Body Shop drops Colombian palm oil supplier

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Palm oil, Unilever

The Body Shop says it has terminated a contract with a Colombian palm oil supplier over claims that it pushed for the eviction of peasants to increase its plantation.

The story first came to notice last year, after UK charity and watchdog Christian Aid put pressure on the L’Oreal-owned cosmetics players.

This led to a nine month enquiry by the Body Shop, culminating in the termination of the contract, a decision that Christian Aid called ‘a very strong signal’ with respect to the actions of the palm oil supplier.

Body Shop breaks trade links

According to a report in UK newspaper The Guardian, the enquiry has led the Body Shop to break all trading links with Daabon Organics, a company that supplied the Body Shop with approximately 90 per cent of its total palm oil needs.

Cosmetics companies, particularly those targeting the organic and naturals segment, are coming under increasing pressure to ensure that the supply of both raw materials and ingredients are ethically sourced, falling in line with consumer demands.

The story first surfaced in the The Guardian’s sister newspaper, The Observer, which reported that Daabon Organics was part of a consortium that instigated the eviction of peasants from a piece of land they had been farming for over ten years, situated approximately 300kms north of the country’s capital, Bogota.

Peasants fight for their rights

The peasants were pushed off the land in mid-2006 by Colombian government forces, but they reoccupied the land some six months later, stating their claim for legal rights given they had been present on the previously unoccupied land for more than three years.

The plight of the 123 peasants was taken up by Colombian lawyers, who have since been backed by Christian Aid in the fight to compensate them and allow them to continue farming the land.

Another UK-based cosmetics player, Lush, has been extremely proactive in the area of palm oil, campaigning against the use of any palm oil in personal care formulations.

Sustainable palm oil supplies

To highlight its stand the company recently launched a palm-oil free special edition soap moulded in the shape of a palm tree in the UK market, for which a portion of the sales are being donated to the Rainforest Foundation.

Likewise, global personal care giant Unilever has also been leading the way in sourcing sustainable palm oil, instigated by CEO Paul Polman, who is a staunch advocate of sustainable raw material supplies.

Back in August the company announced that it would source fully segregated sustainable palm oil from Netherlands-headquartered IOI Group, as part of moves by the consumer goods giant to make all its palm oil supplies sustainable by 2015.

Currently the company sources approximately 35 per cent of palm oil through sustainable suppliers.

Related topics: Formulation & Science

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