‘Dirty’ palm oil remain in P&G products, supply chain trail reveals

Greenpeace is calling on consumers who want dandruff-free hair to take a second look at their favourite Head & Shoulders shampoo, as the product's palm oil ingredient is found to be sourced from companies linked to deforestation

hair and shoulders
Environmental campaign group Greenpeace says the Head & Shoulders shampoo maker is buying palm oil produced through clearing of forests and wildlife habitats, which makes consumers unwitting accomplices to forest destruction. Image: Shutterstock

Environmental campaign group Greenpeace has put on the spotlight one of the world’s largest producers of cosmetics and personal care products, Procter & Gamble (P&G), urging the global manufacturer to step up its sustainable palm oil commitment as new evidence has linked its products to palm oil plantations involved in forest fires and clearing of peatlands.

Through an online petition launched on Wednesday, it also called on consumers of its products to sign up and inform P&G that a dandruff-free hair does not mean orangutans and tigers should lose their habitats.

P&G must be able to guarantee its customers that its products are forest-friendly, said Bustar Maitar, Greenpeace’s head of the Indonesian forest campaign. “Procter & Gamble should follow the lead of other palm oil using companies like Unilever, Nestlé and L’Oréal, which have already promised to clean up their supply chains.”

Supply chain trail

Greenpeace alleged that P&G has failed to protect its supply chain from being tainted by suppliers linked to the clearing of known orangutan and tiger habitats, despite the company being a member of Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). 

Progressive palm oil producers from Palm Oil Innovation Group has proved there is a business case for palm oil, so there is no excuse for companies to delay their actions to commit to zero deforestation by 2020

Bustar Maitar, Greenpeace’s head of Indonesian forest campaign

In a 12-month investigation involving extensive research, field documentation and mapping analysis, the environmental group indentified 10 cases of forest clearances at various concessions in Indonesia owned by companies - some of them also RSPO members - linked directly to P&G’s supply chain. 

The investigators found an orangutan habitat that had been cleared for palm cultivation by BW Plantation Group, which is connected to P&G as a palm oil supplier. BW Plantation sells its palm oil to a number of traders including Wilmar International and palm oil refiner Musim Mas.

One of BW’s plantations is also implicated in a police investigation following the deaths and burials of orangutans next to the Tanjung Puting National Park, according to the report.

Areeba Hamid, forest campaigner at Greenpeace International said the group has tackled the issue with the US manufacturer over the last eight months and has pressed the company to take urgent action against forest destruction activities that is pushing the Sumatran tigers to the edge of extinction.

“It’s time P&G committed 100 per cent to forest protection and stop making its customers part of the Sumatran tiger’s extinction,” Hamid commented.

Greenpeace contended that without strong policies to cut deforestation from their products, companies are exposed to illegal practices in high-risk areas, like in the province of Riau in Sumatra, which has been a hotspot in uncontrolled fires and forest clearances since last year.

The group’s research showed that P&G’s palm oil suppliers, which include palm oil company Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad and Masim Mas, ship from Dumai, the main port of Riau province.

Greenpeace urged P&G and other consumer companies like Reckitt Benckiser and Colgate Palmolive to use their positions as leading global corporations to make a genuine contribution to Indonesia’s development. It further stressed that the first step is to immediately commit to ‘sourcing only traceable, responsibly produced palm oil, free from deforestation’.

Beyond RSPO

The United States-based company, which has declared a commitment to the responsible sourcing of its palm oil for the production of its well-known personal care brands including Pampers wipes, Gillette shaving gels, Head & Shoulders shampoo, Ariel detergent and Olay and Safeguard soaps, said on its website it intends by 2015 to only purchase and use palm oil from confirmed responsible palm oil producers.

According to its latest submission to RSPO, P&G used 462,000 tonnes of palm oil and its derivatives in 2012 to 2013, but only less than 10 per cent came from certified sustainable palm oil under the certification scheme.

Bustar further noted that progressive palm oil producers from Palm Oil Innovation Group (POIG) has proved there is a business case for palm oil, so there is no excuse for companies to delay their actions to commit to zero deforestation by 2020, a global campaign which seeks support from various stakeholders including consumers, traders, governments, and financiers to end massive deforestation of tropical forests.

POIG is a group of sustainable palm oil supporters formed in November last year, which consists of international non-government organisations including the World Wildlife Fund and several palm oil producers. It aims to further RSPO’s initiatives by pushing for more innovative models for best practices in the sector.

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