P&G dogged by controversy on forests, human rights at annual meeting for third year in a row

Tuesday October 12, 2021

Advocacy groups say company will continue to face huge reckoning over supply chain issues, controversial business ties

CINCINNATI, OHIO —  Environmental advocacy groups raised concerns and activists protested for a third year in a row at Procter & Gamble’s (P&G) annual general meeting of shareholders today, Tuesday, October 12, 2021, drawing attention to the ongoing controversy over the company’s supply chain issues, including its sourcing of pulp from the boreal forest of Canada and palm oil from the tropical forests of Indonesia and Malaysia.

Activists with Stand.earth and Rainforest Action Network hosted a caribou dance and die-in, a stunt with tree stumps, and showcased a mobile billboard, banners, speakers, poetry, and music — all to draw attention to the company’s supply chain concerns and controversial business partnerships. See photos and video.

At the annual meeting, which was held virtually, P&G shareholders voted to keep board member Angela Braly on the board despite calls for her ouster. Those calls questioned Braly’s effectiveness in her role as chair of P&G’s committee on social responsibility issues, citing in part her ties to climate denier ExxonMobil’s board. It was the first time a Procter & Gamble board member has faced pushback from environmental advocacy groups and activist investors over the company’s lack of accountability on forest destruction, human rights, and climate change issues.

“Procter & Gamble has made some small changes to mitigate its harmful impacts to forests and Indigenous communities, but its reforms have been cosmetic at best. With a new CEO soon taking the helm at P&G, we hope the company is ready to adequately address the issues with its supply chains that our groups have collectively been raising for years,” said Tyson Miller, Forest Programs Director at Stand.earth.

“As the climate heats up, pressure on corporate climate deniers like P&G board member Angela Braly is also heating up.  The scrutiny on P&G, its board, and its suppliers, will continue until the company takes real responsibility for its widespread impacts on the world’s forests,” said Jeff Conant, Senior International Forest Program Director at Friends of the Earth. 

“Until P&G deals with its ties to forest destruction, the company will continue to face pressure from consumers and investors alike. After today’s annual meeting, we want P&G leadership to know: We expect more, and we're not going away,” said Shelley Vinyard, Boreal Corporate Campaign Manager at NRDC.

“There is a growing expectation that corporate leaders prioritize managing their companies' climate and community impacts and the call for accountability is only getting stronger. Until we see substantial improvements in policy and practice we will continue to stand in solidarity with Indigenous and local communities and call for justice from P&G,” said Maggie Martin, Senior Forest Campaigner at Rainforest Action Network.

"We can no longer allow corporations like Procter & Gamble to source wood pulp and palm oil at the expense of our forests. These irreplaceable wild spaces store carbon, sustain local communities and protect such threatened species as caribou and orangutans. The pressure on Procter & Gamble will continue until it makes the necessary changes that its customers, shareholders and other Americans want to see," said Sammy Herdman, Research and Policy Center Campaign Associate at Environment America.

BACKGROUND

Numerous environmental and civil society groups including Stand.earth, Environment America, Rainforest Action Network, Friends of the Earth, and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) have urged P&G for more than two and a half years to reform its poor pulp and palm oil sourcing practices to make products like Charmin toilet paper and Head & Shoulders shampoo. Several of P&G's palm oil suppliers face ongoing controversies, including U.S. imports of raw materials sourced from suppliers being blocked over forced labor and human rights violations, and supplier company executives facing prison sentences over bribing government officials.

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 — the first time in the company’s history. In March 2021, P&G outlined its plans to investors to address issues in its supply chains for palm oil and pulp, but 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 scorecards, including the  Issue with Tissue and Keep Forests Standing scorecard flunking Charmin and other P&G brands; revealed how actions by P&G’s pulp suppliers in Canada do not meet their sustainability claims; issued an investor risk alert warning investors against the company; published an investigative report showing how the company is tied to human rights abuses and forest destruction; revealed how P&G is sourcing wood from suppliers degrading Canada’s forests; created a “blind wipe” video spoofing Charmin over its softness claims; held a protest outside Procter & Gamble’s shareholder meetingfeaturing a chainsaw-wielding bear; got Santa arrested for delivering coal to Procter & Gamble’s headquarters, and more. 

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