Christian Aid welcomes the recent move by The Body Shop to cancel its contract with Daabon, the Colombian group that supplied palm oil for all its soap products.
The decision was taken after a consortium, including a subsidiary of Daabon, failed to negotiate with 123 farming families who were evicted by riot police last September to make way for the cultivation of palm oil.
Colombian police forced the community of Las Pavas off the land they’d been living on and cultivating, leaving them no time to harvest their crops and telling them that the land had been sold to a palm oil company.
Christian Aid partner PDPMM came to the assistance of the Las Pavas, providing them with legal advice, encouraging them to challenge the eviction on the grounds that it ignored their previous legal claim to the land.
The Body Shop’s response
PDPMM contacted Christian Aid to ask us to raise the profile of the case. Christian Aid discovered that the Daabon group - a subsidiary of which was the Colombian company in the consortium.
Christian Aid discovered that Daabon - the Colombian company in the consortium who obtained the court order to throw the farmers off their land - was also a significant supplier of palm oil to The Body Shop.
We then brought the issue to the attention of The Body Shop and it agreed to co-finance an independent review into the case.
On the basis of the factual findings made following the nine-month probe, Christian Aid considers that the Daabon group had no excuse for being ignorant of the legal dispute surrounding the ownership of the land at Las Pavas.
Misael (pictured above) is one of the farmers evicted from Las Pavas
The Body Shop gave Daabon two months to meet with the farmers and begin to negotiate a settlement. But when the deadline passed with no meeting having taken place, The Body Shop decided to sever its trading relationship with the company.
Christian Aid welcomes this action as it sends a strong signal about the behaviour of Daabon - and others - across Colombia that violating human rights is not without cost.
We also hope that this international scrutiny will encourage the Colombian government rethink current policies that support multinationals at the expense of communities.
Next steps for the community of Las Pavas
More than a year on and the evicted families are still waiting to return home and are dependent on food aid for survival.
Christian Aid and PDPMM continue to support the farmers’ families in their claim for land, a secure livelihood, and reparation for the suffering they have undergone.
The fact that a multi-national has dropped a key supplier over human rights and environment abuses is an important victory. But the plight of the families involved will not be overcome until they are able to return to the land that they have lived and worked on for years.
The Guardian: The Body Shop deserves respect for putting human values above a quick buck (October 2010)
The Observer: Body Shop drops supplier after report of peasant evictions in Colombia (October 2010)
The Guardian: Body Shop ethics under fire after Colombian peasant evictions (September 2009)
The community of Las Pavas has written a song about losing the land they lived on and farmed. Listen to it on Youtube (English subtitles)