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Action Alert: Unilever Threatens Côte d'Ivoire's Primary Rainforests, Showing Promises of "Sustainable" Palm Oil Meaningless

Leading global consumer products company poised to destroy Ivory Coast's rainforests as both investor and customer, pushing three primates to extinction, just after its future commitment to rainforest protection and certified oil palm in 2015 was much heralded by some

By, a project of EcoInternet - June 2, 2008

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Additional Background

One of Côte d'Ivoire most important primary rainforests is to be cleared by global consumer product company Unilever and others, despite Unilever's recent promises to buy only "sustainable" palm oil from lands not cleared of rainforests for their production. Tanoé Swamps Forest in Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) is one of the last remaining old growth forests in the country and the last refuge for three highly endangered primates -- the Miss Waldron's Red Colobus, the Geoffroy's colobus and the Diana roloway -- as well as home to many endangered plant species.

Tanoé Forest is thought to contain the last remaining population of Piliocolobus waldronae (known as Miss Waldron's Red Colobus). This is a species formerly widespread in Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana, but hunted to extinction over most of its range and declared extinct in 1998; yet a freshly shot specimen was found, in the early 2000s, having been hunted in the Tanoé Forest. If Unilever goes ahead with this project, it may be the first time in history that any company has deliberately profited from the extinction of a species.

Despite international protests, the palm oil company PALM-CI has just begun destroying this 6,000 hectare forest to convert it to oil palm plantations. They are currently building drainage systems at the periphery and, once the rainy season is over, they intend to clearcut all of the forest. If the forest is destroyed, the three primate species as well as many plant species will almost certainly become globally extinct. Large amounts of carbon dioxide will be released from the carbon-rich swamp forests.

Unilever -- one of the world's leading food and personal care consumer brands -- is one of the main companies behind PALM-CI and the destruction of the Tanoé Swamps Forest. They have been a long-term investor in PALM-CI and are represented on the company's board. They are stakeholders in a joint venture, Newco, which is the main customer of PALM-CI. Unilever publicly presents themselves as a 'responsible' palm oil company, being chair of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). They have recently publicly told Greenpeace that they will support a moratorium on rainforest and peatland destruction in Indonesia, and intend to only buy palm oil certified as sustainable. Apparently Africa's rainforests are less important than Indonesia.

Despite years of membership in the RSPO and proclamations about 'sustainability', they have not so far stopped purchasing palm oil grown on deforested land, drained peatland, or at the expense of communities and food production. Unilever continues to profit from the expansion of palm oil monocultures, which is intrinsically unsustainable, and "certified" palm oil is unsubstantiated greenwash.

Despite an international petition with around 8,000 signatures calling for the protection of Tanoé Swamps Forest, they have so far done nothing to stop the destruction. The government of Côte d'Ivoire has refused to protect the forest, despite its high biodiversity, and against calls from many conservation NGOs. Throughout West Africa only 3-4 million hectares of old-growth forest remain, out of 50 million hectares a century ago, and deforestation has accelerated since 2000. Deforestation has had disastrous impacts on communities, soil, water and regional and global climate change.

Please take part in this email alert to request that Unilever stop the destruction of Tanoé Swamps Forest and immediately finance and implement a programme to undo the damage that PALM-CI has caused in recent weeks. After sending the first protest email, you will be forwared to a second protest email asking the government of Côte d'Ivoire to ensure that the forest and the communities that depend on it are fully protected.

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Rainforests are more valuable than palm oil
Species extinction is too high of price to pay for Unilever's oil palm rich consumer products  (link)

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