Korindo Threatens Legal Action to Bury the Truth

Palm oil and timber conglomerate sends Forest Stewardship Council a “cease and desist” letter the day it was scheduled to release findings from two-year investigation into the company’s wrongdoing

JAKARTA – Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a global certification body for responsible forest management, was scheduled to release summaries of its investigatory findings from a two-year investigation into the Korindo Group, a notorious Korean-Indonesian logging and palm oil conglomerate, on September 5, 2019. However, Mighty Earth was notified by FSC that it has indefinitely delayed the publication of its findings after receiving dubious legal threats from Korindo, including the apparent delivery of a “cease and desist” letter.

“Korindo is using the threat of legal action to bury the FSC’s findings and suppress evidence of its wrongdoing,” said Mighty Earth Senior Campaign Director Deborah Lapidus. “These are not the actions of an innocent party. Korindo’s willing embrace of bullying tactics is proof they have something to hide.”

The investigation, prompted by a complaint filed by Mighty Earth, concluded that Korindo had flouted the FSC’s ‘Policy for Association’ by violating indigenous peoples’ rights, carrying out significant conversion of natural forests, and destroying significant areas of High Conservation Value (HCVs).

Yet, for years Korindo has been using the FSC’s prestigious eco-forestry label to greenwash its destructive practices. Korindo sells its timber, plywood, pulpwood, biomass, and newsprint to customers such as Asia Pulp & Paper (Indonesia), APRIL (Indonesia), Sumitomo Forestry (Japan), Oji Corporation (Japan), Marubeni (Japan), and News Corps Australia.

As a result of Korindo’s violations of FSC standards, the FSC imposed a series of measures on the company to improve its practices and address its liabilities for the severe damages it caused. These conclusions were announced in July 2019. According to the FSC statement, Korindo will be required to continue its suspension of any forest conversion and deforestation, achieve FSC certification in all its forestry operations and to comply with the principle of FPIC [Free Prior and Informed Consent]. Korindo is also required to assess past negative impact and secure remedy for it. Furthermore, the FSC says it will disassociate Korindo if it fails to adhere to these requirements.

“Instead of acknowledging its wrongdoing and taking responsibility for its actions, Korindo chose to spin the conclusions of the FSC investigation and proclaim its innocence in the press. If Korindo wants the truth to be known about what the FSC found, it should call on FSC to release the full findings of its investigations – as we have done – so that the public can see the truth for themselves,” said Lapidus. “But instead, Korindo is trying to intimidate FSC into silence, as it has attempted to do with Mighty Earth and many of our NGO partners.”

“There is no justification for FSC’s complicity in covering up Korindo’s wrongdoing. It needs to stop doing the dirty work of deforesters and start acting like a sustainability organization,” Lapidus added.

“We urge the FSC to stand strong and proceed with releasing the full findings of the investigations, as they are required to do by their own procedures. Do not give in to Korindo’s gangster-style threats,” said Mighty Earth Campaign Director and FSC expert Phil Aikman. “Korindo’s customers deserve to know the truth about the origins of their purportedly sustainable products. The indigenous people who have suffered at the hands of this nefarious conglomerate deserve to see Korindo held accountable and to be fairly compensated. And the public has the right to know just how much precious rainforest was destroyed.”

“We call on the FSC to suspend Korindo, as the company is acting in obvious bad faith and is clearly not ready to accept its liabilities,” Aikman concluded.

Mighty Earth’s call for accountability and transparency was echoed by community organizations working in Papua.

Franky Samperante of Yayasan Pusaka, which works to defend indigenous land rights in Papua said, “We got the complaints from the victims that are impacted by logging and palm oil company, subsidiary company of Korindo Group. Land, forest and sago hamlet which are their food resources and livelihood are being destroyed. The river as the clean water supply has been contaminated by plant waste and pesticides. Their rights and power over their own land moved unwittingly. Indigenous people and workers are subjected to violence and intimidation threats.”

“Korindo is also not taking its corporate social responsibility seriously,” said Pastor Anselmus Amo from SKP-KAMe Meruake, a Papuan human rights organization. “FSC should consult directly with affected communities to better understand Korindo’s egregious actions and the communities’ views on what fair compensation and remediation measures would be. We stand ready to help resolve this long standing conflict.”

Samperante added, “For over decades, Korindo has gotten away with violating indigenous peoples’ land rights without exposure, while selling itself in the media as a savior to the Papuan people. Korindo should be seriously committed to respect and recover our rights and protect local environment.”

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Further information, please contact:

Alex Armstrong
Mighty Earth
alex@mightyearth.org

Ayunda Putri
Image Dynamics
ayundapputri@gmail.com