Procter & Gamble faces mounting criticism over its 'Our Home' climate initiative

Procter & Gamble faces mounting criticism over its 'Our Home' climate initiative

Wednesday October 07, 2020

Concerns over company’s destructive forestry and poor labor practices come as executives face important shareholder vote on resolution calling for better sourcing

CINCINNATI, OHIO — On Wednesday, October 7, advocacy groups Stand.earth, NRDC, Friends of the Earth, Rainforest Action Network, David Suzuki Foundation, and Wildlands League, joined by youth activists, and Indigenous and frontline leaders from Canada and Southeast Asia hosted a global webcast that uncovered what P&G forgot to tell the world during the launch of its “Our Home” climate initiative — exposing the ways Indigenous and frontline communities have been historically impacted by destructive forestry and poor labor practices in the boreal forest of Canada as well as tropical forests in Malaysia and Indonesia, and calling for Procter & Gamble to stop greenwashing and start taking responsible action. 

A recording of the webinar is available at facebook.com/standearth

This important webinar could not be more perfectly timed, as Procter & Gamble executives face mounting pressure from green investor groups to implement better forest sourcing practices, including a shareholder resolution (page 78) that will be voted on at the company’s upcoming shareholder meeting on Tuesday, October 13. See what activists are planning on the ground at P&G's HQ in Cincinnati, Ohio, in the week leading up to the annual meeting.

Procter & Gamble is one of the largest companies in the world. Unfortunately, the company causes significant harm to climate-critical forests, endangered species, and Indigenous and frontline communities for the products we all use — like toilet paper, soap, and beauty products. When launching its “Our Home” climate initiative earlier this year to become “carbon neutral” in its direct operations, Procter & Gamble conveniently downplayed the massive impacts it has on the places it sources its fiber and palm oil, focusing instead on funding flashy projects like restoring mangroves and planting trees. 

In Canada, Procter & Gamble’s flagship brands like Charmin toilet paper and Bounty paper towels are driving the loss and fragmentation of the boreal forest — a climate-critical ecosystem known as the “Amazon of the north” that stores more carbon per hectare than just about any other forest on Earth. 

Despite pressure from environmental advocates and Indigenous communities, Procter & Gamble has continually failed to set time-bound goals to stop sourcing from Canadian suppliers that fail to meet federal habitat 65% intactness guidelines established to advance the survival of caribou — a threatened species. The company turned a blind eye when caribou, an important species that indicates the broader health of the boreal forest, were listed as threatened due to habitat loss and fragmentation. The company is also failing to require its suppliers to adhere to the principles of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent when sourcing from traditional territories of First Nations.

Representing the critical perspective of Indigenous peoples living in the boreal forest, Joe Fobister of Asubpeeschoseewagong (Grassy Narrows) First Nation in Ontario, Canada said: “Procter & Gamble needs to require its suppliers to uphold Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) when operating in Indigenous territories wherever the operate.” Grassy Narrows First Nation used tribal sovereignty to successfully implement a resource extraction ban on their lands.

"I'm astonished that we're still witnessing ancient and intact ecosystems and threatened species habitat in the traditional territories of many First Nations — areas of the boreal forest in Canada that have never been industrial logged — get logged for Procter & Gamble products like Bounty and Charmin,” said Tzeporah Berman, International Program Director at Stand.earth. 

"Procter & Gamble makes its tissue products entirely from virgin forest fiber, including a significant portion from Canada's boreal forest. Its actions create reputational, regulatory, and operational risk. Procter & Gamble has the resources and the responsibility to change its practices, and the company should do so as quickly as possible for the sake of our forests, our communities, and our planet,” said Shelley Vinyard, Boreal Corporate Campaign Manager at NRDC.

“Canada doesn't know it, but it has a deforestation problem. We have exposed a massive and ignored footprint of industrial logging on Ontario's public lands. These are vast areas of treeless, barren logging scars that are persisting for decades in the boreal forest. We need to restore these logging scars and companies like Procter & Gamble need to step up and demand the same from their suppliers,” said Dave Pearce, Forest Conservation Manager at Wildlands League.

“The primary cause of boreal caribou decline is habitat loss and degradation, primarily at the hands of industrial activities — things like logging roads and clear cuts. In 2012, the federal government directed provinces to maintain or restore a minimum 65% of undisturbed habitat in each range. But industry rallied to fight back against the requirement, copying the tactics of climate change deniers," said Rachel Plotkin, Ontario Science Campaigns Manager at David Suzuki Foundation.

Speaking both virtually and from Cincinnati, Ohio, where activists are leading a multi-day vigil to highlight Procter & Gamble’s bad behavior and encourage a “yes” vote on the shareholder resolution, local community leaders and youth forest advocates chimed in to the webinar with powerful messages:

"Procter & Gamble’s actions in Canada are impacting not just the people who are local there, and not just those of us who are in Cincinnati, but it has a ripple effect throughout the entire world.  We have learned what happens when we ignore science, and when people put greed and profit over care for our earth and the people in the world. Climate change and a loss of biodiversity are a threat to our future, and addressing them is a moral and spiritual imperative," said Rev. Nelson Pierce Jr of Beloved Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio.

“If I want to have any shot at having a future, I need to be here, in P&G’s house every single day, until they decide to stop flushing our forests, until they decide to respect Indigenous sovereignty, until they decide to get critical caribou habitat out of their supply chains,” said Yousuf Munir of the Young Activists Coalition in Cincinnati, Ohio.

"I have a stake in the decisions that this company makes. We have a responsibility because Procter & Gamble is right here in our backyard. In a world that often makes us feel powerless, where corporations like Procter & Gamble loot Indigenous land and take the resources and leave a path of destruction behind them, we have been left with two choices: Either we give up entirely and walk in defeat, or we fight like hell to protect our people and our planet,” said Jen Mendoza, a Cincinnati community activist and Forest Campaigner at Stand.earth.

"Procter & Gamble’s direct operations directly impact vulnerable communities like Indigenous communities, not to mention their disastrous impacts on wildlife and other ecosystems. It really makes you wonder...why does Procter & Gamble continue to harm the environment? I understand the importance of climate-critical ecosystems like the boreal forest, because my generation is going to have to solve climate change," said Trison Braithwaite, a youth activist and YouTube star.

In Indonesia and Malaysia, Procter & Gamble brands including Ivory soap and Oil of Olay can be linked to palm oil suppliers that are known to be actively causing or contributing to deforestation and human rights violations in their commodity production or processing operations. Earlier this month, an Associated Press investigation revealed that P&G sources from palm oil suppliers who use forced labor and other horrific labor practices in Malaysia.

"It's not just the climate and biodiversity that's at risk. What we're seeing is that frontline and Indigenous communities are also being truly hurt by Procter & Gamble's unsustainable and unjust sourcing policies,” said Brihannala Morgan, Senior Forest Campaigner at RAN.

"Broad tariff enforcement and blocking the import of controversial palm oil is only the first step to ending forced labor. We need binding agreements that include buyers, suppliers, and worker organizations. Voluntary promises by companies to stop forced labor in their supply chains — which are not enforceable and are sometimes called ‘corporate social responsibility’ — does not work,” said Esmeralda Lopez, Legal and Policy Director at Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum.

"In order to be able to clear massive areas of primary forest for their plantations, companies need to first get control over the land. How do they do that? Through what we call land grabbing — establishing false permits and committing direct acts of violence against the communities,” Jeff Conant, Senior International Forests Program Manager at Friends of the Earth U.S.

“Astra Agro Lestari has never shown proof that it has a legal permit to use our land. My message to the company is: Even though you direct thousands of terrors at us, and send court summons against us repeatedly, we are not afraid,” said Hemsi, a farmer in central Sulawesi, Indonesia who has been arrested numerous times for defending his community’s land. Astra Agro Lestari is a primary supplier of palm oil to P&G.

“Right now we are doing advocacy in regard to the corruption and pollution by a subsidiary of Golden Agri Resources, whose palm oil is bought by Procter & Gamble. We call on P&G to stop buying palm oil from GAR. We also call on Procter & Gamble to urge Golden Agri Resources to stop deforestation, land grabbing, and environmental pollution in Indonesia,” said Dimas Harton the Executive Director of Walhi Central Kalimantan in Indonesia.

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Media contact: Virginia Cleaveland, Communications Manager, media@stand.earth, +1 510 858 9902 (PDT)