Unilever sets new palm oil target

UNILEVER HAS set a new target to purchase all its palm oil from traceable sources by 2020. This means it will be able to track all of the certified oil it buys back to the plantation on which it was originally grown.


The manufacturer said this will be “difficult to achieve”, but was necessary given that it will reach the target of 100% certified sustainable palm oil by Green Palm Certificates three years ahead of schedule. Unilever believes the Green Palm Scheme is “only a step along the road towards sustainable palm oil, not the end game”.


The move was welcomed by the WWF. Senior policy officer Adam Harrison said that having a company that uses as much palm oil as Unilever does investing in traceable and sustainable palm oil “could be a real game-changer”.


The change in target comes as part of a new report on the company’s progress globally and nationally towards meeting its Unilever Sustainable Living Plan targets.  The plan, published in November 2010, broke new ground by committing to take responsibility for the company’s impacts right across the value chain, from the sourcing of raw materials all the way through to the consumer’s use of its products to cook, clean and wash.


Other progress to date includes: 24% of total agricultural raw materials now being sourced sustainably; 90% of spreads now contain less than one-third saturated fats; and renewable energy contributes 20% of total energy use.


But there are areas where more work needs to be done. Unilever said it was “finding it difficult” to hit the targets around consumer behaviour change such as encouraging people to eat foods with lower salt levels.


Amanda Sourry, Unilever UK and Ireland chairman, said: “Today’s progress update shows that we’ve made some fantastic steps forward. Just one year into the decade-long plan, we are proud of our achievements so far but there’s still much more to do. We have never professed to have all of the answers and some of our goals look no less challenging today than they did when we launched the plan in November 2010. However, we will continue to work with expert partners wherever appropriate in order to meet our goals and fulfil our ultimate ambition of becoming a truly sustainable business.”


Forum for the Future deputy CEO Sally Uren said the repeated acknowledgement from Unilever for the need to work with others, within business and within civil society, to deliver breakthrough solutions was significant. “This understanding that some of the issues we currently face are just too big for one business to tackle alone, will be key to Unilever’s continued success,” she added.