Liviya James

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.


Tell CVS: Stop Superbug Pollution

Antibiotic pollution contributes to antimicrobial resistance, but little is being done to stop it.

Brenda, pictured above, suffered from a drug-resistant infection back in 2007. Luckily, she recovered. But as long as we allow any cause of AMR to go unchecked, infections like hers will become more and more common, and harder and harder to treat.

Sign the petition to tell CVS Health, one of the largest buyers of antibiotics in the United States, to make sure it's not adding to the problem by ridding its supply chain of known polluters like Aurobindo.

After you've signed, catch up on our antibiotics campaign:

  • Unfamiliar with AMR? Read about the problem and its major causes here.
  • Multiple reports support the idea that active pharmaceutical ingredient pollution by antibiotic manufacturers can exacerbate the development of superbugs. Read Bad Medicine, Resistance through the Back Door, and Superbugs in the Supply Chain to learn the extent of the problem.
  • Public health leaders recognize the problem, too. Read Henry Waxman and Bill Corr's op-ed in STAT.
  • Read our letters to pharmaceutical companies and the FDA demanding action on the issue here.


This Small Change Is Big News for the World’s Forests

If you’re a forest wonk and have been paying attention to the nitty-gritty (but crucial) details of company “No Deforestation, No Peat, and No Exploitation” policies, you probably noticed that many of them contained a footnote next to the commitment to protect High Carbon Stock forest.  For many of us civil society groups negotiating these policies, that footnote determined the credibility of the commitment: whether the company was agreeing to a strong NGO-backed standard that protected all forests and had clear integration of community rights and biodiversity habitat protection (called the High Carbon Stock Approach, or HCSA), or a weak standard driven by industry laggards that had significant loopholes allowing for continued deforestation and that prioritized carbon above other social and ecological values (what they called HCS+ and we called HCS-).  For far too long, some companies used the debate as an excuse to delay implementation of forest protection altogether.  Our worry was that by the time the discussions were over, the forests would be gone.

hcs-grapnicBut now it’s time to breathe a big sigh of relief that the light at the end of the tunnel is near. The two groups today announced an agreement that will bring all the standards together, following a year-long convergence process. Hurrah!

We’ll spare you the technical details, but for those who wish to know more, you can take a look at the agreement statement here and organizations’ and companies’ joint press release here. Companies and organizations reaching this agreement include major palm oil traders like Musim Mas, Wilmar, GAR, Cargill, IOI, and Sime Darby as well as civil society groups including Rainforest Action Network, Union of Concerned Scientists, Greenpeace, and others. We commend the convergence team for their achievement in working through so many thorny and complex issues and being able to come together today as one, for the sake of forests and communities.

Now, time and energy can be focused on the real work of implementation, and making sure more sectors at risk of deforestation, like rubber, soy, and cattle, are brought into the process.  And companies who took advantage of the debate to delay forest protection are out of excuses.

That this announcement happened as part of a separate side meeting, but not within the auspices of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) annual meeting, is significant.  The RSPO was intended to be the forum for exactly these kinds of deliberations. But because of its consensus-oriented model, the RSPO has gotten bogged down in technical and political debates even as the world moves on.  Other platforms like HCSA have been able to achieve more forest conservation in much less time. Let’s hope that the converged methodology can set an example for RSPO of what is possible when the bar is set high and there is a sense of urgency.  Perhaps by the next annual meeting, the RSPO members will adopt this standard for HCS forest protection into the RSPO criteria.  That would not only be great for forests, but would end marketplace confusion, restore RSPO’s legitimacy, and provide clear directive to companies and assessors.


Letter to Wind Companies: Drop Korindo

"We are writing to you today to ask that you join these companies in ending your business with Korindo until it ends its deforestation, returns customary lands to local communities, and resolves its serious legal issues."

Korindo owns a company called KOUSA, which is based in Los Angeles, California. The firm sells wind towers to large companies like Siemens, Nordex, Suzlon, Iberdrola and Gamesa. Unfortunately, the benefits to the climate of the wind energy that these towers generate are eclipsed by the extreme toll that Korindo’s deforestation and burning takes on the environment. By sourcing from Korindo, these wind towers are helping finance deforestation, making this normally clean energy source dirty in this case. For these wind companies to be able sell truly clean energy, they should immediately cease purchases from Korindo, and turn to the many companies that manufacture wind turbines without deforestation.

Together with an international coalition of civil society organizations, we sent letters asking them to do just that. View the letters below:

Gamesa

Iberdrola

Nordex

Siemens

Suzlon

UPDATE: Gamesa, Siemens and Nordex have all responded that they are looking into the matter and have contacted KoUSA. Other leading wind companies Clipper and Vestas have confirmed that they are not current customers of Korindo, contrary to Korindo's own marketing materials.

Featured photo is a screenshot from a Korindo promotional video.


Biomass Campaign Heats Up

As a massive Oregon power plant gears up to convert from burning coal to burning trees, a Congressional fight over whether or not forest biomass is carbon neutral is more than just theoretical.

Mighty is part of the campaign to ensure that carbon pollution from burning biomass is properly counted. Instead of including burning trees in the same category as wind or solar power, Mighty is leading efforts to convince key members of Congress to reject legislative proposals to declare forest biomass ‘carbon neutral.’ In Oregon, our efforts helped get over twenty environmental organizations signed onto a letter to Senators Wyden and Merkley in October to ensure that biomass' carbon footprint is determined scientifically, not arbitrarily rounded down to zero.

Read more about the campaign in local coverage.

From the Oregonian:

The [climate and conversation] groups say the [carbon neutral] designation is scientifically inaccurate. They also believe it would spur the expansion of large-scale biomass plants that spew greenhouse gases and other pollutants by protecting them from future carbon regulation.

"This could fundamentally change the industry, and we could see our forest management practices altered on the need to feed these plants," said Alexander Harris, a conservation organizer with the Sierra Club.

"It's not carbon neutral, and we should be having an honest debate about whether we want to be treating our forests as feedstock," said Dominick DellaSala, chief scientist at the Geos Institute in Ashland. "These are natural systems, not feedstock." More.

From the East Oregonian:

The Environmental Information Administration suggests all that biomass would not actually displace coal use in the U.S., instead taking a 21 percent bite out of solar energy.

“It’s displacing other renewables,” said Mary Booth, director of Partnership for Policy Integrity, an environmental think tank. “There’s no question it increases stack emissions.” More.

 


Campaign for Action on Pharmaceutical Pollution

In partnership with Waxman Strategies, Mighty helped coordinate a series of letters to the Food and Drug Administration and pharmaceutical companies to encourage action on antimicrobial resistance caused by pharmaceutical pollution. Pollution of active pharmaceutical ingredients by antibiotic manufacturers creates the perfect conditions for antimicrobial resistance to develop and spread. Our letters, echoing an op-ed published in STAT, pressed for change on three fronts:

  1. U.S. drug makers should require their suppliers to stop polluting.
  2. The FDA and other relevant agencies should pressure their counterparts in India and China to toughen pollution regulations and crack down on violators.
  3. Major pharmaceutical retailers should pressure their manufacturers to ensure their supply chains are not contributing to this problem.

Pharmaceutical pollution that contributes to antimicrobial resistance is a multifaceted problem that requires action on multiple fronts to be adequately addressed. Some pharmaceutical companies have made commitments on the issue. Others, like Mylan and McKesson, have not. Read samples of the letters below.

waxman-letter-to-hhs-fda-1    others-1    13-signees


Bukti Foto, Video, Citra Satelit Menunjukkan Penggunaan Api Secara Sistematis Oleh Korindo

English Version

Info ini berharga buat kami untuk diskusi internal. Soal kebakaran memang betul, apa yang mau kami bantah,” kata Luwy, staf teknis lapangan Korindo Group yang datang bersama rekannya ke peluncuran laporan. – Kompas, September 2, 2016.

Sekalipun seorang staf teknis lapangan Korindo dalam acara konperensi pers mengaku bahwa perusahaannya memang benar menggunakan api ilegal dalam membuka lahan untuk perkebunan kelapa sawit seperti ditulis Kompas pada 2 September 2016, Korindo sekarang menyatakan di depan publik bahwa perusahaannya tidak menggunakan praktik berbahaya seperti ini. Akan tetapi, riset di lapangan, citra satelit dan drone mengungkapkan bukti komprehensif yang bertentangan dengan pernyataan tersebut.

korindo in the hot seat

Menurut sebuah laporan yang dibuat oleh kelompok riset AidEnvironment, citra-citra satelit menunjukkan bahwa penggunaan api secara sistematis yang dilakukan Korindo sangat mirip dengan proses pembukaan lahan. Korindo menggunakan api sebagai cara cepat dan murah untuk membersihkan biomasa yang terkandung di tanah setelah perusahaan ini menggunduli hutan untuk menyiapkan lahan penanaman kelapa sawit. Sebagaimana dilihat dari satelit dari satu konsesi ke konsesi lainnya, lokasi-lokasi titik panas mengikuti pengembangan lahan milik Korindo. Titik-titik panas itu terus bermunculan dengan pola yang dapat diprediksi di wilayah-wilayah terbaru yang baru saja dibuka Korindo untuk perkebunan. Pola yang jelas semacam ini berarti bahwa api tidak bisa disebut muncul secara alami atau disengaja oleh masyarakat lokal untuk berburu seperti yang dijadikan alasan oleh Korindo. Karena wilayah-wilayah yang terdampak selalu berpindah dari tahun ke tahun dan selalu mengikuti kegiatan-kegiatan yang dilakukan Korindo.

Berikut ini hanyalah contoh kecil sebagai bukti atas deforestasi dan pembakaran yang dilakukan Korindo untuk kelapa sawit (untuk informasi lebih lanjut, lihat laporan selengkapnya).

Konsesi PT Donghin Prabhawa

Secara keseluruhan ada 351 titik panas yang terekam dalam PT DP yang tersebar selama kurun waktu 2013-2015 (43 diantaranya pada 2013, 144 pada 2014, dan 164 pada 2015). Biasanya api tersebut terjadi beberapa bulan kemudian setelah deforestasi sehingga makin memperjelas bahwa Korindo menggunakan api untuk membersihkan biomasa dari lahan untuk mempersiapkan penanaman perkebunan. Perlu diperhatikan pula bahwa hampir tidak ada api di wilayah berhutan yang ada di sekeliling pengembangan perkebunan. Selain itu, api juga tidak ada di wilayah-wilayah yang sudah ditanami kelapa sawit. Hal ini menunjukkan bahwa api terjadi selama proses pembukaan lahan.

Gambar-gambar berikut ini memperlihatkan titik-titik panas yang terekam selama 2013, 2014, dan 2015. Masing-masing ditumpuk dengan citra satelit berdasarkan urutan tahun. Wilayah-wilayah yang berwarna hijau muda merupakan wilayah yang terjadi pembukaan lahan yang baru saja terjadi ketika Korindo memperluas perkebunannya.

sat1
19-21 Agustus 2013. Ada 43 titik panas yang terekam di PT DP milik Korindo’s pada 2013. Citra Landsat 8.

sat2
24 Oktober – 1 November 2014. Ada 144 titik panas yang terekam di PT DP milik Korindo pada 2014. Citra Landsat 8.

sat-3
16-26 Juni 2015. Ada 164 titik api yang terekam di PT DP milik Korindo pada 2015. Landsat 8 imagery. Sumber: FIRMS, Fire Information for Resource Management System, http://go.nasa.gov/27awNFg.

Konsesi PT Tunas Sawa Erma 1B

Anak perusahaan Korindo, PT Tunas Sawa Erma 1B (PT TSE 1B), yang memiliki wilayah konsesi seluas 19.000 hektar, mulai bekerja di Papua pada 2005. Ada 25 klan suku lokal yang mayoritas memiliki lahan tersebut dan menolak rencana perkebunan Korindo. Namun demikian, Korindo tetap melakukan pembukaan lahan di wilayah tersebut pada 2015.

Sebagaimana diperlihatkan pada citra satelit berikut, ada 88 titik panas yang terekam pada 2015 dan 6 titik panas pada Januari 2016. Pada akhir April 2015, sekitar 2.800 hektar telah dibuka.

Kebakaran besar yang dilakukan Korindo pada wilayah konsesi PT TSE 1B tampak jelas dalam citra satelit berikut yang diambil pada akhir Oktober 2015.

sat-4
Bukti satelit yang dikumpulkan dalam dokumen Aidenvironment mengenai penggunaan api secara sistematis oleh Korindo. Citra Landsat 8 24 Okt – 1 Nov 2015.

Warna coklat pada gambar yang diambil pada awal Mei 2016 berikut menunjukkan wilayah yang dibuka oleh Korindo dalam wilayah konsesi PT TSE 1B yang terdiri dari 500 hektar hutan primer dan 2.300 hektar hutan sekunder.

sat-5
Bukti satelit yang dikumpulkan dalam dokumen Aidenvironment mengenai penggunaan api secara sistematis oleh Korindo. Citra Sentinel-2, 11 Mei 2016.

Konsesi PT Berkat Cipta Abadi 1

Seluruh wilayah konsesi PT BCA 1 masih berhutan sebelum Korindo mulai mengoperasikan kelapa sawitnya. Selama 2013 dan 2014, total ada 4.500 hektar hutan primer yang dibuka bersamaan dengan 8.700 hektar hutan sekunder. Yang tersisa hanya koridor sungai seluas 700 hektar seperti terlihat pada gambar berikut.

sat-6
Left: Seluruh wilayah konsesi yang berhutan sebelum Korindo mulai beroperasi. Sumber : Peta tutupan hutan dari Kementerian Kehutanan Indonesia 2011. Right: Korindo membuka 4.500 hektar hutan primer bersamaan dengan 8.700 hektar hutan sekunder. Hanya koridor sungai seluas 700 hektar yang disisakan. Sumber: Citra Landsat 8 selama 22 – 30 September 2015.

Pembangunan lahan dimulai dari utara dan berakhir di selatan. Titik panas mengikuti deforestasi dan pengembangan lahan yang dilakukan seperti dapat dilihat pada grafik berikut. Secara keseluruhan, ada 106 titik panas yang terekam pada 2013 dan 2014. Pembakaran hutan dianggap ilegal menurut hukum di Indonesia. Selain itu, Kementerian Kehutanan Indonesia secara khusus juga melarang PT BCA untuk membakar sisa kayu. Korindo mengabaikan peringatan keras tersebut dan tak mengindahkan kenyataan bahwa api mereka ilegal. Sebaliknya mereka tetap melakukan pembakaran.

Gambar berikut menunjukkan sebaran titik panas yang membentang dari utara ke selatan pada 213 dan 2014 pada saat Korindo membuka lahan. Sekali lagi, pola api sangat mirip dengan pengembangan lahan yang dilakukan Korindo, sehingga menggambarkan bahwa api tersebut bukan muncul secara alami.

sat-7
Pola titik panas PT BCA pada 2013 dan 2014.

Terlepas dari sifatnya yang sangat destruktif terhadap keragaman hayati dan lingkungan, api-api ilegal tersebut juga sangat berbahaya terhadap kesehatan manusia. Kajian yang baru saja dilakukan oleh para peneliti dari Harvard dan Columbia menemukan bahwa krisis asap pada 2015 di Asia Tenggara besar kemungkinan telah menyebabkan 103.000 kematian prematur di wilayah tersebut. Krisis tersebut disebabkan oleh api ilegal yang sengaja dibuat untuk bisnis kayu dan kelapa sawit. Menurut pihak otoritas di Indonesia, diperkirakan setengah juta penduduk di Indonesia melakukan pengobatan karena kabut asap yang terjadi pada 2015. Menurut Bank Dunia, Indonesia harus menanggung kerugian senilai 16 miliar dollar Amerika yang ditimbulkan dari sektor pertanian, travel, pariwisata, kehutanan, dan industri-industri lain akibat krisis asap tersebut.

Melakukan pembakaran untuk membuka hutan juga dianggap ilegal dan dilarang di Indonesia, antara lain menurut Undang-Undang No. 32/2009 mengenai Perlindungan dan Pengelolaan Lingkungan. Mereka yang terbukti bersalah melanggar peraturan ini dapat dikenai sanksi denda atau dipenjarakan. Temuan-temuan dari investigasi ini telah disampaikan ke pemerintah Indonesia dan Kementerian Lingkungan Hidup dan Kehutanan mengumumkan akan melakukan investigasi.

Selain api, Mighty report memperlihatkan gambar, video, dan foto-foto udara yang diambil dari drone mengenai deforestasi luar biasa yang dilakukan oleh Korindo. Bahkan video promosi milik Korindo tentang bisnis kayu lapis miliknya memperlihatkan deforestasi, gergaji yang memotong kayu-kayu yang sudah tua, dan membual tentang pembukaan hutan alam. Hutan hujan di Papua memiliki 50 persen keragaman hayati dari negara kepulauan seperti Indonesia. Pemusnahan yang dilakukan Korindo terhadap hutan-hutan yang kaya seperti ini telah mengakibatkan kehancuran habitat spesies endemik di wilayah tersebut. Secara keseluruhan, perusahaan ini telah membuka lebih dari 50.000 hektar hutan di Papua demi kelapa sawit sejak 1998. Luasan ini setara dengan luas Seoul, Korea Selatan.

Produksi minyak sawit yang bertanggung jawab itu tetap mungkin untuk dilakukan. Industri minyak sawit masih harus menempuh perjalanan panjang dan Korindo menjadi salah satu dari pelaku pelanggaran yang terparah. Tapi masih banyak perusahaan yang menunjukkan komitmen untuk tidak melakukan deforestasi dan eksploitasi demi kelapa sawit. Ini termasuk perusahaan-perusahaan yang melepaskan Korindo sebagai penyuplai mereka karena dianggap melanggar kebijakan-kebijakan mereka. Perusahaan-perusahaan tersebut memperlihatkan bahwa produksi yang bertanggung jawab dan keuntungan pun dapat berjalan beriringan. Demi hutan-hutan di Papua, masyarakat adat, dan margasatwa, kita berharap bahwa Korindo akan berubah menjadi Sekarang Hijau (Green Today), bukannya “Besok Hijau” (Green Tomorrow).

Featured photo is of smoke rising from burning wood rows in Korindo’s PT Berkat Cipta Abadi concession; ©Ardiles Rante/Greenpeace; 26 March 2013