Canadian federal government's lack of action on caribou causes controversy in U.S. supply chains, sparks concerns from investors

Canadian federal government's lack of action on caribou causes controversy in U.S. supply chains, sparks concerns from investors

Tuesday October 13, 2020

Procter & Gamble shareholders vote in favor of forest resolution, spotlighting concerns over reputational risk for companies sourcing from Canadian boreal

Vancouver, BC  — In a shocking move by Procter & Gamble’s shareholders that defied the company’s own recommendations, two-thirds of Procter & Gamble (P&G) shareholders voted “yes” at the company’s annual meeting on Tuesday, October 13, to pass a proposal on forest sourcing and impacts. The vote is a clear indication that despite repeated insistence from company executives, the world’s largest consumer goods company is not doing enough to deal with the financial threats of deforestation and forest degradation in its supply chains, including the boreal forest of Canada, where the company sources some of its fiber for products like Charmin toilet paper and Bounty paper towels.

67% of shareholders voted yes on Green Century Equity Fund’s shareholder proposal #5 (page 78), which reads “Shareholders request P&G issue a report assessing if and how it could increase the scale, pace, and rigor of its efforts to eliminate deforestation and the degradation of intact forests in its supply chains.” (See the full text of the resolution below.)

Last week, Canadian boreal forest concerns featured prominently in a global webcast looking at how everyday products in homes are connected to serious environmental and social impacts around the globe. The focus was on Procter & Gamble, the world’s largest consumer goods company, and what it must do to make its products truly responsible. But it also focused on the fact that the Canadian federal government and provinces have had an inadequate response to keeping the boreal forest intact and protecting threatened species like caribou from continuing their trajectory towards extinction.

“As a Canadian resident and long-time forest advocate, I am astonished that I am still witnessing ancient and intact ecosystems and traditional territories of many First Nations that have never been industrially logged get hammered for Procter & Gamble’s products like Bounty and Charmin,” says Tzeporah Berman, International Programs Director as Stand.earth.

The vote comes amid mounting pressure from international environmental advocacy groups — including Stand.earth, NRDC, Friends of the Earth, Rainforest Action Network, David Suzuki Foundation, and Wildlands League — to expose the ways Indigenous and frontline communities have been historically impacted by Procter & Gamble’s destructive forest sourcing, land grabbing and poor labor practices in the boreal forest of Canada as well as tropical forests in Malaysia and Indonesia, where the company sources some of its palm oil and fiber from. Learn more about the campaigns in this briefing note sent to P&G investors.

In recent weeks, advocacy groups had increased their campaigning in support of the proposal, hosting a virtual webcast critiquing P&G’s “Our Home” climate initiative, leading multiple days of protest outside the company’s headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio, and holding private meetings with shareholders to discuss the proposal. Groups including NRDC and Stand.earth met with a combined $90 billion of P&G investors representing about 30 percent of total shareholder value — including some of the largest investment institutions in the world.

“P&G’s CEO David Taylor has been trying to convince shareholders and customers that the company is doing enough for forests. Losing this shareholder resolution by a huge margin is a slap in David Taylor’s face and a clear rebuke. The owners of the company are saying directly to the CEO, ‘You have failed and you need to do more to protect forests,’” said Todd Paglia, Executive Director at Stand.earth.

Despite engaging in a long negotiation process with company executives late last year, Stand.earth and NRDC reached an impasse with Procter & Gamble over its sourcing practices. The company refused to set time-bound goals to stop sourcing from Canadian suppliers that don’t meet the 65% habitat intactness thresholds established by the Canadian federal government to support the survival of endangered boreal caribou. The company has also failed to require its suppliers to adhere to the principles of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent when sourcing from traditional territories of First Nations in Canada.

The boreal forest of Canada is the largest intact forest remaining on the planet, and it also stores more carbon per hectare than nearly any other forest type on Earth (second only to mangroves), making it vital to mitigating the worst impacts of climate change. Often called the “Amazon of the North”, this climate-critical ecosystem is home to over 600 Indigenous communities, as well as boreal caribou, pine marten, and billions of songbirds. The loss of this intact forest is impacting Indigenous peoples’ ways of life and driving the decline of boreal caribou and other species.

Procter & Gamble recently launched the “It’s Our Home” climate initiative, which centers around “the power of nature as a climate solution.” The initiative includes plans by P&G to protect places “that are rich in carbon”, such as the mangroves in the Philippines. However, the announcement conveniently downplayed the massive impacts the company has on the places it sources its fiber and palm oil, completely ignoring the boreal forest of Canada.

ABOUT THE ISSUE WITH TISSUE CAMPAIGN

Today’s shareholder vote comes more than a year after the launch of Stand.earth and NRDC’s Issue with Tissue campaign against Procter & Gamble for making toilet paper and tissue products from endangered forests and threatened species habitat.  

In February 2019, Stand.earth and NRDC released the “Issue with Tissue” sustainability scorecard flunking Charmin and other major toilet paper brands for refusing to use zero recycled content in their at-home toilet paper. In June 2020, NRDC released “The Issue With Tissue 2.0,” including a new sustainability scorecard that once again flunked P&G brands.

In the months following the release of the 2019 report, activists with Stand.earth created a “blind wipe” video spoofing Charmin over its softness claims, held a protest outside Procter & Gamble’s shareholder meeting featuring a chainsaw-wielding bear, got Santa arrested for delivering coal to Procter & Gamble’s headquarters, delivered a tongue-in-cheek Earth Day message about folding vs. wadding toilet paper, released a poll showing 85% of Americans want toilet paper makers to use more environmentally responsible materials, and supported religious leaders in Cincinnati in sending a letter to Procter & Gamble about the moral imperative of addressing climate change. 

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Media contact: Virginia Cleaveland, Stand.earth, media@stand.earth, +1 510 858 9902