Liviya James

Mighty’s Agreement with World’s Largest Farmer Could Have Major Implications for the World’s Forests

By Glenn Hurowitz

Mighty Earth, Olam, and World Resources Institute today announced an important breakthrough agreement to protect forests, great ape habitat, and local communities in Africa and Asia. This is a big step because Olam is “the world’s largest farmer,” operating in 70 countries and trading in 47 agricultural commodities.

Under the agreement, Olam agreed to suspend deforestation for palm oil and rubber, and also apply the industry-standard High Carbon Stock approach to its third-party suppliers (the agreement doesn’t apply to commodities other than palm oil and rubber, such as cocoa and coffee, areas we are continuing to investigate).

It followed Mighty Earth’s global campaign and publication of our Palm Oil’s Black Box report about Olam’s operations, and negotiations between Mighty Earth Chairman (and former Congressman) Henry Waxman and Olam CEO Sunny Verghese in Washington, DC. Action from Olam stakeholders like Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund Temasek, as well as an array of Olam customers, and investors and banks contributed to this agreement. This breakthrough would not have been possible without the support of the Arcus Foundation, which works to conserve great ape and gibbon habitat around the world.

Of course, we hope that Olam’s suspension of land clearing in forests will have direct impacts to protect habitat for chimpanzees, gorillas, and other wildlife in Gabon and other places it operates. In addition, we hope this agreement dramatically improves treatment of local communities; we are continuing to work closely with our Gabonese partner Brainforest to monitor and address serious outstanding social issues.

Several aspects of this agreement have the potential for significant positive ramifications that transcend Olam’s own operations.

1. Olam and Mighty Earth have agreed to join others in working to determine consensus standards for development in the few remaining “High Forest Cover” countries that still have most of their forests intact. Olam had justified its activities in Gabon on the basis of that country’s high forest cover and relative lack of large-scale degraded land; on the other hand, we and other environmental advocates have traditionally viewed large, intact, wildlife-rich ecosystems like those found in Gabon as exactly the ones that need protecting from plantation agriculture. We’ve always believed that development should be focused on the 125 million hectares of degraded land around the world. We are hopeful that, just as the recent NGO-company “convergence process” on agriculture development was able to build consensus around strong conservation standards for commodity agriculture development around the world, this process will do the same for development in High Forest Cover landscapes like Gabon. Just as in the “convergence process,” we anticipate the key group will be the High Carbon Stock Approach, and its High Forest Cover working group.

2. The agreement also formally shuts down the “palm oil black box” that was the initial focus of Mighty’s report. Our initial concern was that Olam was keeping its suppliers’ identities secret, creating a potential outlet for rogue palm oil companies that wanted to evade the strong “No Deforestation” policies that almost all of Olam’s rivals (Wilmar, Musim Mas, GAR) have adopted. Now, Olam has taken a step forward for transparency by revealing their suppliers’ identities, pledged to apply the industry-standard strong conservation policies to them, and take further steps to align their transparency measures with industry leaders. We will of course continue monitoring Olam and other companies’ operations. We hope that they will soon take important steps like revealing their mill locations, and invest in serious conservation and restoration initiatives.

3. Olam’s commitment to deforestation-free rubber in its own plantations is one of the first examples of a corporate commitment to environmental and social responsibility in the rubber industry. Rubber is a globally significant driver of deforestation, but almost no rubber companies have any sustainability policies that go beyond mere pledges to adhere to the laws of the countries in which they operate. Michelin started to change that with its Sustainability policy in 2016, and now Olam is stepping up on the producer side. We anticipate greatly increased calls for the rubber industry to align themselves with deforestation-free policies in the palm oil, paper, and soy industries.

We look forward to working with Brainforest, Olam, WRI and all our allies around the world to make this progress stick in the months to come.

Featured image from Flickr.


Olam and Mighty Earth agree to collaborate on Forest Conservation and Sustainable Agriculture in Highly Forested Countries

Olam and Mighty Earth agree to collaborate on Forest Conservation and Sustainable Agriculture in Highly Forested Countries

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Washington D.C., February 21, 2017 – In the wake of Mighty Earth’s 2016 report, Palm Oil’s Black Box, Mighty Earth and Olam met in Washington D.C. and agreed to move forward on two imperatives: enabling models for responsible agricultural development that support forest conservation whilst addressing poverty reduction and job creation in Gabon and other high forest cover countries; and the need for palm oil traders to collectively strengthen incentives for suppliers in Southeast Asia to avoid deforestation and exploitation of workers or communities.

The meeting was convened to discuss the impact of the palm oil and rubber plantations developed by Olam with its Joint Venture partner, the Republic of Gabon, as well as Olam’s third party palm oil sourcing in Southeast Asia. The World Resources Institute moderated the meeting.

Olam agreed to:

  • Suspend further land clearing of forest in Gabon for palm and rubber plantations for a year (a period that can be extended). During this time, Mighty Earth and Olam agreed to support a multi-stakeholder process to develop further specific criteria for responsible agricultural development in countries that have most of their land covered by forests.
  • Continue to implement its time-bound plans to map and disclose more information about its third-party palm oil supply chains in Asia and require its third party suppliers to adhere to the High Carbon Stock Approach (described at highcarbonstock.org) as per its updated Palm Oil Policy.
  • Publish its procedures to address supply chain risks, including independent verification of compliance of high-risk sources.
  • Issue a revised grievance procedure that includes Olam’s third-party palm oil suppliers and protects the anonymity of those providing input. Olam will continue to routinely investigate and work to remediate any complaints received from indigenous or local communities.
  • Supplement its current sustainability policies with explicit references to protecting peat and ensuring no exploitation of workers or local communities.

Mighty Earth agreed to:

  • Suspend its current campaign targeting Olam’s oil palm and rubber operations for a year, including its complaint to FSC (a period that can be extended).
  • Work with the Gabonese government, civil society, and international experts and stakeholders to advance conservation and responsible development.

In a spirit of dialogue and increased mutual understanding, Olam and Mighty Earth jointly agreed to participate in stakeholder events with civil society organisations and government in Gabon, to encourage and support the High Carbon Stock Approach working group to develop clear guidelines for responsible development in highly forested landscapes, and to further explore conservation and restoration initiatives.

Olam’s Co-Founder and Group CEO, Sunny Verghese, said, “Olam remains committed to best practice in forest conservation, sustainable agricultural development, poverty reduction and job creation,” while noting, “we hope these actions can help sovereign countries like Gabon set their own pathways to sustainable development.”

“Mighty Earth welcomes the opportunity to help Gabon develop in a responsible way, and provide a model for conservation in high forest cover countries,” said Mighty Earth Chairman, former Congressman Henry Waxman.

“While this agreement focuses on palm oil and rubber, we hope it creates momentum for action across commodities.  World Resources Institute provided important assistance in reaching this agreement by facilitating this negotiation, and helped spur valuable dialogue to advance broader forest-friendly development.”

World Resources Institute President and CEO, Andrew Steer, noted “Balancing forest protection and new agricultural projects can be very challenging, and it is vital for countries, companies and civil society to work together and find common ground. This agreement is a good example of how organisations can come together to agree on a sustainable and prosperous path forward.”

See the signed formal agreement here.

For further information, please contact:

Mighty Earth

Marisa Bellantonio, Media Specialist, [email protected], +1-203-479-2026

Olam Corporate Communications

Nikki Barber, General Manager, [email protected], +44 207 484 8994; +44 7568 108555

 About Mighty Earth

Mighty Earth is a global environmental campaign organization that works to protect forests, conserve oceans, and address climate change. We work in Africa, Southeast Asia, Latin America, and North America to drive large-scale action towards environmentally responsible agriculture that protects native ecosystems, wildlife, and water, and respects local community rights.  Mighty Earth’s global team has played a decisive role in persuading the world’s largest food and agriculture companies to dramatically improve their environmental and social policies and practices. More information on Mighty Earth can be found at http://www.mightyearth.org/

About Olam International Limited

Olam International is a leading agri-business operating across the value chain in 70 countries, supplying various products across 16 platforms to over 16,200 customers worldwide. From a direct sourcing and processing presence in most major producing countries, Olam has built a global leadership position in many of its businesses. Headquartered in Singapore and listed on the SGX-ST on February 11, 2005, Olam currently ranks among the top 50 largest listed companies in Singapore in terms of market capitalisation. In 2016, Fortune magazine recognised Olam at #23 in its ‘Change the World’ list.  More information on Olam can be found at www.olamgroup.com.

About World Resources Institute

WRI is a global research organization that spans more than 50 countries, with offices in the United States, China, India, Brazil, Indonesia and more. Our more than 450 experts and staff work closely with leaders to turn big ideas into action to sustain our natural resources – the foundation of economic opportunity and human well-being. Our work focuses on six critical issues at the intersection of environment and development:  climate, energy, food, forests, water, cities and transport. For more information, www.wri.org


Ultimate Mystery Meat

February 2017

The report reveals the secrets about where the feed for Burger King’s chicken, bacon, and beef come from, and shows that these companies are linked to massive, systematic deforestation to clear sloth and jaguar habitat in Latin America.

Download


Korindo Goes Back on No-Deforestation Pledge

Campaign Director Deborah Lapidus was on Australian network ABC today speaking about Korindo's devastating impact on West Papua.

See the full clip here.


Satellite Data Shows Korindo Violates Deforestation Moratorium

This post was updated on February 16, 2017 at 4:30pm to include Korindo's response.

Through ongoing satellite monitoring, Mighty has discovered that agribusiness Korindo has violated its moratorium on new land development announced for all of its palm oil operations. Korindo announced its moratorium on December 1, 2016 but satellite images, pictured below, taken on December 13, 2016, January 12, 2017, and February 10, 2017 show that Korindo clearly violated its commitments. Weeks after its moratorium, Korindo’s PT Papua Agro Lestari concession in the Indonesian island of Papua carved out plantation “blocks” on approximately 1,400 hectares of forest, an activity also known as “stacking”, which is the final step of land development prior to forest clearing. You can see the same lines of the plantation blocks in the brown area which has already been cleared.

In response to this evidence, Korindo wrote us that they had lifted the moratorium after conducting conservation assessments even though those assessments had not gone through quality review. Because of serious concerns about the credibility of their chosen assessor, the need for these assessments to undergo quality review before development was a primary topic of conversation in a meeting between Mighty and Papuan civil society groups and Korindo in Jakarta in January.

“When we met with Korindo in Jakarta three weeks ago they assured us that they were adhering to their moratorium and committed to the High Carbon Stock Approach, which doesn’t allow for deforestation. Yet, at the same time, Korindo’s bulldozers were getting ready to clear a huge area of forest,” said Deborah Lapidus, Mighty Campaign Director. “We are very disappointed at Korindo’s duplicity, and urge them to immediately halt all further development. Because of its lies Korindo is losing what little credibility it had, and serious scrutiny is needed: their sustainability assessments must be approved by the industry’s quality review panels before Korindo commences any further development.”

Korindo’s PT PAL concession. The new lines that appear on the two images on right are plantation blocks that Korindo has carved in the forest in the last two months, the final step prior to forest clearing. The plantation blocks on the image from Jan 13th cover 1,400 hectares, and by February 10th, 2,400 hectares.

Mighty will share this news with Korindo’s current and former customers and urge them to maintain suspensions of purchases from Korindo.  Pulp and paper giant APRIL, which represents a substantial volume of Korindo’s wood products business, recently told Mighty it has decided not to renew its contract with Korindo because of its non-compliance with APRIL’s No Deforestation and No Exploitation policy. As we announced previously, Korindo has already lost palm oil business from Wilmar, Musim Mas, ADM, IOI and dozens of major brand companies said they would ensure Korindo was excluded from their supply chains.

Korindo’s PT Papua Agro Lestari plantation © Mighty, 4 June 2016; Latitude 6°45'41.80"S, Longitude 140°48'18.78"E.

Korindo also sells wind towers to major wind energy companies such as Siemens, Gamesa, Nordex, and Iberdrola. In October, Mighty sent letters to these companies asking that they end their business with Korindo due to Korindo’s environmental destruction and major contribution to climate change, which is counter to the mission of clean energy deployment. A positive response from these customers seems to have helped convince Korindo to announce its forest clearing moratorium, but unfortunately, the progress was short-lived.

“Korindo’s wind energy customers made their desire for Korindo to become environmentally responsible loud and clear, but Korindo did not deliver.  Now it’s high time for these companies to end their contracts in order to preserve the integrity of their mission to mitigate climate change and their commitments to maintain responsible supply chains,” said Lapidus.

POSCO Daewoo getting ready to clear 4,000 hectares of forest

At the same time as Korindo was busy preparing for its next round of destruction despite all its promises, its neighbor in Papua, the Korean multi-industy company POSCO Daewoo, was doing just the same at its PT Bio Inti Agrindo (PT BIA) concession. Satellite imagery shows that in the last month POSCO Daewoo has drawn plantation blocks over nearly 4,000 hectares of forest in the eastern part of its concession, which will imminently be cleared unless Posco Daewoo’s buyers, investors, and bankers intervene right away. This is the area in brown in the satellite image below.

The brown is a forested area of 4,000 hectares that POSCO Daewoo is getting ready to clear, as indicated by the plantation blocks they have carved into the forest.

In total, POSCO Daewoo has cleared 7,500 hectares of forest at PT BIA between September 2015 and December 2016, 4,300 of which was just in the last half of 2016. (See satellite images below.) POSCO Daewoo’s ongoing destruction of Indonesia’s last intact forests has been exposed in several recent reports and investigations including those conducted by Greenpeace and Mighty, and has resulted in it losing investment from the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, the Norwegian Pension Fund. Yet, it continues business-as-usual deforestation.

POSCO Daewoo’s PT BIA: The area outlined in red was forested land cleared between Sept. 2015 (pictured on left) and Dec. 2016 (pictured on right), totaling 7,500 hectares.

“Korean companies think they can get away with deforestation in remote areas of Indonesia without being held accountable, but we want to let them know that the world is watching and Korean citizens are demanding action,” said Choony Kim, International Cooperation Coordinator with the Korea Federation for Environmental Movements. “These companies are bringing shame on themselves and they risk tarnishing the reputation of Korean industry.”

POSCO Daewoo’s PT BIA concession © Mighty; 5 June 2016.

Samling's Forest Crime Spree Moves to Myanmar

A coalition of Burmese civil society groups recently published a report regarding Samling Group’s palm oil operations in Myanmar. The report details land grabs, indigenous rights violations, and environmental problems, including pollution of local water sources and clear-cutting high conservation forests (HCV) inside a proposed national park that is home to endangered tigers. These environmental and human rights problems in Myanmar can all be traced back to Samling Group, a Malaysian conglomerate headquartered in Sarawak. This influential company has about 20,000 employees, is run by one of the 40 richest people in Malaysia, creates a market for deforestation palm oil at a time when most of the industry is heading in the opposite direction, and is a supplier to many leading companies around the world. For these reasons, and because of its long track record of abuse, Samling merits a closer look.

Women and children protesting the MSPP concession © Environmental Investigation Agency

Samling’s MSPP project is located in an area with a history of violence and human rights abuses, creating an atmosphere of confusion that Samling has manipulated for financial gain. For over 60 years, the region was plagued by civil war between the Karen National Union and the central Government. Between 1997 and 2007, the Myanmar Army committed human rights violations including rape, torture, and arbitrary killings of civilians as well as looting, destruction of property, and forced labor in the MSPP area. A 2012 ceasefire agreement opened these civil war zones to foreign investment, establishing mixed administration by KNU and the Myanmar Government, such that both governments can now shift blame for MSPP’s oil palm plantation’s impacts. According to the Burmese civil society report, MSPP’s concession overlaps with 38,900 acres of community and agricultural lands incorrectly classified by the central Government as ‘vacant land’, including HVC forest that is home to tigers and approximately 4,480 Karen indigenous people. Families’ crops and orchards have been cleared, villagers indebted, and chemical run-off from MSPP’s palm oil plantations has polluted local water sources – all without fair compensation for villagers by MSPP and without Free, Prior, and Informed Consent. MSPP’s abuses illustrate high risks of investment in conflict areas in Myanmar.

How does Samling fit in? See the broader picture of the Burmese palm oil project's corporate structure above. © Environmental Investigation Agency

These abuses are par for the course. Samling and its subsidiary Glenealy already have a documented and abysmal track record of human rights abuses against indigenous people, environmental crimes, and illegal activities that spans decades.

Brief compendium of earlier reports of Samling abuses

We believe Samling should immediately stop MSPP’s current operations, compensate villagers for all past harms, restore an area at least equivalent to what it has destroyed, and obey the law of the land. Samling must meet the industry benchmark for responsible production by immediately announcing a comprehensive cross-commodity No Deforestation, No Peat, and No Exploitation policy in adherence with the HCSA methodology for its operations and supply chain.

Should Samling not agree to these steps, Maybank should divest from Samling. All Maybank investors should require immediate action by Maybank to divest from companies driving deforestation, peatland clearance, and human rights abuse, including Samling and its subsidiaries.  (Maybank is also likely financing rogue palm oil trader Sunfield Global, who is buying from Sarawak peatland destroyer BLD/Kirana.) According to the recent Burmese civil society report investors in Maybank include the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund, the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, PGGM (Netherlands), British Columbia Investment Management (Canada, APG Asset Management (Netherlands), TIAA Global Management (United States), CPP Investment Board (Canada), Forsta AP-Fonden (Sweden), Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec (Canada), and AMF Pensions for sakring (Sweden).

Featured image from a_rabin.


Newly Released Guidance Aims to Improve Transparency in the Palm Oil Industry

Ceres, Oxfam, Rainforest Alliance, CDP, and Rainforest Action Network Among over 18 Groups Releasing New Guidance

BOSTON (January 24, 2017)— With rainforest destruction and forced labor urgent concerns in palm oil cultivation, a diverse group of NGOs and investor organizations releases today shared guidance for corporate reporting on company commitments towards responsible palm oil sourcing and production.

Collaboratively developed by over 18 organizations (see list below) with input from companies, the guidance document aims to inform corporate reporting and supply chain engagement. The diverse group, which encompasses a range of perspectives on the palm oil challenge, came together to develop the guidance to create consistency and clarity for companies in the palm oil value chain on reporting.

“Numerous companies are putting resources towards sustainable palm oil; yet, deforestation, land conflicts, and labor issues persist,” said Noah Klein-Markman at Ceres. “Transparency on supply chain practices is critical for all stakeholders – investors, civil society groups, and businesses - to understand and address the implementation gap.”

Palm oil is the world’s most abundant vegetable oil and a common ingredient in food and household products. In Indonesia, where nearly half of the world’s palm oil is produced, forests and carbon-rich peat lands are being cleared faster than any tropical nation, accounting for as much as much as 79 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas footprint.  Much of this impact is caused by the expansion of the palm oil industry.  Forced and child labor, as well as land rights violations are also widespread in the industry.

Many companies are actively working to address these issues and are beginning to communicate progress to a wide range of stakeholders.

“M&S recognizes the value of transparency as part of supply chain management and is working with industry partners to measure and compare performance of Growers, Processors and Traders in our supply chain,” said Fiona Wheatley of Marks and Spencers, a British retailer. “This document guides companies towards reporting that is most meaningful and material to a wide range of stakeholders and contributes towards our collective goal of making palm oil production sustainable and deforestation free.”

The guidance document offers recommendations for growers, processors and traders; manufacturers; and retailers. It covers topics including supply chain transparency, effective grievance processes, forced labor, smallholder engagement, and responsible land expansion.

“Oxfam is concerned about the palm oil industry’s record on human rights and environmental protection, and believes that companies have an obligation and an opportunity to address these issues. Corporate actions and commitments must go hand in hand with meaningful transparency in order to facilitate implementation. We hope this guidance spurs greater transparency in the sector, ultimately contributing to sector transformation,” said Aditi Sen, a Senior Policy Advisor for Oxfam.

“The razing of rainforests and prevalent use of child labor in the palm oil sector create regulatory risks and hinder companies’ social license to operate, which can threaten access to raw materials, production, and overall brand equity. Companies need to be transparent about how they are managing these risks so that we, as investors, can identify and measure them effectively,” said Kate Kroll, Shareholder Advocate at Green Century Capital Management said.

Companies are encouraged to report the information outlined in the guidance document through existing vehicles, such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm oil (RSPO) Annual Communication on Progress, CDP, or sustainability reports and dashboards.

Download the reporting guidance document here.

***

The document was collaboratively developed by the following organizations:

Ceres (coordinator)
The Consensus Building Institute (facilitator)
CDP
Conservation International
Daemeter
Forest Heroes
Forest Trends
Global Forest Watch
Green Century Capital Management
Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility
International Labor Rights Forum
Mighty
Oxfam
The Packard Foundation
Rainforest Action Network
Rainforest Alliance
Seventh Generation Interfaith Coalition for Responsible Investment
Union of Concerned Scientists
Zoological Society of London

About Ceres

Ceres is a non-profit organization that is mobilizing many of the world’s largest companies and investors to take stronger action on climate change, water scarcity and other global sustainability challenges. Ceres directs the Investor Network on Climate Risk, a group of 120 institutional investors managing about $15 trillion assets focused on the business risks and opportunities of climate change and water scarcity. Ceres also engages with 100-plus companies, many of them Fortune 500 businesses, committed to sustainable business practices and the urgency for strong climate and clean energy policies. For more information, visit www.ceres.org or follow on Twitter @CeresNews.


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.


Palm Oil's Black Box

December 2016

The report 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.

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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.