RAN Responds to Global Precedent on Corporate Responsibility to Protect Human Rights Defenders 

Rainforest Action Network welcomes Unilever’s Principles in Support of Human Rights Defenders 

San Francisco – Rainforest Action Network has welcomed the publication of Unilever Principles in Support of Human Rights Defenders and guidance for existing commitments and requirements. The document defines the consumer goods powerhouse’s commitment to support Human Rights Defenders that are under increasing risk in agricultural supply chains and contribute to healthy civic space in the regions it operates or sources commodities from. Most importantly, it lays out a step-by-step guide to the implementation of a dedicated policy on protecting Human Rights Defenders. This is a global first for a multinational corporation that has a significant footprint in the tropical rainforest regions where Human Rights Defenders are under increasing attack and civic space is shrinking.   

Gemma Tillack, RAN’s Forest Policy Director, issued the following statement:  

“Unilever has shown that global brands can take a zero tolerance approach to the violence, intimidation and criminalization of Human Rights Defenders––the Indigenous Peoples, communities, workers and activists that are fighting to ensure human rights and environmental protections are upheld in their operations, and those of the corporations they do business with. 

“Unilever has set an important precedent that must now be followed by its peers in the Consumer Goods Forum. Major brands like Procter & Gamble, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Ferrero, Mars, Mondelēz, Colgate PalmOlive, Kao and Nissin Foods all lack dedicated, detailed policies and procedures on Human Rights Defenders.  

“Unilever’s policy applies to its suppliers across their operations––which is fundamental to success, because corporate groups that are intimidating communities who are defending their lands from the expansion of logging, pulp and palm oil plantations, and agribusiness must be held to account.” 

Unilever’s publication of its Human Rights Defenders policy and implementation guide will be evaluated in RAN’s Keep Forest Standing scorecard, which will be released in November 2023.