Unilever, Englewood Cliffs, N.J., announced plans to commit to supporting work in Sabah, Malaysia, as part to achieve a deforestation-free supply chain and further reduce emissions. Unilever will help sustainably certify 60,000 hectares in Sabah as part of a program led by Forever Sabah, Malaysia; World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Switzerland; and the Palm Oil & NGO (PONGO) Alliance, UK. Sabah is pushing to certify 100% of the state’s palm oil production to Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification by 2025. According to WWF, this will help to reduce 17 million metric tons of CO2e in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Unilever’s commitment will:

  • Look to cover 60,000 hectares with RSPO certification.
  • Benefit approximately 200-300 palm oil farmers.
  • Help restore two ecological corridors and two riparian reserves (area of habitat connecting wildlife population).

“At the COP 21 climate negotiations, we pledged to support a jurisdictional approach of production and protection. This means we are moving our sourcing to areas that have good forest management and work in partnership to reconcile competing, social, economic and environmental objectives. Our ultimate ambition is to help drive a sustainable palm oil industry,” says Jeff Seabright, chief sustainability officer for Unilever.

Meanwhile, Walmart, Bentonville, Ark., announced plans to develop a platform within one of its key emission reduction initiatives, Project Gigaton, to link its suppliers who are sourcing commodities from regions with deforestation risk to create and support place-based partnerships. Walmart launched Project Gigaton last April, seeking to work with suppliers to reduce emissions from the company’s value chain by a gigaton, or 1 billion metric tons, by 2030.

“Walmart commends Unilever on helping implement this model in Sabah, and we invite other suppliers to join us in working to reduce deforestation through innovative sourcing strategies like jurisdictional approaches,” says Kathleen McLaughlin, senior vice president and chief sustainability officer for Walmart.  “These multi-stakeholder initiatives in critical regions are needed to reduce forest loss and degradation, and improve the health and sustainability of the people who depend on forests.”

As part of Project Gigaton, Walmart is collaborating with Conservation International, Arlington County, Va.; Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), New York; The Nature Conservancy, Arlington County, Va.; and WWF to identify jurisdictions with deforestation risk and connect suppliers with guidance on how to best support these multi-stakeholder efforts.

“Forests provide enormous benefits to people, the planet and business, and it is clear that governments have a critical role to play in the battle to manage our forests sustainably,” says Dr. M. Sanjayan, chief executive officer of Conservation International. “We applaud Unilever for partnering with government to support transitions to sustainable agriculture at scale. Their efforts to drive sustainable practices on the ground, combined with their global reach, can help spread these good ideas and models around the world.”

Project Gigaton aims to drive industry-wide transformation by bringing together value chain partners and other stakeholders in critical sourcing geographies such as Sabah, Malaysia; North Sumatra, Indonesia; and Mato Grosso, Brazil, to achieve sustainable landscapes through the implementation of jurisdictional approaches.

“Simply put, we cannot solve our climate challenges without healthy forests. The good news—working solutions are now up and ready to go, pointing the way toward stopping deforestation on the scale of entire landscapes,” adds Fred Krupp, president of EDF. “EDF has long supported the idea that jurisdictional approaches are the critical next wave of corporate forest leadership. We applaud Walmart and Unilever for their leadership, and encourage other companies to join them.”

"Avoiding deforestation is one of the most effective and efficient tools available to help slow the effects of climate change. But, to do this at scale, we must work together. When corporate leaders work with governments and local communities to source sustainable commodities, it’s a win for people, nature and the bottom line. Today's commitment is an important step toward a climate-friendly future," says Mark Tercek, chief executive officer of The Nature Conservancy.

"With this partnership, Walmart and Unilever are advancing an innovative new approach to help companies meet their climate goals," says Carter Roberts, president and CEO of WWF-US. "Decoupling supply chains from deforestation would deliver three important benefits – reduce greenhouse gas emissions, secure essential habitat and restore species like orangutans and elephants that call Sabah their home. And, any success along this front could spur similar collaboration and results for key industries and regions across the world.”