Protesters climb Cincinnati bridge, hang banner to get attention of P&G

CINCINNATI — The John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge was closed Wednesday morning due to a protest that included the hanging of a large banner on the straps of the bridge.

The Rainforest Action Network said it was protesting against actions taken by Procter & Gamble. The banner they dropped off the side reads “stop forest destruction.”

“We are here today because we have tried everything we can think of to get P&G’s attention,” said Laurel Sutherlin, a spokesperson for the protesting organization.

As of 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, workers were attempting to remove the sign.

Sutherlin said he believes two to three people were arrested during the protest, but he isn’t sure of the total numbers.

“Today’s demonstration occurs amidst a rapidly escalating, multi-faceted campaign calling on the consumer goods giant to meaningfully address systemic failures of its corporate policies and actions to prevent forest destruction, climate pollution and conflicts with local communities that result from its large scale use of forest risk commodities like palm oil and wood pulp in its products,” Blair Fitzgibbon, a public relations representative for the Rainforest Action Network, said in a press release.

According to protesters, the Rainforest Action Network is made up of an international group of people that are working to hold P&G accountable.

A spokesperson for P&G released the following statement:

“We respect the right to protest peacefully, but dangerous stunts that put people at risk and divert valuable public resources cross the line. It’s important for people to know that although we do not own or manage forests, our commitments and actions related to forestry are among the most rigorous in our industry. Today, for every tree we use, at least two are regrown. Our progress has been recognized by leading, independent monitors of how companies uphold their commitments to sustainability, including the Carbon Disclosure Project.”

One week away from the company’s annual meeting of shareholders, descendants of the company’s founders have escalated their campaign for environmental reforms at Cincinnati’s biggest global company.

They’re asking shareholders to vote against four of P&G’s 14 board nominees, including Chairman and CEO Jon Moeller.

Two large investors — the New York Pension Fund and Green Century Capital Management — have voiced support for the effort.

The descendants of William Procter and James Gamble, who are also P&G shareholders, claim the company hasn’t done enough to respond to a 2020 vote in which 67% of shareholders called on P&G to “increase the scale, pace, and rigor of its efforts to eliminate deforestation and forest degradation from its supply chains.”

P&G promised decisive action in 2014, after Greenpeace protesters hung 60-foot banners from the company’s headquarters building.

The WCPO 9 I-Team has been researching P&G’s response to deforestation because of increasing calls by environmental activists and descendants of the company’s founders for P&G to do more. Beyond those complaints, the European Union has adopted new regulations that requires all companies to show their products did not come from land subject to deforestation after December 2020.

Tracking grievances

The company provides a detailed look at its compliance mechanisms in a pair of grievance trackers.

One shows P&G’s response to complaints about its palm oil supply chain. The other does the same for wood pulp, which is used to make toilet paper, tissues and paper towels.

The wood pulp grievance tracker lists seven issues investigated by the company since 2008, when it “stopped sourcing from Indonesia due to human rights concerns.”

In the palm oil tracker, P&G shows 40 grievances investigated by the company. They resulted in 21 supplier suspensions since 2016.

From rainforests to boreal forests

The rainforest grievances show the complexity of business relationships that P&G monitors with field assessments, satellite surveillance, deskside audits and supplier sustainability meetings. It also engages with third-party certification systems like the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil and the Forest Stewardship Council.

While P&G has achieved most of its certification goals on the palm oil side, forestry certification is still a work in progress. And that’s where P&G is taking the most heat these days from environmental activists.

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