ESR 05:
Measuring the effectiveness of corporate zero deforestation commitments in South East Asia

Home Institution: Unilever Corporate Sustainability Team
Principal Supervisor: Dr. Sarah Sim, Prof. Henry King
Co-Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Peter Verburg, Dr. Tobias Kuemmerle
Application date: 16/10/2017-24/11/2017
Starting date: 01/07/2018 or earlier
Duration: 3 years


Deforestation is a major contributor to climate change and loss of biodiversity. In response, many companies have committed to zero deforestation policies in their supply chains in order to mitigate the impacts of land use change that result from the production of commodities. Taking SE Asia and Indonesia as a focus, this research will: (1) analyse and model deforestation patterns and their relationship to commodity trade, local policy and corporate zero deforestation commitments (2) identify approaches to ascribe causality and the impact of zero deforestation commitments using an integrated land-use modelling framework, (3) develop the analytical tools to understand supply chain interactions and to consider future scenarios to optimise landscape planning and to minimise impacts.

In carrying out this work, the ESR will:

  • develop new tools for linking sourcing commitments to local landscape level impacts,
  • help to quantify the benefits and effectiveness of supply chain zero deforestation commitments, and
  • develop management tools to predict and optimise sustainable land development while meeting future demand for commodities such as palm oil.

The work will be conducted within Unilever’s corporate sustainability science team in collaboration with VU University Amsterdam where the successful candidate will be registered for PhD. The research will include a possible secondment to the Stockholm Environment Institute (Sweden).


The ESR will be based in Unilever’s corporate sustainability science team at the Colworth R&D site, north of London in the UK.  The team supports Unilever’s global sustainability activities with a focus on developing and applying methods to quantify the environmental impacts of products and supply chain activities. The research will take place in collaboration with Unilever’s Sustainable Sourcing team and the Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM) at VU University Amsterdam where the candidate will register for PhD and collaborate with 2 other ESRs within the same project.

We seek

A candidate with an above-average MSc (or equivalent degree) in Environmental sciences, Geography or related fields. We expect a strong interest in environmental impact assessment methods and modelling. Excellent written and spoken English is essential, and experience in geographic information systems with both qualitative and quantitative methods would be advantageous.


Dr Sarah Sim


Do you consider applying?

In any case please check the eligibility criteria in the first place.

To submit your application, please fill in the requested data in the online application form, upload your application file and submit your application.

Download and carefully read the Guide for Applicants and the ITN Programme’s information note for all specific information on the application and selection procedure.