Saturday, 6 June 2009

Unilever calls for moratorium on deforestation of tropical rainforest

The FINANCIAL -- Unilever's Chief Executive Officer, Paul Polman, on May 25 called for governments to support a moratorium on deforestation as a crucial measure to tackle climate change.

Speaking at the World Business Summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen, Polman said: "The destruction of the world's tropical rainforests accounts for about 20% of greenhouse gases – more than the entire transport sector. We believe that we are at a point in time where, if government and industry work effectively together to address the problem of deforestation, we can make real progress."

"One of the drivers of deforestation in South East Asia, particularly in Indonesia, is the palm oil industry. As a large user of palm oil, over the past year Unilever has assembled a large coalition of international businesses, including L'Oréal, Colgate, Cadbury, Tesco, Procter & Gamble and Shell, that are keen to tackle this critically important issue," Unilever reported.

In his speech Polman said that the consumer goods industry must exert pressure on the growers, through the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and through buying decisions and commitments to purchase certified sustainable palm oil made available by suppliers.

He appealed to governments, both in the West and in South East Asia, to agree on, and implement, financing mechanisms currently under development by the World Bank and other institutions to encourage affected nations to protect their rainforests.

Polman also made a commitment to the rigorous measuring and management of Unilever's climate change impacts across the whole value chain. This would involve looking beyond the greenhouse gases coming from the factories and lorry fleets and including the impact from both the sourcing of raw materials and from to consumer use.

The commitment will involve a review of a network of 250 Unilever factories around the world, as well as an evaluation of how agricultural raw materials are sourced and the impact of 2 billion consumers using the products. Polman concluded: "We need to focus on where the impacts are greatest and where we can make a difference. None of these things are easy, but we must not squander any opportunity to make progress."