Unilever has cut ties with Indonesia’s largest palm oil company, Sinar Mas, after it was shown evidence that it was illegally destroying rainforests.

The Anglo-Dutch giant, which uses palm oil in brands such as Persil, Flora and Dove, has been shown photographic evidence of Sinar Mas clearing rainforest.

According to The Times, it decided to take action after learning Greenpeace was about to publish the evidence, despite being informed of Sinar Mas’ illegal activities almost two years ago.

“We have received very serious allegations against Sinar Mas and we had no choice but to suspend future purchases from them,” said Unilever vice-president for communications Gavin Neath.

He said Unilever had not taken action previously because it thought it better to work with Sinar Mas to improve its practices, but the approach had failed.

Meanwhile Unilever’s chief financial officer, Jim Lawrence, will step down this month.

Lawrence, who joined Unilever in 2007, has agreed to be available to Unilever in the New Year to ensure a smooth hand over to his successor, who is due to be announced shortly.

Read more
Saturday Essay: Big suppliers must back sustainable palm oil (14 November 2009)
United Biscuits seals sustainable palm oil deal (30 October 2009)