Avon pledges to clean up palm oil supply chain

By Deanna Utroske

- Last updated on GMT

Avon pledges to clean up palm oil supply chain

Related tags Palm oil

The direct-sales beauty company just updated its Palm Oil Promise document with stringent objectives and supplier guidelines that are more socially responsible when it comes to environmental and human rights concerns.

Weeks back, leading personal care brands and allied stakeholders wrote to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, calling for tougher global palm oil sourcing standards. That group urged the RSPO to take a firmer stance on deforestation, peatland preservation, and human rights. (Read the Cosmetics Design article, Industry giants weigh in on sustainable palm oil​.)

Large corporations, like Johnson & Johnson and Colgate-Palmolive (both signatories to that letter addressed to the RSPO) have rigid sourcing guidelines in place. And the Avon Palm Oil Promise update will bring the company into lockstep with its peers.

In fact, it “has the potential to be one of the strongest palm oil commitments in the personal care sector to date,” ​according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, a non-profit science advocacy group. “Avon’s Palm Oil Promise…places the company among corporations like L’Oréal that are transforming the industry.”

The promise
Avon’s reasoning for the update is straightforward enough: “As a company, we are committed to protecting the environment and respecting and upholding the human rights of the communities and workers affected by our operations and supply chain.”

And though the company purports to use very little palm oil or palm kernel oil, Avon ingredients do comprise derivatives of the oils. So the updated promise document outlines eight criteria for its suppliers to meet:

  • Deforestation-free
  • Trace their palm oil to a point in the supply chain where they can demonstrate the palm oil meets our sourcing principles
  • From growers that protect peatlands of any depth from new plantation development and have a no burning policy
  • From growers using best management practices2 for palm oil plantations on existing peat soils
  • From growers that comply with all relevant local, national, and international laws
  • From growers that track and report on the carbon footprint of their production
  • From growers that are conflict-free and protective of the rights of workers and indigenous communities
  • Compliant with existing RSPO Principles and Criteria, or equivalent standard

Good for the planet, good for consumers
By requiring its suppliers to behave according to carefully laid out guidelines, Avon will reduce the number of opportunities that unscrupulous palm oil producers have to do business. “The company's actions will increase the demand for deforestation-free palm oil,” ​says Lael Goodman, an analyst with UCS’s Tropical Forest & Climate Initiative.

“By requiring that any palm oil supplier from which Avon sources meets these requirements, these companies will in turn be required to ensure their palm oil operations across the board—will be free of deforestation and peatland destruction,” ​she explains.

That change in the supply chain impacts consumers. Industry analysts are encouraging cosmetics and personal care brands to make this sort of change and implement whole-system- beauty: “Such a strategy will deliver beneficial, effective products to consumers, lasting revenue streams to companies and do more good than harm to the planet,” reports Cosmetics Design​.

In this case, Goodman believes Avon’s customers will find peace of mind when the company reaches its goals. “Once Avon announces a timeline for this promise, consumers will be much closer to being able to lather on their Avon, Anew, Skin So Soft and Mark products with the knowledge that the palm oil in these products doesn’t contribute to deforestation and climate change.”

The revised Avon Palm Oil Promise is available here​.

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