embankment, in London.

The protests coincided with the publication of a Greenpeace report linking Unilever to the destruction of the endangered orang-utan's habit.

The report, called Burning Up Borneo, says companies that supply Unilever with palm oil are destroying the Indonesian rainforest.

Greenpeace links the majority of the largest palm oil producers in Indonesia to Unilever, which it says is probably the largest corporate consumer of the oil in the world.

James Turner, a spokesman for Greenpeace at the Victoria Embankment protest, said eight people dressed as orang-utans had climbed ladders to reach a seven metre-high balcony above the entrance of Unilever House at 7.35am.

"It is going fairly well," he added. "We have got a lot of staff to talk to and a lot did not know about the destruction of the rainforest.

"Companies supplying palm oil are destroying the habitats of orang-utans and massively accelerating climate change."

Campaigners at the protest at the Unilever plant on Merseyside claimed to have stopped production of some of the company's products.

"This is the start of a really big campaign," Sarah Shoraka, an activist at the protest, said. "We want Unilever to stop trading with companies that destroy the rainforest to supply palm oil used to make cleaning products.

"They buy from suppliers who are trashing rainforest areas and habitats for orang-utans. These areas should really be protected.

"Some of the people here are chained to machinery and we have stopped production for some brands. We will stay here as long as possible before we are moved."

A spokeswoman for Merseyside police said officers had been called by the company at 6.45am. "We are aware of the protest and we are assessing the circumstances," she added.
Unilever said it was addressing many of the concerns Greenpeace had voiced about the expansion of palm oil production.

The company heads the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil coalition of organisations, which includes Oxfam, the World Wildlife Federation, plantation owners, manufacturers and retailers.
It has produced criteria for sustainable palm oil production.