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new report by Sum of Us reveals that, while Unilever has recently released a number of statements calling for a moratorium on deforestation and announcing its own sustainability push, the company is supporting a deceptive industry attempt to continue the destruction of Southeast Asia’s rainforests.

According to the Sum of US campaign, Unilever, which is ranked among the lowest according to latest research by The Good Shopping Guide, is attempting to “ignore scientists’ work and rewrite the rules on what counts as forest that should be spared from destruction, backed by the worst palm oil producers.” The Sum of US campaign states:

“It’s a direct challenge to the strong scientific standards that groups from Sum Of Us to Kellogg’s to Mars have aligned behind. If we don’t stop it, this could amount to a license for deforestation in the name of conservation, and undermine the huge progress we’ve made to save the orangutans.

“Unilever is the world’s largest palm oil user, and it’s done the right thing in the past to support rainforest protection. It can do the right thing again, and we know that it’s sensitive to consumer pressure. Right now Unilever thinks it can push this greenwash behind closed doors. But if we can put this into the public light, it won’t be worth the risk for Unilever to continue.

“It doesn’t have to be this way. We’ve made tremendous progress in getting big palm oil companies and a dozen of the world’s biggest consumer companies, including giants like Kellogg and Mars, to commit to end deforestation in their supply chains. Every week, more companies are joining up and pledging to do the right thing. Up until now, even Unilever has played a key role in promoting strict criteria for responsible palm oil production.

“Crucial to the rainforests’ protection is the scientific work that’s been done to define what counts as a forest that should be spared from the bulldozers when companies go deforestation free. Specifically, companies have pledged to protect “High Conservation Value” or “High Carbon Stock” forest — based on a common understanding of what this means. The combined pressure from groups like SumOfUs and other NGOs has worked. Companies from Kellogg’s to Mars to Wilmar — the world’s largest palm oil trader — have accepted this common, strict approach and definition to ensure deforestation-free palm oil.

“But now Unilever is participating in an industry attempt to redefine what counts as “High Carbon Stock” forest. Only the worst industry players are participating actively in this greenwash – companies like IOI and Cargill. If they get their way, companies could keep pushing bulldozers into some of the world’s most important rainforests even while claiming to be deforestation free. Even worse, they are refusing to stop any deforestation until the “study” is complete. And now Unilever is joining them.”

If the palm oil industry exploits this loophole to get around what defines what forest they will spare from the bulldozers, it could open the door for continued destruction of the rainforest under what they would then call “sustainable” palm oil production. As the Sum of Us campaign concludes, this is “a desperate attempt to continue business as usual and avoid growing consumer demands for deforestation-free palm oil.”

Support the Sum of Us campaign and tell Unilever to stop greenwashing rainforest destruction.

You can also demand that Unilever change its practices by refusing to purchase any of its brands, instead choosing only to support ethical alternatives. See our latest research in Skin Care for ethical alternatives to Unilever.

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