Unilever Discloses Impact of Palm Oil Supply Chain on Forests and Communities

Rainforest Action Network calls on Ferrero, Procter & Gamble, and ​​Mondeléz to follow suit in urgent response to climate, human rights crises

Today international consumer goods giant Unilever — maker of Dove, Lipton, and Seventh Generation — publicly disclosed the impact of its palm oil supply chain on forests, peatlands, and communities in the Indonesian province of Aceh. Unilever’s announcement is a direct response to mounting public pressure on corporations to account for the total impact of their business operations. A ‘forest footprint’ refers to an accounting of the total area of forests, peatlands, and the rights of Indigenous and local communities that have been, or could be, impacted by the brand’s consumption of forest-risk commodities like palm oil and paper. Unilever is the third multinational corporation to publish an initial forest footprint, following Nestle and Colgate-Palmolive.

Maggie Martin, Senior Forest Campaigner at Rainforest Action Network (RAN), issued the following statement:

“We welcome Unilever’s efforts to undertake a forest footprint analysis of its palm oil supply chain in the Aceh Province of Indonesia –– where the critical and still-intact forests of the Leuser Ecosystem remain at risk of deforestation.   

“RAN has exposed Unilever’s connections to rogue actors destroying rainforests in the Leuser Ecosystem for over 5 years. Unilever has a responsibility to address the harm caused to communities, forests, and the climate through its decade-long sourcing of Conflict Palm Oil from the region and prevent further deforestation and human rights violations across Aceh.

“There is no time for delay in applying this blueprint to the sourcing of Unilever’s forest-risk commodities across Indonesia, including the provinces of North and East Kalimantan and Papua and West Papua, and to all forest-risk commodities impacting forests and communities around the world. We continue to call on Unilever’s peers — Ferrero, Kao, Mars, Mondeléz, Nissin Foods, PepsiCo, and Procter & Gamble — to urgently follow suit by disclosing their forest footprints.”  

Key findings of Unilever’s analysis are:

  • Around 128,700 hectares of forests have been destroyed for palm oil expansion between 2016 and 2020.
  • 2,020,700 ha of forest and 201,700 ha of peat in Aceh are at risk of potential future conversion and clearing into oil palm.
  • Addressing deforestation in the district of Aceh Timur is a priority given the increasing rates of palm oil expansion.  
  • There are at least 12 palm oil concessions located in Aceh with known harm to communities caused by pollution, land conflict, labor, and palm oil plasma development disputes. 
  • Collaborative monitoring systems and new methods and technologies can be used by consumer brand companies to understand indicative sourcing areas in supply chains where they have so far failed to achieve traceability to the land area where the raw materials they source are produced.