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P&G to Eliminate Deforestation From Palm Oil Products

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P&G to Eliminate Deforestation From Palm Oil Products

We may not see the full result for six more years, but Procter & Gamble made it official this week—the company will remove all deforestation from its palm oil supply.

The Cincinnati, OH-based company announced a no-deforestation policy for its products, which include Head & Shoulders and Oil of Olay. While the policy calls for no deforestation in the palm supply chain to plantations by 2020, the company plans to enact palm oil and palm kernel oil traceability to supplier mills by Dec. 31, 2015.

Graphic credit: Greenpeace

“P&G’s commitment to no deforestation in its palm supply chain is unequivocal," P&G Vice President of Global Sustainability Len Sauers said. "Our aim is to develop effective long-term solutions to the complicated issue of palm oil sustainability.

"We are committed to driving positive change throughout the entire supply chain, not just for us, but for the industry and for the small farmers who depend on this crop."

Palm oils are typically extracted through widespread deforestation that pushes orangutan, Sumatran tigers and other exotic animals to the brink of extinction.

The announcement comes a month after nine Greenpeace activists were arrested on burglary and vandalism charges for hanging a pair of 60-foot banners on P&G's skyscraper to call attention to the company's use of palm oil. While those activists still face charges, Greenpeace as an organization was pleased with the company's policy.

A month after Greenpeace protested at P&G's headquarters, the company has announced a no-deforestation policy. Photo credit: Jimmy Domingo/Greenpeace

“Hundreds of thousands of people across the planet have called on P&G to get rid of palm oil that is leaving tigers and orangutans homeless,” said Areeba Hamid, a forest campaigner with Greenpeace International, according to a Greenpeace blog. “Their commitment today is another step towards responsible supply chains and ending deforestation in the world’s rainforests.” 

The policy goes beyond existing criteria from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), according to the company. It requires suppliers to guarantee there will be no conversion of peatland, that residential rights will be valued and that high-carbon and high-conservation value areas will be protected.

Palm oil suppliers are required to submit plans by Dec. 31, 2015 to demonstrate how they will eliminate deforestation. P&G pledges to work with small farmers to improve practices for palm kernel oil.

Still, Greenpeace remained critical of the six-year window between now and the official deforestation ban date.

“The policy is not perfect," Hamid said. "It leaves suppliers six more years to clear forests. With global warming and rapid biodiversity loss, we urge P&G to take action against suppliers, such as Musim Mas and KLK that have been identified to be clearing forests and peatlands.”

“Also for P&G to guarantee that all its products are completely free from forest destruction, it would need to implement a similar no deforestation commitment across forest commodities, that it sources apart, such as wood pulp.”

P&G says it will present reports annually to track its progress.

“This is the most complicated aspect of the palm supply chain, where P&G believes we can make a significant and lasting impact," Sauers said.

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An illustration depicts the extinct woolly rhino. Heinrich Harder / Wikimedia Commons

The last Ice Age eliminated some giant mammals, like the woolly rhino. Conventional thinking initially attributed their extinction to hunting. While overhunting may have contributed, a new study pinpointed a different reason for the woolly rhinos' extinction: climate change.

The last of the woolly rhinos went extinct in Siberia nearly 14,000 years ago, just when the Earth's climate began changing from its frozen conditions to something warmer, wetter and less favorable to the large land mammal. DNA tests conducted by scientists on 14 well-preserved rhinos point to rapid warming as the culprit, CNN reported.

"Humans are well known to alter their environment and so the assumption is that if it was a large animal it would have been useful to people as food and that must have caused its demise," says Edana Lord, a graduate student at the Center for Paleogenetics in Stockholm, Sweden, and co-first author of the paper, Smithsonian Magazine reported. "But our findings highlight the role of rapid climate change in the woolly rhino's extinction."

The study, published in Current Biology, notes that the rhino population stayed fairly consistent for tens of thousands of years until 18,500 years ago. That means that people and rhinos lived together in Northern Siberia for roughly 13,000 years before rhinos went extinct, Science News reported.

The findings are an ominous harbinger for large species during the current climate crisis. As EcoWatch reported, nearly 1,000 species are expected to go extinct within the next 100 years due to their inability to adapt to a rapidly changing climate. Tigers, eagles and rhinos are especially vulnerable.

The difference between now and the phenomenon 14,000 years ago is that human activity is directly responsible for the current climate crisis.

To figure out the cause of the woolly rhinos' extinction, scientists examined DNA from different rhinos across Siberia. The tissue, bone and hair samples allowed them to deduce the population size and diversity for tens of thousands of years prior to extinction, CNN reported.

Researchers spent years exploring the Siberian permafrost to find enough samples. Then they had to look for pristine genetic material, Smithsonian Magazine reported.

It turns out the wooly rhinos actually thrived as they lived alongside humans.

"It was initially thought that humans appeared in northeastern Siberia fourteen or fifteen thousand years ago, around when the woolly rhinoceros went extinct. But recently, there have been several discoveries of much older human occupation sites, the most famous of which is around thirty thousand years old," senior author Love Dalén, a professor of evolutionary genetics at the Center for Paleogenetics, said in a press release.

"This paper shows that woolly rhino coexisted with people for millennia without any significant impact on their population," Grant Zazula, a paleontologist for Canada's Yukon territory and Simon Fraser University who was not involved in the research, told Smithsonian Magazine. "Then all of a sudden the climate changed and they went extinct."

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Transitioning to renewable energy can help reduce global warming, and Jennie Stephens of Northeastern University says it can also drive social change.

For example, she says that locally owned businesses can lead the local clean energy economy and create new jobs in underserved communities.

"We really need to think about … connecting climate and energy with other issues that people wake up every day really worried about," she says, "whether it be jobs, housing, transportation, health and well-being."

To maximize that potential, she says the energy sector must have more women and people of color in positions of influence. Research shows that leadership in the solar industry, for example, is currently dominated by white men.

"I think that a more inclusive, diverse leadership is essential to be able to effectively make these connections," Stephens says. "Diversity is not just about who people are and their identity, but the ideas and the priorities and the approaches and the lens that they bring to the world."

So she says by elevating diverse voices, organizations can better connect the climate benefits of clean energy with social and economic transformation.

Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.

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