Simon Perry, former Global Sustainable Palm Oil Sourcing Manager @ Johnson & Johnson
Q1 : Can you provide a brief overview of Johnson & Johnson's sustainable palm oil policy?
Johnson & Johnson has a vital, global commitment to sustaining our natural resources. Although we are very small users overall of palm oil (around less than 0.2% of the estimated 50 million tonnes produced a year) we take our responsibility to protect the environment and our natural resources very seriously. As part of this commitment, our Family of Consumer Companies supports the production of sustainable palm oil. We have been a member of the RSPO since 2006. We don’t use palm oil directly in our products, but some of the ingredients that go into our shampoos, soaps, lotions and creams are derived from palm oil. Due to the complexity of the supply chain for these ingredients, the best way for us to demonstrate our commitment to sustainable palm oil is to purchase GreenPalm certificates. By taking this approach, monies from purchasing GreenPalm certificates directly benefits the growers of RSPO certified palm oil. This motivates existing growers to continue producing sustainable palm oil and encourages new growers to do the same, thereby increasing the volume of certified sustainable palm oil in the market.
Q2 : Why has Johnson & Johnson chosen to use the RSPO book and claim option to cover its palm usage?
We use the RSPO book and claim (GreenPalm) mechanism for a number of reasons. The first is that the volume of certified sustainable palm oil in the market needs to increase. The GreenPalm programme offers a financial incentive for growers to maintain sustainable palm oil practices and encourages other growers to participate in sustainable palm oil practices. These steps can help grow the overall volume of palm oil in the market.
The second reason is that Johnson & Johnson does not buy palm oil, or palm kernel oil directly. We buy oleo-chemicals and soap chips which are used in our bar soaps, lotions, shampoos, and creams. This means our supply chain is longer and more complex than other users of palm oil. The GreenPalm programme allows us to demonstrate our commitment to the growers until the derivatives supply chain matures enough to make the procurement of RSPO-segregated material commercially viable and business continuity assured.
The third reason is that GreenPalm is an accepted RSPO supply chain mechanism and helps advance our commitment to source all palm oil and its derivatives from certified sustainable sources.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we believe we can use the GreenPalm programme to introduce the concept of sustainable palm oil to consumers, to increase their awareness and engagement in the issue. Sustainable palm oil is a complex issue and everyone in the supply chain from consumers and suppliers through to growers needs to be working toward the same goal to succeed.
Q3 : Your first product to display the GreenPalm logo on their packaging is LE PETIT MARSEILLAIS® soap in France. Why did you choose this particular product?
Our brands have a strong interest in sustainability and we continuously engage with the brand management across our Family of Consumer Companies. Some brands are especially interested in palm oil because of the importance of palm oil in their particular country, or because they have a clear desire to demonstrate their brand’s commitment to certified sustainable palm oil. LE PETIT MARSEILLAIS® is a growing brand in France and France recognises the importance of sourcing palm oil sustainably.
Q4 : Do you intend to use the GreenPalm logo on other products and in other countries?
When the right opportunities arise, we will continue to offer the GreenPalm logo for use on packaging, at point of sale or an internet page. This way we hope to encourage other end users of palm oil to demonstrate their commitments to promote and accelerate the growth of sustainable palm oil.
Q5 : Have you received any comments or questions from consumers about your use of palm oil? If so, what are the main consumer concerns and which parts of the world are most vocal on the subject?
We’ve seen a growing interest in sustainable palm oil from both our retail customers and consumers around the globe. We use the opportunity to explain that while Johnson & Johnson is a relatively small user of palm oil – we estimate less than 0.2% of the global output – we have a responsibility to work with industry and NGOs to ensure there is a steady supply of sustainable palm oil. We have also global workforce at J&J who are both consumers and our ambassadors to the public. We communicate with them regularly about how palm oil impacts each of our families and communities and engage them in our efforts to raise awareness.
Q6 : Some manufacturers have yet to switch to an RSPO approved palm oil supply chain option. What, in your opinion or experience, are the main barriers to committing to sustainable palm oil? What is deterring manufacturers from following the example of businesses such as Johnson & Johnson?
The supply chains for certified palm oil are complex. Everyone in the supply chain needs to be working toward the same goal before end buyers like Johnson & Johnson and other companies can be successful. At Johnson & Johnson, we are fortunate to have senior level support for our palm oil goals. Part of my role is dedicated to supporting the company’s transition to physical sustainable palm oil, and as a relatively small user, we’re agile enough to react quickly and capitalise on new opportunities. A recent example is when the Johnson & Johnson Consumer Group purchased the first independent smallholder certificates in Thailand. As the market evolves, we will continue to explore with our partners the right solutions to support our end goals.
Q7 : As a consumer yourself, do you find it difficult to be a ‘sustainable shopper’? Are sustainable issues such as palm oil ultimately down to product manufacturers to solve, bringing positive social, environmental and economic change or can consumers play their part?
I consider sustainability a growing and important purchasing criterion, and where I can, I make a conscious decision to purchase something that is sourced responsibly. Sustainable issues such as palm oil are so complex that the most effective way to address these is for collaboration among all public and private sectors across the value chain. Everyone has to do their part to make a sustainable and long lasting change. At Johnson & Johnson, we will keep working toward our sustainability goals and urging others to do the same.