This week Greenpeace activists unfurled two 60-foot banners at Procter & Gamble’s global headquarters in Cincinnati, exposing the fact that P&G is putting the Sumatran Tiger’s survival on the line. One of the Greenpeace activists dressed as a tiger and hung hundreds of feet in the air, between the two towers.
Only since that action — and not after our multiple previous attempts to engage with the company — has P&G been busy promoting its commitment to 100% sustainable palm oil by 2015. The company even bought Google adds that pop up when you search the words “Greenpeace” and “Procter&Gamble,” that read “We share your concerns.” (You will note we have placed our own add next to it, to keep the greenwashing to a minimum.
But let me be very clear: P&G, YOU DO NOT SHARE OUR CONCERNS.
We’ve explained many times why simply saying 100% sustainable palm oil is not enough. We’ve even produced and shared with P&G entire reports about it:
- In Certifying Destruction, we explained why the certification scheme P&G considers appropriate to guarantee the sustainability of its palm oil is not really up to the task.
- In License to Kill we outlined links between suppliers, the certification scheme, and the destruction of tiger habitat.
- And in this document — which was sent to P&G by email a week before the activity — we exposed very concrete and recent links between the companies from which P&G buys palm oil and forest destruction. Those dirty suppliers are even members of the certification scheme P&G boasts about.
P&G does have a palm oil policy. You can find if you click on the link on their google add or here. In it, P&G ambiguously states “we encourage suppliers to adopt the Principles and Criteria of the RSPO for sustainable palm production.”
To emphasize “how much” P&G is very much “committed” to sustainable palm oil, their UK website offers different language: “We recognize the criteria and certification of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) as evidence of sustainable palm oil sourcing.”
That doesn’t sound like that much at all! Blindly trusting the RSPO is like buying a used car without checking it out first. You might just end up with a lemon. In this case, P&G doesn’t seem to care enough to investigate its own claims.
The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is an initiative developed by many industry players, including NGOs, in an attempt to make the palm oil industry more sustainable. The problem is that the RSPO has long proven to be weak and ineffective. Other companies, including Nestle, Unilever, and L’Oreal, have recognized this and moved beyond its standards to meet their responsible palm oil commitments. They have incorporated, developed, and publicly committed to very detailed policies that explain exactly what they expect from their palm oil suppliers. And they haven’t just offered words. Those large corporations, on par with P&G, have actually put into practice very concrete action plans for implementation.
A commitment to sustainable palm oil can build on the RSPO principles and criteria, but it cannot count on it exclusively.
Greenpeace expects a detailed commitment from P&G, like the one adopted by its competitors Unilever and L’Oreal. Google ads don’t cut it. Neither do erased comments on Facebook or other shenanigans. Even if it comes with an RSPO stamp, a vague commitment to sustainability won’t change the fact that the palm oil in P&G’s products is linked to deforestation, habitat loss, and driving whole species to the brink.