Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


retailer moves on palm oil

September 2007

The Body Shop is claiming to be the first cosmetics retailer to have introduced ‘sustainable’ palm oil across its supply chain.

The UK-based multinational has switched all sourcing to Daabon, a certified organic producer in Colombia that works with co-operatives to put palm oil production on a sustainable footing. Daabon has been audited against pilot Principles and Criteria for the Production of Sustainable Palm Oil developed by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which is a cross-sector group of more than 250 organizations.

The Body Shop says its new policy will cover sales of 14.5 million bars of soap a year in more than 2200 stores in 57 countries.

The huge growth in demand for palm oil – showing a sixfold increase since the mid-1980s – has led to the clearance of large areas of primary rainforest for plantations, particularly in south-east Asia. This has led to environmental problems and poor conditions for those working the fields. WWF estimates that around 1.3m hectares (3.2m acres) of forest will be cleared for oil palm plantations this year in Borneo alone.

A full certification scheme is expected to be in place by the end of the year, and The Body Shop, which is on the RSPO organizing committee, believes most palm oil production could be sustainable within three years if other companies use the system.

Matthias Diemer, a palm oil specialist with WWF Switzerland, said The Body Shop’s ‘pioneering role’ signalled ‘the start of the growth of sustainable palm oil in the cosmetics sector’ and urged other companies to follow suit. The Body Shop, which was taken over by the French cosmetics company L’Oreal last year, is to encourage other large companies in its sector to adopt the criteria.

Friends of Earth has lodged an official complaint with RSPO about the activities of Wilmar, one of the world’s largest palm oil producers. It claims the Indonesian-Singaporean company, which is an RSPO member, is not observing its own policies on responsible palm oil production, and that there are ‘significant gaps’ between the undertakings in its corporate responsibility action plan and what it actually does. An RSPO grievance panel will investigate the allegations.

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