On the last workday of Earth Week, Procter & Gamble said it will partner with three groups to help small farmers in the company’s palm oil chain in Malaysia discover more efficient and sustainable ways to farm.
P&G said the initiative grows out of an earlier pilot program and is part of the company’s Ambition 2030 environmental sustainability goals.
P&G earlier this week laid out some of its plans at the Sustainable Brands Paris conference.
“Consumers are no longer willing to compromise performance for living sustainably and they expect brands to take meaningful action in solving some of the most complex challenges facing the world,” Mark Pritchard, P&G’s chief brand officer, told the Paris group.“We want our brands to be growing and creating value while having a measurable, long-term, positive impact on society and the environment.”
Helping small palm growers is no small part of that plan. The company says 40% of the world’s palm oil supply comes from smallholders.
It is teaming with the Malaysia Institute for Supply Chain Innovation, the International Plant Nutrition Institute and Yara International, which helps develop precise digital farming tools.
The pilot program involved 2,000 smallholder farmers in the state of Johor, Malaysia. Success there has led to the bigger idea of creating 250 “learning farms” that will serve as resource centers for as many as 10,000 other farmers, helping them to develop sustainable agricultural practices over the next five years. The goal is to improve sustainable yields by 30%-50% and thereby improve the livelihood of those farmers.
Charmin toilet paper, a top P&G brand, has similar sustainability program with smallholders in the Four States Timberland Association.
P&G says it uses ingredients derived from palm oil and palm derivatives in a wide swath of consumer packaged goods categories, including home, hair, beauty and oral care products. Two-thirds of it come from Malaysia and another third comes from Indonesia.
The World Wildlife Fund for Nature, which issues a report card on companies' sustainable progress, in 2016 gave P&G a score of 7 for its progress in purchasing only certified sustainable palm oil, or CSPO. Rivals like Unilever and Colgate Palmolive tied with a ranking of 9, the best of the CPG firms. Those companies use 100% CSPO, while in 2016, according to WWF, only 41% of Procter & Gamble’s palm oil had that designation.
But a spokeswoman says it has a goal of purchasing 100% of its palm oll designated CSPO by the end of next year, and has received other approving certifications from the organizing group, the Roundtable for Certified Sustainable Palm Oil.