Answer

Unilever is considered by many as one of the first companies to recognize its Conflict Palm Oil problem. Since the release of its revised palm oil commitment, Unilever has emerged as a frontrunner as it requires its suppliers to comply with higher standards than the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) including ending the destruction of rainforests, peatlands and abuse of human and labor rights across all operations.

In order to drive real change, Unilever should establish robust risk assessment and verification procedures to identify and remedy human and labor rights violations, and require all suppliers to verify that they have cut Conflict Palm Oil by an ambitious deadline.

Current Palm Oil Commitment (April 2016)

  • Requires suppliers to go beyond the inadequate standards of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and end the destruction of rainforests, peatlands and abuse of human and labor rights
  • Applies to all branded products in all countries where products are made and sold
  • Requires palm oil to be traceable to the mill catchment level
  • Requires compliance across its suppliers’ entire operations
  • Requires some third-party verification of supplier compliance with responsible palm oil production practices, including no destruction of rainforests, peatlands or abuse of human and labor rights in high-risk regions by the end of 2017
  • Sets a deadline to source traceable to known and certified sources by the end of 2019
  • Has a commitment to annually report on progress towards the implementation of its own palm oil commitments
  • Advocates for palm oil sector reforms with peers and other decision makers

Weaknesses in Palm Oil Commitment:

  • No requirement for all sources of palm oil to be independently verified as compliant with its policy
  • Relies on the inadequate Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification system as a tool for verifying compliance with requirements to uphold human and labor rights despite its known failures to do so  
  • Risk assessment is conducted using only environmental criteria
  • No published procedures to eliminate Conflict Palm Oil suppliers
  • Its public time-bound implementation plan lacks clear performance based milestones for addressing social risks and achieving fully independently verified supply chains
  • Ongoing reliance on discredited RSPO GreenPalm Certificates until 2019

 Current status:

  • Ongoing sourcing from unknown plantations and high risk regions
  • Company products at high risk of contamination with Conflict Palm Oil

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