October 05, 2010
The Body Shop, a cosmetics firm that prides itself on being an 'eco-conscious' retailer, was sourcing 90 percent of its palm oil to the accused firm, Daabon Organic, a Santa Marta-based operator that has been certified under the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil for eco-friendly palm oil. Daabon also produces coffee and bananas certified under the Rainforest Alliance's eco-label.
According to The Guardian, the conflict began in 2006 when Daabon's subsidiary and a partner company bought Las Pavas, a 1,100-hectare ranch in southern Bolívar province, and subsequently evicted more than 100 families who claimed to have worked the land for more than a decade. The eviction occurred in an area where conflict between right-wing paramilitaries, left-wing guerrillas, and small farmers has been rife since the 1990s. With guerrilla and paramilitary activity now waning, companies are moving into the region, sparking new conflict.
The Body Shop said it spent nine months investigating the charges against Daabon before making its decision.
Daabon expressed disappointment. Abondano Alfonso Dávila, vice president agribusiness Daabon Group, told El Espectador "we have complied with the law", noting "the eviction was ordered by the judges."
Nevertheless, the response from The Body Shop illustrates another case where a company can operate within the limits of local laws but still fall short of the standards desired by international retailers. Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), an Indonesia-based paper supplier, has run into a similar situation in its standoff with environmentalists. While APP argued it is not doing anything illegal through the clearing of rainforests and carbon-dense peatlands, its conduct has put it in ill-favor with several major Western buyers, which have canceled contacts with the company.