Liviya James

Korindo Announces Moratorium on Forest Clearing for Palm Oil Concessions But Critical Questions Remain

Korindo has recently taken the positive step of announcing land clearing moratoria for all of its palm oil operations, following discussions with its global customers. On December 1st, Korindo’s subsidiaries PT Papua Agro Lestari (PT PAL) and PT Gelora Mandiri Membangun (PT GMM) announced in Indonesian newspapers a moratorium on new land development until they finalize High Conservation Value (HCV) and High Carbon Stock (HCS) studies. Korindo states that the moratorium will apply to the undeveloped areas of both concessions, which total 36,000 ha in PT PAL and 4,500 ha in PT GMM. This follows an announcement by Korindo’s PT Tunas Sawaerma in November that it is placing a moratorium on new land development for its three subsidiaries. Korindo also stated in a letter to Mighty that it has applied for membership to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)- an industry certification body that requires a base level of environmental protections and some transparency, but still does not prevent deforestation.

This is a very welcome development that, if implemented, buys time for the 75,000 hectares a of forests remaining in Korindo’s palm oil concessions. However, critical questions remain about how Korindo plans to enforce and independently verify adherence to its moratorium, whether it will use credible HCV and HCS assessors, and whether it will adopt the High Carbon Stock Approach (HCSA), widely regarded as the industry standard for assessing responsible land development. Furthermore, Korindo continues to lack transparency, which makes it impossible to know whether it is following through on its commitments. Rather than its current piecemeal approach, Korindo should codify its commitments into a comprehensive group-level, cross-commodity policy, developed through stakeholder engagement.

Importantly, Korindo has not expanded these commitments to its extensive plywood and logging operations, which are known to have been damaging on a vast scale. Despite misleading claims that its wood products business is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), in reality, only one of its seven logging and timber concessions is certified, and that certification was suspended from November 2015 to February 2016 due to illegal fires on the concession. Indeed, the extent of Korindo’s deforestation over the past five years would put it in violation of its commitments to the FSC.

Even if Korindo follows through on the moratorium, critical issues remain in its palm oil production. It has yet to cease operations on the customary lands of local communities in North Maluku and to return those lands to the community or resolve its conflicts with community groups in Papua. It has failed to issue a public grievance procedure, develop comprehensive policies on human rights, labor rights, or clarify if and how it will respect the right of local communities to give or withhold their Free, Prior and Informed Consent to development on their land.  Furthermore, Korindo has not addressed its legacy of serious environmental harm by investing in extensive restoration.

We urge Korindo to build on these initial steps by immediately taking these additional essential actions, as delineated in the recommendations in the Burning Paradise report. In the meantime, we are continuing our campaign.  Buyers and investors should be aware that Korindo is still far from meeting the benchmark for responsible production and that doing business with Korindo still entails a high risk of exposure to deforestation in their supply chains. But with strict adherence to the moratorium and a rapid adoption of these recommendations, Korindo has a chance to reverse course on the egregious issues in its operations. Mighty and our allies will be meeting with Korindo at the end of the month.


Organizers Rally to Ask Burger King to Stop Destroying Forests for Fast Food

On Tuesday, organizers in seven cities gathered at their local Burger King to protest the burger giant’s deforestation for soy. Below is the press release for the rally in Miami, Florida.

Activists in Burger King masks and King of Deforestation costumes deliver petition with over 500,000 signatures to local Burger King Headquarters

Miami, FL (December 13, 2016) – Today, local organizers and activists will be gathered at a local Burger King franchise, with members of Union of Concerned Scientists, Mighty Earth, and SumOfUs, to demonstrate the overwhelming support for Burger King to adopt a strict No Deforestation policy and deliver a petition, which already has over 500,000 signatures. Burger King, which is headquartered in Miami, has been linked to soy traders tied to massive deforestation and destruction of indigenous land in Latin America.

With over 500,000 signatures gathered by the coalition of nationwide supporters, today’s gathering in Miami is a small piece of a larger national grassroots movement calling for the Burger King, the King of Deforestation, to adopt transparency and sustainability efforts that their competitors have. Gatherings are being held today in Denver, East Lansing, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Austin, Miami, and White Plains.

Mighty Earth conducted an extensive investigation into Burger King’s suppliers. Through satellite analysis and field research, investigators  found evidence of massive destruction of rainforests and other ecosystems in Latin America by the agribusiness companies Cargill and Bunge, both of which provide food products to Burger King through its suppliers. Cargill also operates a joint venture with Burger King. Mighty sent a team to Brazil and Bolivia and documented extensive deforestation in areas that Cargill and Bunge operate, home to a diverse array of wildlife including three-toed sloths, jaguars, and giant anteaters. The full findings of this investigation will be shared in a report in the upcoming weeks.

“Burger King has failed to embrace environmental protection policies and is not transparent about where its raw materials like soy, beef, and palm oil come from,” said Kristin Urquiza, Campaign Director from Mighty. “ This makes it impossible to know whether the fast food you’re eating has been produced through deforestation, intentional forest fires, or other environmental destruction- making Burger King’s products like Whoppers the ultimate mystery meat.”

Burger King is the world’s second largest hamburger chain and one of the leading sellers of meat in the world – it operates in approximately 100 countries with more than 15,000 restaurants.

Burger King is a fast food industry laggard when it comes to protecting the environment. In stark contrast to the other leading global food and commodity firms, including McDonald’s, ADM, Wilmar, and Louis Dreyfus, Burger King does not have a “No Deforestation, No Peat, and No Exploitation” policy to ensure that its suppliers are not destroying pristine forests and ecosystems or harming local communities.

“What you’re seeing locally on the ground here is really a piece of a larger grassroots movement of consumers  demanding to know where their food comes from,” said Fatah Sadaoui, Senior Campaigner with SumOfUs. “Like McDonald’s, Burger King should listen to its customers who are asking for food produced without forest destruction or human rights abuse.”

This year, millions of hectares of land in Latin America will be destroyed unnecessarily by companies willing to buy food without asking questions about how it is produced. Across Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay and other leading agricultural producers, an average of 4 million hectares of forests are cleared each year and cattle pasture and soy farms are the largest drivers.

The volunteers at the event are calling for Burger King to:

  • Follow the lead of others in the food industry to stop destroying forests and other ecosystems by adopting and implementing a strong “No Deforestation, No Peat, and No Exploitation” policy;
  • Identify its suppliers and report on their compliance with environmental and human rights policies;
  • Work with governments, communities, and civil society to support broader improvements in forest governance and sustainable agricultural expansion.

“Burger King, Cargill, and Bunge now have a unique opportunity to sever the link between food production, deforestation, and climate change in Latin America and beyond.  It’s time they seize it,” said Sharon Smith at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Click here to sign the petition: http://www.mightyearth.org/king-of-deforestation/

About Mighty Earth

Mighty is a global environmental campaign organization that works to protect forests, conserve oceans, and address climate change.

About SumOfUs

SumOfUs is a global consumer group that campaigns to hold big corporations accountable. Over 10 million people have taken over 50 million actions worldwide with SumOfUs since it launched.

About Union of Concerned Scientists

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet’s most pressing problems. Joining with citizens across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe and sustainable future.

Marisa Bellantonio
203-479-2026
[email protected]


KFEM and Wahli Stand in Solidarity Against Deforestation

Activists from the Korean Federation for Environmental Movements (KFEM) and Wahli (Friends of the Earth Indonesia) held a solidarity action late last month in Bandar Lampung, Indonesia against deforestation by agribusiness giant Korindo. The activists were in town for the Friends of the Earth Biennial Grand Meeting and gathered supporters from 13 countries including Nepal, Indonesia, Japan, Russia, Australia, and the Philippines to protest Korindo’s massive forest clearance for palm oil plantations in Papua, Indonesia. Since Mighty and KFEM released the “Burning Paradise” report detailing Korindo’s large-scale deforestation of over 50,000 hectares of forests and systematic forest fires in early September, there has been growing focus on the issue internationally.

Read more about the recent action in Korean news outlets from NGO News, The Eco-Journal, and HKBS.


Olam's Newfound Transparency Constructive But It's Not Ready to Put Down the Chainsaws

Earlier today, Olam held a teleconference for reporters and issued a response to our report in which it acknowledges extensive deforestation in Gabon, but also responded to the actions suggested in the report by revealing its third party suppliers, and saying that it would apply its policies to them immediately.

We are happy that Olam has responded with these constructive moves. Today, Olam has cracked open its black box to the light of day.

We will be discussing information we have about the newly published suppliers with Olam in due course. However, some of the suppliers that Olam listed have been reported already in the public domain as having significant links to deforestation and human rights abuses, providing ample evidence for Olam to act on these irresponsible suppliers immediately. Details on some of the suppliers are below:

Sarawak Oil Palms:

Felda:

IOI:

In addition, important questions remain about Olam’s sourcing, such as:

  • How are they defining their “No Deforestation” requirement for their suppliers- according to the HCSA industry standard or their self-invented looser definition that still permits deforestation?
  • Will they reveal their mill locations on Global Forest Watch and be transparent about their risk assessment process, as their peers have done?
  • Will they extend their No Deforestation, No Burning, No Peat, and No Exploitation sourcing standards to all their commodities around the globe, such as rubber, cocoa, sugar, and others? Olam is reputedly the #1 or #2 for cocoa, coffee, cotton, rice, and more. If it changes across all its commodities, this would be a major step forward for the planet.

In its statement, Olam says it has cleared 25,735 ha of forests in Gabon, which was higher than our conservative estimates. Olam claims that this was “heavily logged over or degraded forest,” but our videos from Brainforest’s undercover investigation revealed beautiful, massive, ancient trees being bulldozed, chainsawed, and cleared to make way for Olam’s plantation development.  A majority of Olam’s competitors would be protecting such trees and forests based on their No Deforestation commitments. Moreover, today Olam is claiming that the forests they have cleared are "highly logged and degraded secondary forests." Yet, it appears that in Olam’s own documents, it previously classified up to 9,000 ha of the forest they have cleared as ‘relatively undisturbed or lightly logged’(see page 50 of the technical report).

Olam justifies its deforestation by arguing that the definition of deforestation should be more lenient in a heavily forested landscape like Gabon than in Indonesia, where forests are highly fragmented, without recognizing the irony that Indonesia was once too covered with rainforests until companies logged, bulldozed, and burned 30,000 square kilometers of it over the past four decades. Now, in areas like Sumatra and Malaysian Borneo only 20-30% of the forests remain. We have a chance to stop history from repeating itself in Gabon and throughout Africa. Olam, as the company establishing the largest palm oil operation in Africa, has the opportunity to set a different example.

Olam tries to justify its deforestation by arguing that high forest countries like Gabon need the monoculture plantations that have caused so much destruction in Southeast Asia. It is exactly the world’s last remaining large intact forests that should be the priority for conservation. Instead, Olam should focus its development on Africa’s 48 million hectares of degraded land, where agriculture can be expanded without threatening forests and wildlife.  Olam’s monoculture plantation development threatens to leave leave local communities dependent on large, foreign multinational corporations without forests for subsistence.

There is also significant opportunity to engage donor governments in providing financial incentives for forest conservation and smallholder agricultural development in Gabon. For instance, Liberia recently announced an agreement with Norway to provide financial support hand in hand with conservation measures. Moreover, let’s not forget that Gabon has enormous, and virtually untapped potential for ecotourism – we have only to look at the success of Rwanda’s gorilla tourism to see that Gabon could make more money off saving its forests than by razing them.

Featured photo taken from footage from Mighty partner Brainforest's field investigation.


Un nouveau rapport identifie un marché secret pour l’huile de palme liée à la déforestation

Un nouveau rapport identifie un marché secret pour l’huile de palme liée à la déforestation

L’enquête révèle comment la multinationale Olam serait responsable de destruction de forêts au Gabon et en Indonésie 

PARIS (12 décembre 2016) – Un nouveau rapport lancé aujourd’hui par l’ONG américaine Mighty et l’ONG gabonaise Brainforest révèle qu’Olam, une des plus grandes multinationales au monde pour les cultures agro-industrielles, gère ses opérations de manière opaque. L’enquête a découvert qu’Olam est en train de créer un marché pour l’huile de palme liée à la déforestation, pour ensuite la revendre à sa clientèle qui comprend des compagnies parmi les plus connues au monde comme dont les clients comprennent PepsiCo, ConAgra, Unilever, Mondelez, et Nestlé, dont bon nombre se vantent de leurs politiques de « durabilité ».

« Olam gère une énorme ‘boite noire’ car son huile de palme provient de fournisseurs secrets », denonce Etelle Higonnet, Directrice de campagne et des questions juridiques à Mighty. « À titre de comparaison, les homologues d’Olam ont publié les noms de leurs fournisseurs immédiatement, tandis qu’Olam a décidé d’attendre jusqu’à 2020. Repousser ainsi cette date équivaut à agiter un drapeau vert aux producteurs d’huile de palme sans scrupules pour les inciter à déboiser le plus vite possible, avant que la politique d’Olam n’entre en vigueur. »

Les vidéos obtenues pendant l’enquête infiltrée de Brainforest montrent clairement comment Olam déboise les forêts du Gabon pour y établir la plus grande plantation d’huile de palme d’Afrique, et d’hévéa culture dans un pays qui est une véritable arche de Noé pour la biodiversité. Les forêts du Gabon abritent un nombre impressionnant d’animaux emblématiques de la faune africaine comme les gorilles, les chimpanzés, et les éléphants de forêt. L’analyse de données satellite a permi d’estimer que depuis 2012 Olam a déboisé environ 20 000 hectares de forêts dans quatre concessions au Gabon. Des photos et des vidéos révèlent de grands espaces de forêt dévastés, avec des arbres emblématiques et anciens arrachés au bulldozer et coupés à la tronçonneuse.

« Olam se vante d’être un leader en durabilité à travers le monde, mais c’est bien loin de la réalité au Gabon » souligne Marc Ona Essangui, Secrétaire Exécutif et membre fondateur de l’ONG environnementale Brainforest ainsi que lauréat du prix Goldman. « Après un combat que je mene depuis plusieurs années, j’espère qu’enfin ce rapport poussera Olam à adopter des normes qui sont réellement protectrices de nos forêts précieuses, dont dépendent nos communautés ainsi que notre faune iconique et notre patrimoine ».

L’étendue de la déforestation qui a été documentée met Olam en porte à faux avec ses promesses envers le Conseil pour la bonne gestion des forêts (FSC – Forest Stewardship Council). Olam fait partie d’une tendance lourde de multinationales Asiatiques s’apprêtant à implanter en Afrique un modèle de développement agricole qui a contribué à la destruction de vastes territoires naturels en Asie du Sud-Est et de violations de droits de l’homme.

L’enquête explique comment, de 2011 à 2015, Olam a multiplié par vingt son volume commercial d’huile de palme afin de passer de 71 000 à 1,53 millions de tonnes, soit près de 2,5 % de l’huile de palme mondiale aujourd’hui. Cependant, cette expansion n’est pas venue de pair avec une transparence améliorée. Olam refuse de publier ses fournisseurs tiers, qui fournissent 99% de son volume mondial d’huile de palme, étant donné que moins d’1% de son huile provient de ses propres plantations. Les défaillances d’Olam en matière de transparence contrastent défavorablement avec ses homologues comme Wilmar International et Golden Agri-Resources, car les autres principales sociétés d’huile de palme qui contrôlent la majorité des échanges mondiaux en la matière ont presque tous adoptés une politique ferme pour la conservation des forêts et la transparence.

Le résumé exécutif ainsi que le rapport technique, les vidéos, la cartographie, les photos satellitaires, les photos aériennes sont disponibles sur www.mightyearth.org/blackbox et www.brainforest-gabon.org

Mighty est une organisation qui se spécialise en campagnes environnementales globales pour protéger les forêts, les océans, et lutter contre le changement climatique.

Brainforest est une ONG gabonaise œuvrant pour la protection des forêts, les combats environnementaux, et la promotion des droits des communautés locales et autochtones.

POUR PLUS D’INFORMATIONS :
Etelle Higonnet, Mighty Earth, +33673821019
Marc Ona Essangui, Prix Goldman 2009, Brainforest, +33644268332

Featured photo of  of Olam palm oil plantation, Ngounié, Gabon, March 2014.


New Report Identifies Secret Market for Deforestation-Linked Palm Oil

New Report Identifies Secret Market for Deforestation-Linked Palm Oil

Investigation shows how Olam, owned by Singapores national wealth fund, is driving rainforest destruction from Gabon to Indonesia

PARIS (December 12, 2016) – A new report released today by Mighty and Gabon-based NGO Brainforest reveals that Olam, one of the world’s leading agribusiness traders, is operating a secretive palm oil trading operation. It finds that Olam is creating a market for deforestation-linked palm oil, and then funneling it to  some of the world’s best known brands that have touted their own strong sustainability policies. Olam is majority owned by Singapore’s national wealth fund, Temasek.

Read a summary of the report here, and view the accompanying video below. The full technical report is available here.

“Olam is operating a giant ‘black box’ of palm oil from unknown sources,” said Etelle Higonnet, Campaign and Legal Director at Mighty. “Unlike its more responsible competitors, Olam gives its suppliers until 2020 to comply with its sustainability requirements.  That’s like waving a green flag at rogue palm oil companies telling them to get as much deforestation as possible done now–before the deadline.”

The videos featured in the report show Olam bulldozing Gabonese rainforests to establish Africa’s largest palm oil plantation.  Gabon is 80% forested, and abundant in wildlife such as gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, and forest elephants. The analysis found that Olam cleared approximately 20,000 hectares of forest across its four concessions since 2012.  Photos and videos collected on the ground reveal large areas of devastated forest and giant mature trees being cut down by bulldozers and chainsaws.

“Olam broadcasts that it is a sustainability leader to the world, but that is far from the reality in Gabon,” said Marc Ona Essangui, founder of the environmental NGO Brainforest and Goldman Award Winner. “After fighting for years, we hope this report will finally spur action by Olam to truly adopt industry best practices to protect the forest homes of our communities and precious wildlife.”

The extent of deforestation documented would put Olam in violation of its commitments to the Forest Stewardship Council. Olam, whose customers include global brands such as PepsiCo, ConAgra, Unilever, Mondelez, and Nestlé, is part of a larger trend of Southeast Asian palm oil companies expanding to Africa, where there is less scrutiny and more land, and bringing the industry’s old business model of rainforest destruction and human rights abuse along with them.

Mighty’s investigation showed that over the past four years, Olam has expanded its global palm oil business twenty-fold, rising from a marginal position to control 2.5% of all total global palm oil trade. However, this increased influence has not brought increased transparency. Olam fails to reveal the third party suppliers that provide over 99% of its palm oil. Less than 1% of Olam’s palm oil comes from its own plantations.   Olam’s lack of transparency is in sharp contrast to the other major traders in the industry like Wilmar International, Musim Mas, and Golden Agri-Resources, all of which identify third party suppliers and palm oil mill locations.

Temasek, a S$242 billion ($180 billion USD) investment fund owned by the Government of Singapore, is the majority shareholder of Olam, which has become a major buyer (250,000t in 2016) of Indonesian palm oil. Unsustainable palm oil production in Indonesia caused rampant forest fires, leading to thick haze that blanketed the entire Southeast Asian region in 2015. Singapore was particularly affected by the haze. Schools were closed, flights were cancelled, and tens of thousands sought medical attention. An estimated 2,200 premature deaths occurred in the nation as a result. Ironically, through Temasek’s investments in Olam, the people of Singapore have unwittingly financed what is likely one of the world’s largest “black boxes” for the kind of unsustainably produced palm oil that led to this haze crisis.

See the FSC complaint with regard to Olam’s deforestation for palm oil.

See the memo accompanying the FSC complaint about possible Olam deforestation for rubber in Northern Gabon. (See here for the memo in French.)

About Mighty: Mighty is a global environmental campaign organization that works to protect forests, conserve oceans, and address climate change.

About Brainforest: Brainforest is a Gabonese NGO working on forest conservation, environmental protection, and promoting local and indigenous community consultation.

UPDATE: Read Olam’s response here.

UPDATE: In one day, the report has earned significant media coverage, including in the Financial Times, BBC, and Eco-Business. Listen to CEO Glenn Hurowitz’s interview on BBC here.

Mighty CEO Glenn Hurowitz on BBC preparing to discuss the findings of the new report.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Marisa Bellantonio
203-479-2026
[email protected]

Featured photo of Olam palm oil plantation, Ngounié, Gabon, March 2014.


Olam under fire over Africa deforestation

Financial Times | Dec. 11, 2016

Palm oil producer criticised for excessive land clearing and lack of transparency.

Read more


Victory: Biomass Loophole Removed from Legislation

BREAKING: the proposed amendment to federal legislation that would incentivize burning of biomass by declaring it “carbon-neutral” seems to be officially dead. This amendment was stripped from the pending energy bill, and the Continuing Resolution that was made public this week does not include it either. We’re very happy about that. 

Staff at Waxman Strategies and Mighty worked closely with partners at the Oregon chapter of the Sierra Club, 350Seattle.org, and a large coalition of state environmental and public health groups made this a top issue in conversations with members of Congress. We worked to ensure that public concern about burning trees for energy, minus any carbon accountability or plan for forest health, was covered in the Pacific Northwest media -- here, here, here and here. 

This news comes just as we've released a new report in conjunction with the Oregon Sierra Club about the Boardman Power Plant (located in Northern Oregon). It is slated to stop burning coal in 2020, which is great news, but it is planning unfortunately to shift to biomass, which would increase its pollution. The plant would be, at 600 megawatts, the largest biomass power plant in the country. We analyzed what the proposed conversion might mean in terms of carbon pollution (way up, biomass has greater smokestack emissions than coal) and forest management (the plant would need 3.8 million tons of woody material a year). The report is available online. 

Featured image courtesy of the Oregon Department of Forestry and can be found here.


PGE Tests Biomass at Boardman Coal Plant

New Report Highlights Climate and Forest Consequences for Country’s Largest Biomass Proposal

Portland, OR –  Today, the Sierra Club released a report analyzing a proposal from Portland General Electric (PGE) to convert the state’s last coal plant in Boardman, Oregon into one of the world’s largest biomass facilities. The report finds that the proposal may pose major implications for air quality, forest health, and carbon reduction goals.

The Boardman Power Plant in northern Oregon is slated to retire in 2020. However, this month, staff are testing the plant’s capacity to run on woody material and energy crops. If the test succeeds, the Boardman plant could be converted to run on 100 percent forest biomass for 5 months of the year.

The new report demonstrates the likely implications if the conversion is made. Key findings include:

  • An average biomass power facility emits 40-60% more carbon than coal plants do per megawatt hour of energy generated.
  • Over 3.8 million tons of trees and woody material would be needed to operate the plant for 5 months a year. Despite claims by biomass advocates, waste feedstock levels are negligible when compared to the facility’s needs. Therefore, whole trees from public lands would constitute the majority of the feedstock needed.
  • Over 800 trucks a day would be required to supply the Boardman facility during peak operation.
  • PGE is growing a highly invasive species of giant cane as a feedstock. Arundo Donax causes major damage to ecosystems and watersheds and is opposed as a viable energy solution by dozens of environmental groups.

“The retirement of the Boardman facility creates an opportunity to replace coal with clean energy like wind and solar, which would be in keeping with the landmark coal transition legislation passed in Oregon earlier this year,” said Rhett Lawrence, legislative director for the Oregon Sierra Club. “There is simply no need to turn our forests into fuel because cleaner energy alternatives are already at hand.”

Even though the carbon consequences of biomass are well established, Congress is currently considering legislation that would designate biomass energy as “carbon-neutral.” Just as oil, coal, and gas must be kept in the ground, if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change, so too must trees be kept in the forest.

Contact:
Caitlin Doughty
(619) 787-3912
[email protected]

Featured image courtesy of Tedder on Wikimedia commons. 


Amnesty International Reveals Widespread Human Rights Abuses in Palm Oil Industry

Last week, Amnesty International released a report documenting abuses of palm oil plantation workers in Indonesia. Amnesty shed light on abuses that are still widespread throughout the palm oil industry despite a raft of commitments, certifications, and laws that prohibit these practices, including use of child labor, exposure to toxic pesticides, discriminatory treatment of female workers, laborers being forced to work longer hours for no additional pay and to meet unreasonably high quotas, and more.

The report showed that major palm oil buyers, including the companies thought to be leading the transformation to responsible palm oil, do not have adequate systems in place to ensure they aren’t contributing to these practices. The report also showed the failure of the government to enforce labor laws and prosecute violators.

The report focused on the supply chain of the world’s largest palm oil company, Wilmar International. Wilmar welcomed the report in a news release in which they provided updates on their engagement and actions with the companies named in the report and called for joint industry and government action to resolve these problems. While it still has much to do, Wilmar has led the palm oil industry in action to stop deforestation and on transparency, and we’re confident that Wilmar can lead on addressing these critical labor issues as well. We urge Wilmar to proactively take swift action to expel these and other suppliers who stand in clear violation of their “No Deforestation, No Peat, and No Exploitation” policy and who refuse to comply.

The reality is that serious labor issues remain widespread throughout the palm oil industry. It’s past time for the industry to adopt a tough and transparent industry-wide approach to stop both deforestation and human rights abuse.

We hope that this report will spur rapid action to end labor and human rights abuses in the industry. Until the palm oil industry takes rapid steps to eliminate human rights and environmental abuse, the reputation of the entire industry remains at risk.

Featured photo courtesy of Amnesty International.


Korindo Subsidiary’s New ‘Sustainability’ Commitments Fail to Deliver Meaningful Change

UPDATE (12/16/16): On December 1st, Korindo’s subsidiaries PT Papua Agro Lestari (PT PAL) and PT Gelora Mandiri Membangun (PT GMM) announced a moratorium on new land development until they finalize High Conservation Value and High Carbon Stock studies. Korindo states that the moratorium will apply to the undeveloped areas of both concessions, which total 36,000 ha in PT PAL and 4,500 ha in PT GMM.  This follows an announcement by Korindo’s PT Tunas Sawaerma in November that it is placing a moratorium on new land development for its three subsidiaries (see below).  This means that now Korindo has announced land clearing moratoriums for all of its palm oil subsidiaries.  Korindo also stated in a letter to Mighty that it has applied for membership to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an industry certification body that requires a base level of environmental protections and some transparency, but still does not prevent deforestation.

This is a very welcome development that, if implemented, buys the 75,000 ha of forests remaining in Korindo’s palm oil concessions some time. However, serious questions remain about how Korindo plans to enforce and independently verify adherence to its moratorium, whether it will use credible HCV and HCS assessors, and whether it will adopt the industry standard High Carbon Stock Approach (HCSA).  Korindo continues to lack transparency, which makes it impossible to know whether it is following through on its commitments.  Rather than its current piecemeal approach, Korindo should codify its commitments into a comprehensive group-level, cross-commodity policy, developed through stakeholder engagement.

Additionally, Korindo has yet to expand these commitments to its extensive plywood and logging operations, which are known to cause equally devastating ecological impacts. Despite misleading claims that its wood products business is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), in reality, only one of its seven logging and timber concessions is certified, and that certification was suspended for three months from November 2015 to February 2016 due to illegal fires on the concession. Indeed, the extent of Korindo’s deforestation over the past five years would put it in violation of its commitments to the FSC.

Korindo also has yet to seize operating on the customary lands of local communities in North Maluku, and to return those lands to the community, or to resolve its conflicts with community groups in Papua.  It has yet to issue a public grievance procedure, or to develop comprehensive policies on human rights, labor rights, or clarity on if and how it will respect the right of local communities to give or withhold their Free, Prior and Informed Consent to development on their land.  Furthermore, Korindo has yet to address its legacy of serious environmental harm by investing in extensive restoration.

We urge Korindo to build on these initial steps by taking these additional essential actions, as delineated in our recommendations to Korindo in our report.  Until then, Mighty and our allies will continue the campaign on Korindo.  Buyers and investors should be aware that Korindo is still far from meeting the benchmark for responsible production and doing business with Korindo still entails a high risk of being associated with deforestation.

In the wake of mounting pressure from its customers, heavy exposure of its forest destruction in international media, and the threat of an Indonesian government investigation, Korindo’s subsidiary PT. Tunas Sawaerma Group (PT. TSE) announced a moratorium on new land development on November 10th.

For the sake of the 44,600 hectares of forest remaining in the concessions covered by the moratorium, we at Mighty hope that Korindo follows through on this commitment. But even if it does cease deforestation in these areas, Korindo needs to take many other actions before being considered responsible. Their announcement lacks substance, scope and detail, leading us to believe that it is meant to provide the appearance of action while largely perpetuating business as usual.

The first glaring problem with this moratorium is that it was only announced by one arm of Korindo’s palm oil business covering three subsidiaries. This group represents Korindo’s more mature plantations where significant clearing has already taken place. The moratorium notably does not cover two other Korindo palm oil subsidiaries—PT Papua Agro Lestari (PT PAL) and PT Gelora Mandiri Membangun (PT GMM)—which together amount to 30,400 hectares of remaining forest that Korindo has been actively clearing. (To read more on this, and about the serious community land rights violations committed by Korindo on PT GMM, check out our report). Furthermore, Korindo operates logging concessions in both West Papua and Kalimantan, which also are causing significant forest loss—even Korindo’s own promotional video for its plywood business shows it proudly clearing ancient forest. In short, as long as Korindo is clearing forest in any part of its operations, it cannot be considered an environmentally responsible company.

Secondly, PT. TSE uses the terms “High Carbon Stock”, “High Conservation Value”, and “Free, Prior and Informed Consent” as empty catch phrases, failing to explicitly define these terms, specify which independent assessors they are using, or commit to making the assessments publicly available. PT. TSE is notably not saying it is committed to the High Carbon Stock Approach (HCSA), widely regarded as the only credible methodology for assessing responsible land expansion that takes into account protection of forests, high carbon landscapes, biodiversity and ensuring the right of local communities to give or withhold their Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC). The vast majority of companies who have adopted “No Deforestation, No Peat, and No Exploitation” policies are committed to applying the HCSA methodology.

Third, PT. TSE fails to include contested lands in its moratorium, does not specify how it will resolve land rights disputes with local communities, and does not have a public grievance procedure for handling complaints by local communities, workers, or civil society, as do many other leading companies.

It is impossible to even evaluate PT. TSE’s compliance through Korindo’s general shroud of secrecy. Korindo is not a public company and it does not participate in any forum that requires public filings—it isn’t even one of the 3,000+ members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, a minimum sustainability standard that companies committed to No Deforestation have surpassed.

Korindo also fails to make any pledges regarding restoration of land it has already destroyed. The agribusiness has destroyed 50,000 hectares of forest to make way for palm oil plantations and the majority of this clearing occurred in the three subsidiaries covered by the moratorium. Yet, neither Korindo Group as a whole nor its PT. TSE Group subsidiary has made any commitments to restore these forests.

Korindo remains an irresponsible supplier, and hasn’t yet signaled any real openness to change. We hope they are open to discussions about real reform, but we haven’t seen any signs yet that they are.

The featured image shows the border between Korindo's PT Tunas Sawaerma palm oil plantation and the forest. Boven Digoel Distict, Papua, June 2016. Credit: Mighty.