Robin Wood activists protested on 12 May during Unilever’s general assembly in London against tropical rainforest destruction and palm oil production. The activists, from the German environmental group established in 1982, unfurled a banner with the message “Unscrupulous Destruction of Rainforest and Community for Palm Oil” in the entrance to the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre. They also distributed information to shareholders.
Unilever is the largest purchaser of palm oil worldwide, with most of it coming from plantations in Indonesia, where around 9.4 million hectares of land have been transformed into palm oil plantations and the area under cultivation is being increased by around 600,000 hectares every year destroying tropical rainforests and threatening the livelihoods of millions of people. Wilmar International is one of Unilever’s largest suppliers of palm oil and has been known to use violence to intimidate local villagers to give up their land for new plantations. These are not one-off instances. The World Bank discontinued funding palm oil plantations partly due to these conflicts. In response to popular pressure, Unilever has promised to buy more RSPO (Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil) – certified palm oil, yet the standards required to receive RSPO certification are very lenient, even allowing the logging of rainforest for the establishment of new plantations.
Cheap palm oil is an ingredient in products from Unilever brands, such as Rama, Langnese and Knorr.
The open letter to Unilever’s CEO and Robin Wood’s report from the research trip to Indonesia can be found at www.robinwood.de/tropenwald.