Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The 2 Sides of Unilever & Dove

I love Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty. Check out their most popular viral video:

However, last year, Dove's parent company, Unilever, was the subject of a Greenpeace campaign because an analysis of maps, satellite data, and on-the-ground investigations conducted between February and April 2008 revealed that Unilever was purchasing palm oil from Indonesian palm oil plantations like the Sinar Mas Group.

The Sinar Mas Group is linked to rainforest destruction happening on the islands of Borneo, New Guinea, and Sumatra. An internal company presentation obtained by Greenpeace indicates that the company was planning to develop a rainforest area of up to 2.8 million hectacres in Papua.

"Unilever acknowledges that it has no idea where about 20% of its palm oil comes from," states Greenpeace in a 2008 report on palm oil production in Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo. "Of the remaining 80%, it knows the group supplying the palm oil, but not necessarily the concession areas from which it originates."

Near Batang Ai lodge, looking across to the Indonesian border.

Indonesian Palm Oil Plantation. Burning Forest in Background.

Indonesia has made it into the Guiness Book of Records for achieving the world's fastest rate of deforestation, with an area the size of 300 soccer fields every hour.

Palm oil, a Dove product ingredient, is used in many soaps, washers, and personal care products. Unilever is a big consumer of palm oil, so Unilever's purchasing decisions have big impacts on the health of our planet. Deforestation, mainly in tropical areas, account for up to one-third of total anthropogenic CO2 emissions, which leads to global warming.

In order to address this, Greenpeace launched a campaign directed at Unilever. Greenpeace sought to draw attention to Unilever's failure to live up to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)'s sustainability guidelines, an industry push to improve the environmental performance of palm oil producers.

Greenpeace created this viral video, a spin-off of the Dove video above, to deliver the message:

As a result, Greenpeace's forests campaigners were invited to meet with senior executives at Unilever headquarters on Friday, May 9th, 2008. In just two weeks the company had received tens of thousands of protest emails from around the world, seen Greenpeace activists bring hoards of news media to their buildings in the UK, Netherlands and Italy, and watched our viral video "Dove Onslaught(er)" take off faster than anything we've ever done before. Public pressure moved them.

Previously, on May 1st, 2008, Unilever's CEO Patrick Cescau announced that the company would trace the origins of all the palm oil it consumes in Europe by 2012, and would ensure that the company is only sourcing palm oil certified as environmentally sustainable, by 2015.

Additionally, Unilever agreed to partner with Greenpeace for a 6 month term, beginning in May 2008, to help create a coalition of companies committed to a moratorium on deforestation resulting from palm oil harvesting in South East Asia. Unilver agreed to approach Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) members like Kraft, Nestle, and Cadbury.

Unilever also agreed to put pressure on their Indonesian palm oil suppliers, as well as the Indonesian government, on behalf of the moratorium.

Check out this summary of the campaign, from Greenpeace, as well as this report.

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