American multinational consumer goods company, ‘Procter and Gamble’ is a household name for people across the globe. Headquartered in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio, United States and founded by William Procter and James Gamble, the company manufactures pet foods, cleaning agents and personal care products, which are used almost in every house daily. The motto of P&G is ‘Touching lives, improving life’. But is this motto just on black and white or it really has some significance in the way Procter & Gamble carries out its humungous business? The beans were spilled when ‘Greenpeace’ a global non-governmental environmental organisation, urged ‘Procter & Gamble’to be responsible towards the environment by saying ‘NO’ to deforestation.
P&G uses palm oil on a large scale, which is the main content of many of its personal care products. According to the Press Release dated 26th March, 2014 in New Delhi, A palm oil producer linked to Procter & Gamble’s supply chains was relentlessly chopping down the primary forest in the Indonesian region of Papua. The Greenpeace findings come as activists staged a protest outside the Wella Professionals Salon in New Delhi, urging Procter & Gamble, today demanding the company to guarantee its products, which include Head & Shoulders, become forest-friendly.
Regarding this, Avimuktesh Bhardwaj, forest campaigner at Greenpeace India said, “Procter & Gamble is making us a part of this destruction through the products we use – that’s the real everyday effect P&G is having on the planet. We demand P&G come clean and guarantee that it is not linked to the sort of destructive and illegal practices we’ve documented in its suppliers.”
Avimuktesh further said, “For weeks now P&G has been rehashing the same old line that it takes deforestation seriously and that it depends on certification schemes to guarantee so-called ‘sustainability’. Clearly this isn’t working. It’s time P&G joined the recent groundswell of companies making explicit promises to rid their products of forest destruction – companies such as their biggest competitors Unilever, L’Oreal, Nestle, Colgate, Mars and Ferrero.”
Nearly 4,00,000 people wrote to P&G’s CEO, Alan G. Lafley, demanding that the company immediately commit to No Deforestation. In the eight months since Greenpeace confronted P&G over its weak sourcing policies, the company failed to respond with an adequate policy.
Bustar Maitar, head of the Indonesia forest campaign at Greenpeace International said, “Greenpeace believes palm oil must make a genuine contribution to Indonesia’s development. Progressive palm oil producers in the Palm Oil Innovation Group, along with ambitious commitments from big palm oil players like GAR and Wilmar, prove there is a business case for responsible palm oil.”
The deforestation taking place for the production of palm oil is becoming a menace for the forests of Indonesia. The forests are disappearing at a rate of more than nine Olympic swimming pools each minute, with palm oil being the biggest driver of forest destruction.
According to the Press Release of 26th February, 2014, Procter& Gamble which makes Head & Shoulders also sources palm oil from companies connected to orang-utan habitat clearance in Indonesia, making consumer’s part of a widespread forest destruction scandal. That’s according to findings from a year-long investigation by Greenpeace International, which also reveals that current sourcing policies of the personal care company also expose its supply chain to forest fires and habitat destruction that is pushing the Sumatran tiger to the edge of extinction. Palm oil is a common ingredient in detergents, shampoos, cosmetics and other household goods that P&G manufactures.
On this, BustarMaitar, head of Indoesian forest campaign at Greenpeace International stated, “ The maker of Head & Shoulders needs to stop bringing rainforest destruction into our showers. It must clean up its act and guarantee its customers that these products are forest-friendly. Procter & Gamble should follow the lead of other palm oil using companies like Unilever, Nestle and L’Oreal, which have already promised to clean up their supply chains.”
Greenpeace found that orang-utan habitat was being cleared in plantations linked to P&G’s supply chain. Land used for palm oil cultivation owned by the BW Plantation Group, a company connected to P&G’s supply chain, also correlates with the deaths and burials of orang-utans next to the TanjungPuting National park. In other cases, Greenpeace documented on-going forest clearance within the concessions of two producers known to directly supply P&G.
Areeba Hamid, forest campaigner at Greenpeace International said, “We’ve been confronting P&G over the last eight months with how it’s exposing consumers to forest destruction. Instead of taking urgent action, the company has been Greenwashing its actions. It’s time P&G committed 100% to forest protection and stops making its customers part of the Sumatran tiger’s extinction.”
Companies without strong policies to cut deforestation from their products are exposed to illegal practices in high-risk areas, like the province of Riau in Sumatra. An example of this is the PT Rokan Adi Raya concession, which includes tiger habitat plus forested deep peat, and experienced large scale forest clearance and uncontrolled fires last year. In June 2013, over 150 fire hotspots were recorded within this concession. Many of P&G’s palm oil suppliers ship from Dumai, the main port of Riau province.
Bustar Maitar also said in a press conference, “Greenpeace believes palm oil must make a genuine contribution to Indonesia’s development. Progressive palm oil producers in the Palm Oil Innovation Group, along with ambitious commitments from big palm oil players ‘GAR and Wilmar’ prove that there is a business case for responsible palm oil. There is no excuse for companies like P&G, Reckitt Benckiser and Colgate Palmolive to delay immediate action on deforestation.”
Hence, Greenpeace is demanding Procter & Gamble to end its role in forest destruction.
After so much of dilly-dallying, Procter & Gamble finally agreed to clean up its Palm Oil Act. According to the Press Release of 9th April, 2014, in New Delhi, Procter & Gamble has committed to go heaven and earth, in order to stop the destruction of forests. It was a herculean move on the part of the company, and Greenpeace finally has embraced the step.
A series of protests across the world had put spotlight on the P&G’s bad practices, including at the company’s headquarters in Cincinnati in the United States, a peaceful action for which Greenpeace US activists still face serious charges. In response, P&G promised to take concrete measures to remove all the deforestation from its palm oil supply chains by 2020 from alpha to omega. The policy goes beyond existing criteria from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and requires the company’s suppliers to guarantee there will be no conversion of peatland that the rights of local communities will be respected and that high carbon and high conservation value areas will be protected.
Areeba Hamid, a forest campaigner with Greenpeace International said, “Hundreds of thousands of people across the planet have called on P&G to get rid of palm oil that is leaving tigers and orang-utans homeless. Their commitment today is another step towards responsible supply chains and ending deforestation in the world’s rainforests.”She also added, “But the policy is not perfect. It leaves suppliers six more years to clear forests. With global warming and rapid biodiversity loss, we urge P&G to take action against suppliers, such as Musim Mas and KLK that have been identified to be clearing forests and peatlands.”
A Greenpeace study released in February 2014 highlighted serious violations committed by a number of P&G’s known suppliers and the subsequent public outcry saw more than 400,000 people emailed to the company’s CEO demanding change. The announcement followed a number of other high-profile palm oil traders and consumers, including L’Oreal, Colgate-Palmolive, WIlmar and GAR, who have all committed to ‘No Deforestation’ in their supply chains.
Areeba Hamid also said, “P&G’s policy is testimony to the transformation that the palm oil industry is currently undergoing from consumers demanding deforestation free products, to traders and producers such as Wilmar and GAR adopting no deforestation policies. Responsible palm oil is fast becoming the norm.”
This indicates the level of self-centred approach of the corporates. In a blind rush to quench their thirst for profits, what big corporates like Procter & Gamble forget, is the sacrifice which environment and the people have to make in order to make them successful. It’s the era of 21st century and the companies are relentlessly on a profit cum success fight among each other. ‘In a fight between two elephants, it’s always the grass that gets crushed’. similarly in this fast moving world, it’s the environment that has to pay a huge price. Deforestation, soil erosion, extinction of animals and birds, are some of the few problems that the environment has to confront with. In order to tackle this problem, socially responsible corporates is the need of the hour. If it is done voluntarily, it’s well and good. And if not, environmental organisations like Greenpeace are still there to show such corporates the correct path.
The facts are provided by ‘Greenpeace.’