Fasting for Forests: Why we spent 72 Hours Outside P&G’s Cincinnati HQ
February 17, 2021
Despite all of Procter & Gamble’s (P&G) pretty talk about valuing sustainability, the company actually destroys critical forests to make Charmin brand toilet paper and other tissue products.
Despite all of Procter & Gamble’s (P&G) pretty talk about valuing sustainability, the company actually destroys critical forests to make Charmin brand toilet paper and other tissue products. The company purchases tens of millions of dollars of controversial Canadian pulp from boreal caribou habitat and high-carbon intact forests where suppliers have not guaranteed Indigenous communities’ free, prior and informed consent.
For the last eighteen months, we’ve worked tirelessly to persuade P&G, a $71 billion-a-year, Fortune 50 company, to fix their supplier problem. We’ve launched petitions… which thousands of you signed or posted! We’ve sent letters. We’ve protested at P&G’s headquarters, (again and again) educated consumers at grocery stores, and organized faith leaders and students and labor. We’ve created animated videos and spoof videos and worked with social media influencers. We dressed up in Charmin bear costumes… and Santa costumes. We’ve posted on Facebook and Twitter. We’ve emailed the CEO. We’ve spoken out, over and over. We’ve organized webinars engaging investors. We’ve published reports. We’ve disrupted P&G-sponsored events, from galas to theatrical performances. We’ve worked with great allies. When Covid struck and toilet paper hoarding became a thing, we urged consumers to buy bidets and choose recycled.
By the summer of 2020, in the middle of a pandemic, it became clear that P&G needed additional motivation. Stand’s allies at NRDC and the Green Century Fund organized a shareholder resolution requiring the company to take action to address primary forest degradation and deforestation in the Canadian boreal forest and other primary forests. We educated and mobilized some of the largest institutional investment groups to support the resolution. Several months before the vote, we knew we needed to do everything we could to pressure the company to do the right thing.
Our intent was to demonstrate our commitment and willingness to make a modest sacrifice for what we believe in. We suspected that maintaining a presence throughout the night is key to success and will be most powerful and impactful. After considering multiple options, we realized that nothing short of 72 continuous hours was essential. After working out protocols for staying safe during a pandemic, including providing masks, wipes, gloves, hand sanitizer and 6’ social distancing, we were set to deploy.
On the first day of the vigil we had faith leaders, youth climate activists and supporters gather for a webinar and a petition delivery. Youth climate leader, Yousuf Munir delivered a giant roll of toilet paper with thousands of petition signatures printed on it. Scott Heid from communications met with us and said that he would be in touch.
The next day several new supporters visited. We got dressed in caribou and Charmin bear costumes, rolled the toilets up to the front door and demanded to speak with leadership. Per usual security stopped us. At this point, we are on a first name basis with them, so we told Mike we wanted a follow up meeting. Three media outlets showed up, interviewed us and got great shots of the shenanigans.
At dusk on the final day we staged a “caribou die-in” at their front doors and handed out literature about forest destruction to the employees coming into work. The police were called and we were told to return to our camp. That afternoon we hosted a Facebook livestream with a street theater performance that involved our friend from security, Mike, who was entirely fed up with us. We managed to get him to crack a smile when I walked up to him dressed as CEO David Taylor and told him “Give the protestors whatever they want!”
Each evening we screened a film about deforestation. Roughly 20 people came out each night to watch the film and discuss it afterward. We broke bread together and did small actions like banner drops and light projector visuals that read “Charmin Kills Caribou” on the P&G building.
All the pressure leading up the P&G’s annual general meeting last year worked. On October 13, 2020, 67% of P&G shareholders voted to demand the company do more to protect forests. This was a huge victory, and put enormous pressure on P&G to change its ways.
As of January 21, 100 days had passed since P&G shareholders voted to protect forests. So far, P&G has done or said nothing.
Now is the time for P&G’s leadership to take action, starting with CEO David Taylor.
Will P&G CEO David Taylor lead his company out of this controversy, or continue to associate P&G and its brands with forest destruction?
We are waiting and watching, and we demand action. We demand leadership. P&G CEO David Taylor – we call on you to do two things. First, divest from forest destruction. Ensure P&G is no longer buying fiber from any companies that are destroying the last caribou habitat. Second, publicly commit to respect indigenous people’s human rights. Do that, and we’ll all have something to celebrate.