For the second year in a row, Procter & Gamble (P&G), investors discussed the company’s impact on forests at the annual shareholder meeting. P&G is the parent company of Charmin, Bounty and Head & Shoulders shampoo. In 2020, 67% of shareholders voted in favor of a Green Century Capital Management resolution calling on P&G to increase its efforts to mitigate deforestation and forest degradation in its supply chains.
Considering the growing availability of such sustainable materials as recycled paper and bamboo, P&G’s use of virgin forest fiber in its Charmin, Bounty and Puffs tissue products puts unnecessary pressure on the Canadian boreal forest. Beyond that, P&G has been widely criticized for the company’s use of palm oil and palm kernel oil suppliers that fuel the deforestation of tropical rainforests. In both cases, the process of logging releases carbon stored in forest and peatland ecosystems into the atmosphere. Because these forests absorb and store large amounts of carbon, the destruction of these wild spaces also means the loss of one of the world’s greatest buffers against climate change. In addition to helping fight climate change, the trees in both the Canadian boreal and the tropical rainforests provide critical habitat for threatened species, such as Canada’s boreal caribou and Indonesia’s orangutans. Furthermore, Indigenous communities have spoken out against the impacts P&G’s suppliers are having on their lands.
During the Q&A portion of the October 12, 2021 meeting, P&G CEO David Taylor fielded various questions about the sustainability of the company’s supply chains. Some of these questions were posed by descendants of James Gamble, the company’s founder, who used their position as shareholders to maneuver the conversation toward P&G’s role in forest degradation in Southeast Asia and Canada. In response to the request that the company reduce its impact on the Canadian boreal forest by using recycled and sustainable forest-free alternative fibers, Taylor asserted that recycled paper was not an option for the company’s tissue products and did not address non-wood fiber alternatives. In response to concerns about P&G’s palm oil supply chain, Taylor mentioned that they only use palm oil certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil but did not address the fact that two of their palm oil suppliers in Malaysia are not allowed to export their products to the United States because of ongoing human rights violations.
As one of the largest tissue producers and palm oil users in the U.S., P&G is uniquely positioned to set a higher standard for corporate responsibility in the face of the climate crisis. Shareholders, environmental groups and American consumers will continue to push for P&G to use its power and wealth to invest in our society’s future -- starting with ending their devastating impact on forests.