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Avon commits to greener palm oil

satellite image of oil palm plantations, peatland, and forest in sarawak
Destruction of rainforest for oil palm plantations in Sarawak, Malaysia. Courtesy of Google Earth.

The beauty products giant Avon will purchase enough GreenPalm certificates to meet 100 percent of its palm oil use.

The move means that Avon can claim all of the palm oil it is purchasing is going to support the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a body that sets social and environmental criteria for palm oil production. GreenPalm certificates, which represent physical palm oil certified under the RSPO, allows companies to bypass supply-chain complexities and financially support sustainable palm oil even if their actual sources are not sustainably certified.

“The issue of palm oil provides an opportunity for Avon to make a difference,” said Avon in a statement posted on its website. “While Avon is not a significant user of palm oil, the company has made the commitment to take a leadership position by purchasing GreenPalm certificates covering 100 percent of its global palm oil use. This will help drive demand for sustainable palm oil, increase the supply for sustainable palm oil, and help maintain biodiversity and habitat for endangered species.”

“Avon supports the current moratorium on the conversion of primary forests and peatland into palm oil plantations,” it said, referring to RSPO criteria for new oil palm plantings.

While palm oil is a highly productive crop, yielding more oil per unit of area than any other oilseed, it has lately been targeted by environmentalists because its production has at times taken a heavy toll on wildlife-rich rainforests and carbon-dense peat swamps in Indonesia and Malaysia. The RSPO is the palm oil industry’s response to these concerns.

Avon also said that a portion of sales of certain beauty products would go toward supporting rainforest conservation projects in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest (via The Nature Conservancy) and Borneo (via WWF).

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(01/26/2011) The commercial shows a typical office setting. A worker sits drearily at a desk, shredding papers and watching minutes tick by on the clock. When his break comes, he takes out a Nestle KitKat bar. As he tears into the package, the viewer, but not the office worker, notices something is amiss—what should be chocolate has been replaced by the dark hairy finger of an orangutan. With the jarring crunch of teeth breaking through bone, the worker bites into the “bar.” Drops of blood fall on the keyboard and run down his face. His officemates stare, horrified. The advertisement cuts to a solitary tree standing amid a deforested landscape. A chainsaw whines. The message: Palm oil—an ingredient in many Nestle products—is killing orangutans by destroying their habitat, the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra.

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