Investigative report reveals Climate Week sponsor Procter & Gamble is destroying climate, forests

Thursday September 23, 2021

New report shows world’s largest consumer goods company embroiled in controversy over irresponsible supply chains linked to human rights abuses, forest destruction

NEW YORK — As the world’s largest consumer goods company Procter & Gamble takes center stage this week at Climate Week, a new report by environmental advocacy organization Stand.earth exposes human rights abuses, and old growth and primary forest destruction, in the company’s pulp and palm oil supply chains. 

The investigative report linking P&G to clearcut logging of some of North America’s last old-growth and primary forests in British Columbia and other provinces in Canada, and to human rights abuses in Indonesia, comes out at the same time P&G is speaking at and sponsoring Climate Week in New York City.

“If it was illegal to damage our climate, Procter & Gamble would be a criminal for making toilet paper out of threatened species habitat and the very primary forests that are our greatest defense against a changing climate. Adding insult to injury, Procter & Gamble is trying to buy a green reputation by sponsoring Climate Week instead of improving their environmental performance,” said Todd Paglia, Executive Director at Stand.earth.

The investigative report draws attention to Procter & Gamble’s risky supply chains ahead of the company’s annual meeting on October 12, 2021, where activists are encouraging shareholders to vote against key board member Angela Braly for her role in failing to address the company’s supply chain issues. Braly’s effectiveness in her role as chair of P&G’s committee on social responsibility issues is in question, in large part due to her dual role on climate denier ExxonMobil’s board.

“Procter & Gamble is embroiled in a growing number of controversies stemming from its sourcing of wood pulp and palm oil. These controversies implicate the company in violating human rights, degrading primary forests, and endangering threatened species for ubiquitous products like toilet paper and soap. They also create material and reputational risk for the company’s brand equity, especially among socially and environmentally conscious consumers and investors,” said Tyson Miller, Forest Programs Director at Stand.earth.

The report outlines four key areas of controversy linked to P&G’s sourcing of pulp and palm oil:

  • Destroying and degrading primary forests and intact forest landscapes, including failing to implement enforcement protocols that prohibit deforestation and halt expansion into intact forests, old growth, and primary forests; and failing to commit to time-bound goals to reduce forest fiber in its tissue products like Charmin and Bounty.
  • Violating human rights in supply chains in Canada, Indonesia, and Malaysia, by perpetuating colonialist practices rather than working to build respectful relationships with frontline and Indigenous communities, including failing to require suppliers to demonstrate that standard operating procedures and independent verification mechanisms are in place to ensure respect for Indigenous communities right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC).
  • Putting threatened and endangered species at risk, including sourcing from suppliers in the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Quebec, and Ontario, that degrade critical habitat and put threatened caribou populations at further risk. Canadian federal guidelines show that caribou need 65% range habitat intactness in order to have a chance of long-term survival, and a majority of herds are on a trajectory of decline.
  • Failing to create transparency and accountability in its palm oil and pulp supply chains, including by relying on third-party certifications instead of developing infrastructure to ensure intact primary forests and threatened species habitats are not in its supply chains; and by failing to adequately meet demands of 67% of shareholders calling on the company to report on how it can eliminate deforestation and forest degradation from its supply chains.

The report also lists several ways P&G misleads its customers about its sustainability initiatives through misinformation about the efficacy of forest certification schemes and the benefits of the company’s tree planting initiatives, among other things. P&G announced earlier this week it had joined Amazon’s Climate Pledge, and announced last week that it aimed to achieve net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across its operations and supply chain by 2040 — but its net zero climate targets exclude emissions from its tissue and paper towel products.

“P&G simply can’t talk about climate leadership while destroying climate-critical primary forests for its products. P&G’s recent commitment to ‘net zero’ makes it a poster child for how some companies are using the term to hide business-as-usual forest destruction, and its recent commitment to Amazon's ‘climate pledge’ calls into question the integrity of the initiative as a meaningful indicator of corporate leadership on climate change," said Gary Cook, Global Climate Campaigns Director at Stand.earth.

BACKGROUND

The release of the investigative report comes more than two years after the launch of the Issue with Tissue campaign against Procter & Gamble for making toilet paper and tissue products from endangered forests and threatened species habitat.

In October 2020, P&G faced an investor rebellion at its annual meeting when two-thirds of shareholders passed a proposal on the company’s forest sourcing and impacts. In March 2021, P&G outlined its plans to investors to address issues in its supply chains for palm oil and pulp. That announcement was met with disappointment by advocacy groups for failing to adequately address the financial threats of deforestation and forest degradation in its supply chains.

Over the past two years, advocacy groups have released several Issue with Tissue scorecards flunking Charmin and other P&G brands on sustainability, 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 messageabout 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, Communications Manager, media@stand.earth, +1 510 858 9902 (Pacific Time)