Blog: Dean BestProtestors look to make a monkey out of Unilever

Dean Best | 21 April 2008

Greenpeace has today (21 April) accused Unilever of not giving a monkey’s about its impact on the environment with demonstrations over the company’s use of palm oil.

Protestors dressed as orang-utans staged demos at Unilever’s HQ in London and at another of its sites in the UK to draw attention to the conglomerate’s alleged role in the destruction of the Indonesian rain forest.

Let’s be honest, the pictures do raise a smile but the activists argue that the monkeying around raises a serious issue.

According to Greenpeace, Unilever is helping destroy the habitat of the orang-utans by buying palm oil from companies that are “systematically destroying the rainforests of Indonesia”.

“Unilever is contributing to one of the greatest environmental crimes happening in the world right now,” Greenpeace executive director John Sauven says.

"By doing nothing to stop its suppliers destroying rainforests and peatlands to grow palm oil, Unilever is helping to kill off the last remaining orang-utans on the planet and massively speeding up climate change.

Unilever, of course, uses palm oil in brands from Dove soap to margarine but insists it is leading the charge in making palm oil production more sustainable.

“We share the same concerns as everyone else about the expansion of palm oil production,” the company says. “The problem is simply that demand of palm oil has exploded. This is due partly to growing demand from India and China and also due to the use of palm oil as a feedstock for biofuels in the energy sector.

“It is essential that all those involved sign up to agreed criteria to make sustainability work on the ground - but this is not an easy process and is taking longer than we would all like. Nevertheless, we remain absolutely committed to finding a solution.”

Unilever, however, will need to work hard to make sure one day’s protests does not become a monkey on its back.


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