UPDATED – Neutrogena Passes the Buck to Johnson & Johnson on Palm Oil

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Blocker (Photo credit: BentWright)

I wrote to Neutrogena to ask from where they source their palm oil for the sun block that I mistakenly bought before checking the label (hey, I’m human!). 

I waited and waited.  Finally I re-wrote Neutrogena again.  This time I got a response, but it just passes the buck to their corporate master, Johnson & Johnson. (I did not know that.  The big get bigger.) 

Here’s their response initially:

Thank you for your email inquiry.

We apologize for the inconvienence [sic]. We will forward your email request to Johnson and Johnson for review. Please allow time for response regarding your concern with global warming.
 
If you have any additional questions contact us ast 1-888-984-2464 Monday-Friday 8AM-8PM EST.
 
Sincerely,
Neutrogena Customer Care
 
Global Warming?  That’s merely a (huge) symptom of the cause — palm oil’s demand — which results in so much deforestation, death, and destruction.  As such my concern and question was about PALM OIL specifically.  So I wrote them back this morning to clarify: 
 

It’s not just global warming. Read my comments closer please.

Demand for palm oil products results in the chopping down of the rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia (50 percent gone already in some places) which is killing orangutans, elephants, rhinos, and other critically endangered species, who live in the rainforests!  Global warming, while a huge consideration, is secondary to my inquiry in that the burning of this rainforest occurs to clear the way for palm oil plantations — and the rainforest is a carbon sink.
 
If there were not the demand for palm oil then there’d be no need to slash and burn the forests, where these animals (and humans) live.

Man, your company clearly doesn’t get it!

UPDATE:  12/21/2012:  Here’s their response to me:
 

While we perform comprehensive testing on the more common ingredients that may provide an allergic reaction such as gluten, nuts etc., unfortunately, it is impossible to test for every ingredient and we cannot guarantee that our products are -free, since the source of an ingredient may change from time to time. Some of the ingredients in the product may have been purchased by us from outside distributors and we cannot say with absolute certainty that cross contamination with this ingredient did not occur at their facilities.Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies fully comply with all regulations on ingredients in the countries in which our products are sold. Wherever regulatory authorities have set limits on certain ingredients, our product formulations either meet those limits or contain a lesser amount of the regulated ingredient. We are committed to maintaining the high standards of quality and safety that have been our hallmark for generations of consumers.
Consumer Care Center

Hmm.  “allergies.” “gluten.”  “nuts”…they still don’t get it.  I re-wrote them again, telling them that they get first prize in the corporate” tin ear” department — and that I couldn’t wait to ridicule them on my very public blog for this mentality.  (For a peek inside the corporate beast’s mind, check out that area highlighted above too.  Clearly that’s some sort of canned corporate response whereby the customer rep is meant to plug-in the name of the ingredient complained-about by some bitching customer in a quasi-corporate Mad Libs exercise.) 

They quickly responded this time. This email, though, said it’d be better if I just called Johnson & Johnson rather than have it addressed in an email.  So call them I did, taking up about thirty minutes of my busy day.  Sure, I received a very nice, patient customer rep this time, who patiently let me talk his ear off on the evils of palm oil, but, naturally, the answer to the palm oil source was not at his fingertips.  So he promised they’d get back to me again.  So we wait again. 

 UPDATE 1/03/2013:  Just received this very nice email from a J&J spokesperson.  Apparently the company is proud of its proactive palm oil policies and is excited to promote them.  I should have some info soon.  For now, here’s the very promising, positive-sounding message(!):
 

Hi XXX, your request about Neutrogena and Palm Oil was handed to me yesterday. I’m so sorry that we didn’t get you the information you are looking for on your first two tries. I understand your frustration completely.

I wanted to drop you a quick line to let you know that your request has finally come to the right place. I am working on getting you information you need. We have a full story to share about sustainable palm oil and we’re pulling together some of the articles, statement, videos and web links that provides perspective on our efforts. I will get them to you hopefully in the next 24 hours.

 Thanks again for your patience, I’ll be back to you asap. Let me know if you have any questions in the meantime.

 XXX

UPDATE:  1/4/2013:  OK, as promised, J&J got back to me today.  Though it’s a bit odd they say they don’t use palm oil, per se, but use chemicals derived from palm oil (there’s no difference, really), and yet, contradictorially, offer up the usual corporate rationalization that they only contribute to an infinitesimal percentage of world-wide palm oil demand, they do offer some great insight into their ambitious goals to source only sustainable palm oil by 2015 (like Unilever).   I just hope there are still orangutans, rhinos, elephants left in the wild by then.  But make no mistake: this is great news. Here’s J&J’s official response. 

 
 

Hi XXX, as promised, here is the background on Johnson & Johnson efforts to support sustainable palm oil. I hope this provides the answers to your questions. It’s a bit long, so get comfortable, but after you have read it, if we haven’t answered your questions, please let me know!

The short answer first; Neutrogena does not use Palm Oil in its products. What we do use are oleo chemicals which may be derived from palm oil. As you might expect, some of our consumer products have oils as starting materials – either synthetic (mineral oil) or natural (coconut, safflower, sunflower, palm). And although we are very small users overall of palm oil (around less that 0.2% of the estimated 50 million tons produced a year) we take our responsibility to protect the environment and our natural resources very seriously – it’s written into our Credohttp://www.jnj.com/connect/about-jnj/jnj-credo/?flash=true and we report on all we do on our public responsibility websitehttp://www.jnj.com/responsibility/

So that’s the background on why we have to answer the question from a Johnson & Johnson perspective.

The first thing is to let you know that in 2010, we announced a set of Healthy Future 2015 goals including our goal to source 100% of our palm oil and ingredients derived from palm oil from certified sustainable sources by around the end of 2015. Every day we are taking steps towards making this goal a reality. Some of the bigger steps in the process are:

· Actively preparing the J&J supply chain to source all palm oil sustainably and to help drive the increased supply of certified palm oil globally. Among the ways we do this is by supporting the palm oil farmers who are using sustainable growing practices and not cutting down the rainforest. We also try to source our ingredients from suppliers who make them from certified sustainable palm oil. We also drive change at the local level by supporting small farmers of palm oil through groups like Solidaridad and the World Wildlife Fund. The videos and links can tell you more: http://www.jnj.com/responsibility/ESG/Social/Supply_Chain/Responsible_Sourcing_of_Palm_Oil/ (Don’t forget to scroll down after the video for more information on our partnerships.)

· We engage our employees in this cause byeducating them about palm oil and how it impacts each of our families and communities. An example of this is a blog written by our Sourcing Manager for Sustainable Palm Oil. I’ve attached is an advance copy of it. It will be posted to our employees later this month and describes Perry’s recent trip to Thailand and how we support independent palm oil farmers there. Another example is this blog by our Sustainability Officer about J&J’s connection to a Philadelphia Zoo program involving orangutans and palm oil.http://www.jnjbtw.com/2012/10/we-got-mail/

· We work hard to make responsibility part of everyday business for us and here’s another example of how we talk to consumers about sustainable Palm Oil in our most recent consumer facing website launch http://healthyessentials.com/our-caring/?email=email&he-database=he-database&header=body&newsletter=newsletter&site-launch=site-launch

We know from our work to date that achieving our goals for palm oil will be hard. The supply chains for certified palm oil are complicated and everyone in the supply chain needs to be working toward the same goal before end buyers like J&J can be successful. But this goal is vital to our company’s sustainability commitments overall. We’ll keep working toward it and urging others to do the same.

I hope that this information has given you the sense that our involvement in andpledge to this cause goes well beyond a company statement on a website. Don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any other questions XXX. Thanks for your interest in this important subject.

 Kind regards

 
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2 Responses to UPDATED – Neutrogena Passes the Buck to Johnson & Johnson on Palm Oil

  1. Pingback: Neutrogena Naturals makes it official | livin' la vida lynda

  2. Berny bertram says:

    Why do they need to use Palm oil at all?

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