Liviya James

Time for the European Union to act to address deforestation and child labour in the cocoa sector

A letter to Vice-President Jyrki Tapani Katainen:

Following the release of highly concerning data from the Global Forest Watch, we—the undersigned organisations working in the fields of environment, human rights, and agriculture—urge you to take action to address deforestation and child labour in the cocoa sector. As the world’s largest importer of cocoa, the European Union has the duty to act.  Your forthcoming “Communication on Stepping up EU Action on Deforestation & Forest Degradation” must include steps to regulate commodities driving deforestation, with cocoa presenting a particularly urgent case.

The recently released Global Forest Watch satellite data reveal that 2018 had the fourth highest rate of forest loss since records began in 2001 - 3.6 million hectares of primary forest disappeared, an area the size of Belgium.

Forest loss shot up the most dramatically in two West African countries: Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. In Ghana, deforestation increased by 60% in 2018, and in Côte d’Ivoire by 26%. Ghana had the highest increase in deforestation in the world last year, with Cote d’Ivoire coming in second.

These two countries have something else in common: they are the world’s two main producers of cocoa, together responsible for around 60% of global supply. 60% of this cocoa is exported to the EU.

Cocoa is known to be a leading cause of deforestation in Ghana & Côte d’Ivoire. Much of this deforestation is also illegal: according to satellite maps, about 30% of Ivorian cocoa is grown in illegally cleared national parks and protected areas. A large quantity of Ghanaian cocoa is similarly tainted by illegality.

Cocoa production is also plagued with child labour, the sector being one of the only ones where child labour is still getting worse. As of 2018, there are nearly 2 million children working in the cocoa sector in West Africa—and this number is still increasing.

So far, efforts to address deforestation and child labour in the cocoa sector have mostly focused around voluntary commitments by the chocolate industry.  But these have been insufficient in addressing the issues: despite nearly two decades of voluntary industry efforts to end child labour in the sector, the NGO-led Cocoa Barometer concluded in 2018 that child labour was still “widespread” throughout the industry – with “not a single company or government… anywhere near reaching the sector-wide objective of the elimination of child labour, and not even near their commitments of a 70% reduction of child labour by 2020.”

Most of this cocoa is headed to the EU. The EU is the world’s largest importer, processor and consumer of cocoa, responsible for about 60% of global cocoa bean imports. The Netherlands, Germany & Belgium bear a particularly heavy responsibility for this crisis, importing almost half of the global trade in cocoa.

This situation and the EU’s failure to act over the past two decades, despite its huge responsibility, is unacceptable.

There is a widely shared recognition within the cocoa sector that cocoa supply chains need to be regulated in consumer countries, in order to tackle these severe human rights and environmental issues that have plagued the cocoa sector for decades.

The industry-led 2018 World Cocoa Conference final declaration concluded that “voluntary compliance has not led to sufficient impact”, and that there is a need to “strengthen human rights due diligence across the supply chain, including through potential regulatory measures by governments”.

Some of the biggest companies in the cocoa supply chain—most recently Mondelez, Mars & Barry Callebaut— have also publicly called on the EU to regulate its cocoa supply chains to tackle deforestation and human rights abuses.

Policy makers agree. In 2012, Members of the Parliament passed a resolution calling on the European Commission to take regulatory action to end child labour in cocoa production -- with no result. France, Germany, and Belgium have all recently passed policies calling for EU regulation for cocoa imports.

The time to talk has passed. The time to act is now.

We ask you to:

  • Ensure that the forthcoming “Communication on Stepping up EU Action on Deforestation and Forest Degradation” includes measures to regulate EU agricultural commodity imports – including cocoa -- to ensure they are free from deforestation and human rights abuses.
  • Urgently call a high-level meeting with the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, to discuss the recent Global Forest Watch data and come up with a plan, including time-bound steps, to address the issue, in a partnership of primary producing and primary consuming countries.


Han de Groot - Chief Executive Officer, Rainforest Alliance

Heske Verburg - Managing Director, Solidaridad Europe

Obed Owusu-Addai - Managing Campaigner, EcoCare Ghana

Sergi Corbalán - Executive Director, Fair Trade Advocacy Office

Hannah Mowat - Campaigns Coordinator, Fern

Antonie Fountain - Managing Director, VOICE Network

Jean-Claude Natoueu Koya - Executive President, ROSCIDET Cote d’Ivoire

Etelle Higonnet, Senior Campaign Director, Mighty Earth

Martina Schaub - Executive Director, Südwind Institute

Tina Lutz - Tropical Forest Campaigner, Robin Wood

Reinhard Behrend - Chairman, Retten den Regenwald

Arndt von Massenbach - Executive Director, INKOTA

Resistance to Destructive Palm Oil Grows in South Korea

South Korean firms exposed for driving large scale deforestation and human rights abuse in Indonesia

A recent report has exposed the harmful practices of major Korean conglomerates linked to the palm oil industry in Indonesia, leading to public outcry and consequences for some of the companies involved. The report, originally released in Korean and translated into English, is titled Does Spring Come to Stolen Forests, and documents both human rights abuses and environmental destruction: Indonesian workers on South Korean-owned palm oil plantations have routinely been exiled from their land, exposed to hazardous chemicals and pesticides, and forced to work in poor conditions with unstable wages. The South Korean companies are also responsible for cutting down millions of hectares of rainforests, releasing significant amounts of greenhouse gases, and destroying the habitats of critically endangered orangutans, elephants, rhinoceroses, and tree kangaroos.

The report was published by Korea Federation for Environmental Movements (KFEM), South Korea’s largest environmental NGO, and APIL, a Korean human rights legal advocacy group, as part of a palm oil “Week of Action” in March. Their efforts around this report included a press conference, lectures, and meetings with key government ministries and agencies.

A variety of Korean companies are implicated in the report, including POSCO International – Korea’s largest trading company – and Korindo, a notorious Indonesian-Korean palm oil and timber conglomerate involved in massive-scale deforestation. KFEM and Mighty Earth first exposed Korindo in their 2016 Burning Paradise report. Since then, KFEM has worked closely with Mighty Earth to help rein in the South Korean palm oil industry, and the organization continues to break new ground on holding South Korean corporations accountable for their actions.

The report also exposed the Korean Forestry Service’s role in financing nearly 30,000 hectares of rainforest destruction in Papua, Indonesia by POSCO International, a scandal that was covered in an alarming segment (see below with English subtitles) from Korea Broadcasting Service (KBS).

This response from South Korea is evidence of a growing resistance to the destructive practices of the country’s palm oil industry. This progress also disproves the common belief that only Western consumers care about responsibly produced products, and suggests a path forward for curtailing the remaining markets for irresponsibly produced palm oil in Asia.


View the original segment here.



Cement is leading on climate and steel is falling behind

One of the largest cement companies in the world, Heidelberg Cement, just pledged to produce carbon-neutral concrete by 2050 and adopt Science-Based Targets (SBTs). Cement is one of the most carbon-intensive and widely used materials in the world, accounting for roughly 8 percent of all global emissions. The only material that rivals cement’s dominance is steel, which is responsible for roughly the same amount of global emissions every year. Together, they are the two most widely-used construction materials in the world. They are also the cornerstones of the heavy industrial sector, which accounts for 72percent of all industrial emissions. These industries have long been considered the most challenging sectors for emissions reductions – but that perception is shifting fast.

In response to the news, Mighty Earth Campaign Director Margaret Hansbrough said:

“While Heidelberg’s announcement shows that the cement industry is starting to step up in a major way, it also highlights the failure of the steel industry to come to the table. Why is the steel industry failing to lead on climate change? Global steel giants like ArcelorMittal, POSCO, Tata, and Nucor should be making the same kind of commitments as Heidelberg. Instead, they are largely silent or content with incremental actions. No major steel company has stepped up with a significant company-wide commitment to carbon neutrality, clean electricity, or Science-Based Targets. We hope that changes very soon.”

Mighty Earth has been pushing the steel industry to take climate action and make commitments on carbon neutrality.

New Dutch Law Combats Child Labor, Highlights Need for EU-Wide Standards on Cocoa

We are pleased to share excellent news from the Netherlands, where the Dutch Senate has approved a law that will combat the scourge of child labor by holding companies accountable for labor practices throughout their supply chains.

The new Dutch “due diligence” law will be especially important for the cocoa sector. Despite promises from the industry, 2.1 million kids still work in cocoa, 96% of whom are engaged in work considered hazardous.

The Netherlands is the #1 cocoa importing country in the world. Much of the world’s cocoa flows through Dutch ports. Amsterdam ranks as the largest cocoa port in the world. After decades of being a major source of problems, the Dutch have finally opted to be part of solutions.

Their law will likely have positive ramifications for the environment as well as human rights of children. One fundamental building block of ensuring zero child labor in any product - like chocolate for example - is full traceability in supply chains. That selfsame traceability is helpful in making sure cocoa didn’t come from inside a national park and wasn’t tied to destroying forests.

Due diligence laws like the one moving forward in the Netherlands can thus also help address deforestation, which, in tandem with the child labor problem, is cocoa’s other big dark secret. 

Thanks to the leadership of parliamentarians like Roelof van Laar and Attje Kuijken; the drive of NGOs like MVO Platform and SOMO; and the help of companies like Nestlé, Tony Chocolonely, Barry Callebaut, this law provides new hope to everyone working on problematic commodities that are traded through Holland like cocoa, palm oil, and soy.

Around the world, consumers are increasingly articulating higher expectations for the chocolate and other companies they buy from. There is an understanding that major corporations must be held accountable for the negative impacts that their sprawling supply chains have on communities and the environment. And if companies are unable to hold themselves to high enough standards, governments will step in and do it for them.

Major failures of the last few years have made it clear that voluntary corporate action has not effectively addressed child labor or environmental destruction in the cocoa sector. As a result, there are growing calls for an EU-wide due diligence regulation to address these issues. The new effort in the Netherlands echoes recent calls from member states of France, Germany, and Belgium for effective European regulation.

The time for piecemeal approaches is over. The EU should rise to the expectations of its citizens and move quickly to establish uniform due diligence requirements for cocoa.

Palm Oil: Report 15

Rapid Response Monitoring System

Palm Oil, Report 15 | May 2019 

Prepared with support from MapHubs

VIew as PDF

Additional Cases Identified Using Filtered GLAD Alerts: Hayel Saeed Anam Group: PT Kartika Cipta Pratama, KPP Group: PT Kayan Plantation, Unknown Group: PT Palmakharisma Sekawan, Unknown Group: PT Sawit Berkat Sejahtera, Korompis Family and Peak Capital: PF Berau Karetindo Lestari, Mitra Jaya Group: PT Sumber Sawit Mitrajaya, Metro Lestari Jaya Group: PT Sawit Mandiri Lestari, Unknown Group: PT Borneo Agro Sawit, Mariya Family: PT Malindo Jaya Diraja, Puncak Niaga Holdings: Danum Sinar (Sarawak), Unknown Group: PT Marita Makmur Jaya, Unknown Group: PT Borneo Estate Sejahtera, Unknown Group: PT Repindo Sawit Sejati

Sources for supply chain information:

Supply chain information included in Rapid Response reports is based on latest publicly versions of mill disclosures and grievance logs. Mighty Earth encourages companies to send updated versions of mill disclosures as soon as they become available and any decision to suspend supplies with a given group/company listed in those mill disclosures; please send to [email protected].



Mighty Earth Calls on Private Sector to Address Devastating Climate Impacts

Scientists have detected atmospheric levels of CO2 at 415.26 parts per million (ppm), the highest levels ever recorded. In response to these findings, Mighty Earth CEO Glenn Hurowitz released the following statement: 

“We now have evidence that we are living in a warmer climate than any in human history. The climate isn’t hot because of some general, amorphous forces, but because of specific decisions by specific companies. It’s because companies like McDonald’s still buy meat linked to the companies destroying Brazil’s forests, because BMW cheats pollution controls, because the Trump administration does polluters’ bidding, and because too many Democrats are still negotiating with themselves over a middle-ground solution to an existential crisis.

“This crisis isn’t inevitable, and can be solved – even in this era of government ignoring the problem or making it worse. Food companies can meet their commitments to end deforestation for products like palm oil and chocolate if they just rigorously enforce their existing commitments. Car companies can stop lobbying for weaker fuel efficiency requirements and double down on the race to electrify. And heavy industry, like steel and cement, can build on their progress to decarbonize.

“Just because government isn’t doing its job doesn’t mean the job doesn’t have to be done.”

Skanska UK Pledges Zero Emissions by 2045, Leads Construction Industry in Climate Commitments

Today, one of the top construction firms in the United Kingdom, Skanska UK, pledged to make its entire business carbon neutral by 2045. The company will eliminate emissions from both its direct operations and its supply chain, including materials like steel and cement. This pledge goes above and beyond the commitment made by its parent company, Skanska AB (SKSBF), to be carbon neutral by 2050, and sets a new bar for global corporate sustainability and climate action.

"This is a game changer for the climate crisis and for the construction industry,” said Mighty Earth Campaign Director Margaret Hansbrough. “This is an example of real leadership in a sector that has been slow to move. But now Skanska UK has set the wheels in motion, and there is no going back. We hope that the rest of the company – Skanska AB and all its affiliates – and the broader industry will follow this example quickly."

Materials for the construction industry account for 11 percent of all emissions and, by 2050, are projected to account for 49 percent of all building sector emissions, nearly equivalent to those from operational use of buildings. Steel as a whole, accounts for 7-9 percent of all global emissions.

In 2018, Mighty Earth launched a campaign asking Skanska and its competitors to make commitments to decarbonize their materials supply chain, starting with steel suppliers. The commitment by Skanska UK is the most expansive in the construction sector to date. Skanska is viewed as one of the most sustainable construction companies in the world and ranks in the top 10 in the global market.

"We need green building leaders here in the U.S. and around the world to follow the lead of their colleagues in the U.K.,” said Hansbrough. “Now is the time to make public commitments and set implementation plans toward deep decarbonization in the construction sector. This pledge from Skanska UK demonstrates that there are clear pathways to achieving zero emissions in the construction sector and, by proxy, in the heavy industrial sector. The climate crisis has never been more urgent, and we need more companies to step up and face the crisis head-on as Skanska UK has begun to do."

FSC Allowing Groups Engaged in Deforestation to Continue Profiting from its Eco-friendly Forestry Label

Mighty Earth today condemned the Forest Stewardship Council, a global certification body for responsible forest management, for its failure to police its standards by allowing companies it knows to have engaged in deforestation and human rights abuses to profit from its eco-friendly forestry label.

After recently completing a two-year investigation process prompted by a complaint filed by Mighty Earth on May 11, 2017, the FSC Board has once again delayed its announcement of a decision on the cases against the Korindo Group, a notorious Indonesian-Korean palm oil and timber conglomerate involved in massive-scale deforestation in Papua and North Maluku, Indonesia.

The complaint highlights how Korindo has violated the FSC’s ‘Policy for Association’ by engaging in three of the prohibited activities on its palm oil plantations: carrying out large scale deforestation (more than 10,000 hectares in the previous five years), destroying critical wildlife habitat (high conservation values), and violating traditional and human rights.

“We provided extensive photographic, video, and satellite evidence of 30,000 hectares of deforestation over just two years that was carried out in violation of FSC’s policies. It’s shameful that the FSC continues to allow Korindo to profit from its eco-friendly forestry label,” said Deborah Lapidus, Campaign Director at Mighty Earth. “This is pure greenwashing. FSC is acting like a PR agency for one of the world’s worst forest destroyers. If FSC doesn’t make its determination public soon, it will cease to be a credible certification body.”

Mighty Earth first exposed Korindo’s rainforest destruction in its September 2016 report, ‘Burning Paradise.’ Despite its known scandals, Korindo has been selling timber, plywood, pulpwood, biomass, and newsprint – carrying the FSC’s prestigious label for responsibly produced wood products – to customers like Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) and APRIL (Indonesia), Oji Corporation and Marubeni (Japan), and News Corps Australia. The Japanese company Sumitomo has been buying Korindo’s plywood for use in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which has set a “Sustainable Sourcing Code for Timber” that specifies FSC certification as an acceptable standard.

In recent months, Korindo has resorted to hiring lawyers to threaten organizations that have continued to investigate and expose its deforestation activities. In September 2018, Korindo’s Singapore-based law firm served notice on Mighty Earth and several other NGOs around the world, citing claims made by the organizations in reports, letters, and the FSC complaint against Korindo.

“By attempting to intimidate and silence its critics, Korindo is trying to bury the truth,” said Lapidus. “Korindo’s customers, financiers, affected stakeholders, and the public deserve to have access to the FSC's independent findings.”

Mighty Earth is calling on the FSC to immediately expel Korindo and pursue new investigations into the many other FSC-certified groups engaged in deforestation and human rights abuses. To that end, Mighty Earth today filed a new complaint against the KTS Group for its continued violation of the FSC Policy for Association. The complaint documents evidence that KTS’s oil palm business, BLD Plantation, has cleared more than 10,000 hectares of carbon-rich peat forests in Sarawak (Malaysia) in the last five years and violated the rights of local indigenous people. KTS pulpwood customers include the Indonesian paper giants, Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) and APRIL, which both have commitments to No Deforestation, No Peat, and No Exploitation policies.

“The world lost about 30 million acres of forest last year – an area roughly the size of the state of New York,” Lapidus said. “With this destruction continuing around the world, organizations with the power to do something, like the FSC, must take swift decisive action to protect forests. Now is not the time for the FSC to let these scandals keep piling up.”

Human activity threatens the survival of a million species – what can one person do?

By Mighty Earth CEO, Glenn Hurowitz

This week, the United Nations published its first comprehensive report on biodiversity, and the findings were immediately front-page news around the world. A million species are facing extinction because of human activities. Climate change, deforestation, development, pollution, and disruption are hollowing out our planet’s ecosystems, reducing biodiversity and making the whole system susceptible to collapse.

It’s hard to read these stories. As an individual, it’s even harder to know how to respond. The numbers are large; the scope of the problem and the scale of our impact are tremendous. It can be tempting to ignore the news entirely – studies have shown that people will stop paying attention to stories of misery and suffering when situations seem hopeless. But we cannot afford to tune out now.

Instead, let’s fight that despair together.

First, it’s important to assign the blame where it is due. The decision to clear-cut a forest or dump toxic waste into a river is not one that you or I make in our day-to-day lives. The real consequential decisions – the ones that result in long-lasting harm to our planet – have been made in the halls of government and corporate boardrooms. These are the forces that act at a scale commensurate with the damage done.

Fortunately, that same scale means that these actors can make changes for the better, too. And that’s where you come in. You can help Mighty Earth as we push for key policies that will slow the global destruction. Work with us, and you can maximize your impact.

Here are two things you can do right now:

1. Sign a petition to the CEOs of McDonald's and Whole Foods encouraging them to adopt sustainable sourcing practices for their meat. 

Meat production has a larger environmental impact than nearly any other human activity. The top meat and dairy companies are responsible for widespread water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions nearly equal to the largest oil companies, and the meat industry as a whole is responsible for over 60 percent of global biodiversity loss.

Mighty Earth has released several reports documenting the environmental devastation caused by the largest meat companies. But these companies won’t clean up their acts until their customers demand it of them. And a recent analysis from Mighty Earth found that most food companies – including supposedly ‘green’ sellers like Whole Foods – have no policies to ensure their meat suppliers are using environmentally responsible practices.

Companies like McDonald’s and Whole Foods should set requirements for their suppliers to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution – and they should report regularly on progress toward these goals. These new standards could force their meat suppliers to act. And action by a few big players can help transform an entire industry.


2. Download Mighty Earth's chocolate scorecard and commit to buying responsible chocolate

The UN’s report identified deforestation as a major cause of biodiversity loss. We have seen that deforestation in West Africa – and chocolate is the cause.

Recent data from the World Resources Institute shows that Ghana experienced the largest percentage increase in deforestation in 2018. Neighboring Côte d’Ivoire saw second largest increase. In both countries, this deforestation is driven by the cocoa industry, and it threatens the survival endangered species including chimpanzees and African elephants.

Mighty Earth’s recent Beyond the Wrapper report found cocoa being grown in protected areas, with deforestation increasing in many places. Recent exposés by French and Swiss television outlets also found a major cocoa trader connected to ongoing deforestation inside these protected areas.

Once again, consumer demand will help drive positive change in the industry. As we work with major cocoa companies to improve their traceability and sourcing standards, we are empowered by the knowledge that people are choosing to buy chocolate they know is produced responsibly. That keeps the pressure on the companies to reform their practices.

At a time when many governments around the world are either slow to act or ignoring environmental issues altogether, the private sector offers a forum where action can happen quickly. Right now the rubber industry, long a driver of deforestation in the Mekong, is taking steps to move us toward truly sustainable natural rubber. Mighty Earth’s campaigns in Southeast Asia have led to a dramatic reduction in deforestation caused by palm oil companies. Progress – and victories – are still possible.

Don’t let the headlines discourage you. We can protect the earth and the millions of species living here, but only if we push back against apathy and take action.

Is Nucor falling behind on decarbonization trend in steel industry?

Today during Nucor Corporation's (NUE) annual meeting of stockholders, investors and media are likely to hear highlights of the "record year" that the company had in 2018: record earnings, high performing stock price, leadership in key markets, and new facilities. But despite this indisputable success, is Nucor missing a growing trend in the steel industry?

In August of 2018, Evraz Steel's steel production facility in Pueblo, Colorado signed a precedent-setting PPA for approximately 240 MW of solar energy with Xcel Energy. ArcelorMittal, the world's largest steel company, signed a 5 MW solar deal for one of their facilities in Spain just a month ago and, the same week, announced a $72 million investment in the development of low carbon production technology using hydrogen. Both Tata and SSAB have launched their own investments in hydrogen technology. Earlier this week, US Steel announced a $1 billion investment in one of its facilities in Pennsylvania, which will result in major energy efficiency gains. The company also announced it will complete its first electric arc furnace facility in Alabama.

While Nucor is growing, it doesn't appear to be positioning itself to meet growing market demand for lower-carbon products. A company that built its brand on supplying large amounts of recycled steel for green building projects seems blind to the opportunity to maintain its low-carbon status in the market. Nucor could take simple steps – like switching its electricity supply to clean renewable sources and investing in their own hydrogen production research and development – to help it maintain a competitive advantage as the market evolves. Major construction firms like Skanska, for example, are already starting to ask their steel and other material suppliers about the embodied carbon in their materials.

For more information on Mighty Earth’s campaign for clean steel, visit

Resistance Grows to US$ 1.6b Dam That Threatens New Orangutan Species and Communities

Resistance Grows to US$ 1.6 b Dam That Threatens New Orangutan Species and Communities


Local opposition to the controversial plan to develop a US$1.6 billion dam and hydroelectric power generation project in South Tapanuli Regency, North Sumatra is expanding, according to a report from a fact-finding mission.  The report says that there is growing apprehension about the project among local residents, many of whom are now joining the long-standing opposition from local and international environmental groups in calling for the Chinese-funded project to be halted.  Meanwhile, the project developer, North Sumatra Hydro Energy (NSHE) still intends to complete the project by 2022 as planned, even as a nearby geothermal plant could provide more electricity than the dam without environmental damage.

Since it was first announced in 2012, the project has been the target of criticism, primarily because of the threat the dam poses to the area’s forest ecosystem and to the lives and livelihoods of the many thousands of residents in the area.  The opposition intensified when it was discovered that the Batang Toru forest area, the planned project site, is also home to a newly identified species of orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis), which lives exclusively in that forest.  Leading conservation scientists say the construction of the dam on the Batang Toru River would fracture the orangutans’ habitat, bringing about the extinction of this rare and endangered species, of which about only 800 individuals remain.


Legal Letdown

The recent rejection by a local North Sumatra court of a lawsuit filed by Walhi, Indonesia’s largest environmental NGO, against the local government for ignoring environmental hazards when issuing a permit for the project, has stirred new anxiety among local residents.

It has since come to light that the company forged the signatureof a forestry researcher on its environmental impact statement (AMDAL) as it sought approval for the project. Nevertheless, clearance at the site of the project has already begun.

“Many people now feel helpless in the face of the failure of this lawsuit to take their side in this issue,” said a member of the fact-finding team, adding that fear and suspicion is becoming widespread among the local residents.

This legal development has brought new impetus to the controversy, with many local residents now joining a broad coalition of opponents to the project, intensifying efforts to persuade the Indonesian government and its Chinese and Indonesian partners to call a halt to the project.

Adding to the controversy, earlier this month, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the leading government and civil society expert body on the conservation of species, publicly called for a moratorium on all projects impacting “the critically endangered Tapanuli orangutan”.  The message was specifically aimed at urging a halt to the NSHE project.


Finding Facts

In an effort to bring more clarity to the situation, a fact-finding team, led by the Center for Orangutan Protection (CoP) (requested by the office of the Presidential Staff of the Republic of Indonesia), recently conducted on an on-site investigation in the Simarboru (Sipirok, Marancar and Batangtoru) area of Tapanuli, North Sumatra.  The primary mission of the fact-finding team was to assess feelings of the local population living near the site of the planned project.  The fact-finding team came to a number of conclusions regarding prevailing attitudes:

  • Disappointment. Many residents living in the Simarboru area were initially in favor of the development of the project as they were promised numerous jobs in the construction and maintenance of the dam and power plant.  However, it turns out that a majority have been rejected for jobs due to a lack of suitable work qualifications.  These people are now strongly opposed to the project.
  • Regret. While initial support for the project has wavered, many residents are now reluctant to voice opposition because they have already sold their land to NSHE for “minimum compensation”.
  • Helplessness. The fears of the local residents have been heightened by the failure of the Walhi lawsuit, which has fostered feelings that they are up against powerful interests.
  • Confusion. Many residents say they were not fully informed about the possible environmental effects of the project, leaving them in a state of confusion regarding what to expect.
  • Fear. The greatest concern to residents is the fear of flooding of their homes and farmland from the dam that, according to technical surveys, will siphon river water for 18 hours a day and then during the next six hours, when the sluice will be opened, flood the farmland in the area.  Several thousand people could have their homes and livelihoods affected by this action.

“It is obvious that the company (NSHE) as well as the government neglected the principles of Free Prior & Informed Consent (FPIC), the rights of society to express ‘Yes and How’ or ‘No’ to the project that impacts their resources. This is based on Int’l & National law in some countries and confirmed by the adoption of UN declaration about The Local Community Rights in 2008,” said Hardi Baktiantoro, Founder & Principal CoP.

While the issue of the growing dissatisfaction among the local population is primarily a domestic problem, there have also long been serious international concerns about the environmental impact of the project.  These concerns have been continuously raised by a loose coalition of international and domestic NGOs, including Mighty Earth, the Ape Alliance and the United Nations Environment Programme, and locally the Orangutan Information Center (OIC), Center for Orangutan Protection (CoP) and the Sumatra Orangutan Conservation Program (SOCP).

Among the primary issues:

  • Extinction. Imminent extinction of the rare Tapanuli orangutan species due to fracturing of their forest habitat resulting from construction of the dam.
  • Threats. The Batang Toru Ecosystem is also home to the Critically Endangered Sumatran tiger, pangolin and helmeted hornbill. Sun bears, tapir, serow and a host of other rare endangered species, including more than 300 bird species
  • Earthquakes. Potential risks to life and property from building the dam in a known earthquake-prone area, situated on a tectonic fault. Construction of a planned tunnel for the project could also exacerbate the risks of tectonic activity
  • Feasibility. While this project will endanger both human and wildlife existence in the area, studies show there are more feasible options for generating power in the area-primarily from geothermal sources, including the expansion of the existing Sarasulla Geothermal Plant
  • Eco-system. Re-settling of local populations will alter the ancient ecosystem of the area thus posing risks of long-term destructive environmental changes


International Ingredient

The Bank of China and the Government of China have indicated an interest in financially supporting this project.  From the beginning, communities in Indonesia targeted the Chinese government in efforts to dissuade them from participating in the project.  An open letter last year sent to the Chinese embassy in Jakarta spelled out the concerns, asking embassy officials to facilitate talks with Chinese investors and funders of the project in order to make them aware of the environmental and social risks posed by the project.

“We believe that every foreign investment in our country, whether from China or elsewhere, shouldn’t contribute to the erosion of people’s livelihoods and more importantly to the extinction of a critically endangered species,” the letter read.

As a result, there has been considerable dialogue between Jakarta, Beijing and international conservation organizations regarding how to proceed with this project.  Five years on from its inception, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), of which this project is a product, has been the subject of considerable international controversy.

Meanwhile, affected communities and conservationists continue to work to persuade the Indonesian government to reassess its stance on moving forward with its development.  An online petition has been posted seeking domestic and international support for calling a halt to Batang Toru.

While the votes are still being counted from the recent Indonesian presidential election, it is hoped that whoever is the winner will be willing to take another look at the potential negative impacts of this project.  It is also hoped that the slogan of “Wonderful Indonesia” can morph from a tourist campaign tagline to a real-life effort to take a unique opportunity to save the endangered Tapanuli orangutan species from extinction and instead, enshrine this magnificent great ape as a symbol of Indonesia’s unique national heritage.

“Basically we’re not fighting for ourselves. There are hundreds of rare new species and being protected by the world, biodiversity of Batangtoru ecosystem, and thousands of people who will be affected by the negligence of the company and involved parties in building this megaproject. We are still waiting for the government’s next step in protecting Wonderful Indonesia,” add Panut Hadisiwoyo, Founder Director Orangutan Information Center (OIC).(*)

Penolakan Tak Terlihat Terhadap Bendungan 1.6 Milyar USD yang Mengancam Kelangsungan Spesies Orangutan Baru

Penolakan Tak Terlihat Terhadap Bendungan 1.6 Milyar USD yang Mengancam Kelangsungan Spesies Orangutan Baru

Warga lokal yang menentang pengembangan bendungan senilai 1.6 milyar USD dan proyek pembangkit listrik tenaga air di Kabupaten Tapanuli Selatan, Sumatera Utara, semakin berkembang menurut laporan dari sebuah misi pencarian fakta. Laporan itu mengatakan bahwa ada kekhawatiran yang berkembang tentang proyek di antara penduduk setempat, banyak dari mereka yang bergabung dengan penentang lama dari kelompok lingkungan lokal dan internasional dalam menyerukan agar proyek yang didanai oleh China tersebut dihentikan. Sementara itu, pengembang proyek North Sumatera Hydro Energy (NHSE) masih tetap berniat untuk menyelesaikan proyek pada tahun 2022 seperti yang direncanakan, meskipun ada pembangkit panas bumi terdekat yang dapat menyediakan lebih banyak listrik tanpa kerusakan lingkungan daripada bendungan yang telah di rencanakan.

Sejak pertama kali diumumkan pada tahun 2012, proyek ini telah menjadi sasaran kritik, terutama karena ancaman yang ditimbulkan oleh bendungan terhadap ekosistem hutan kawasan dan terhadap kelangsungan hidup, juga mata pencaharian ribuan penduduk di daerah tersebut. Perlawanan semakin meningkat, ketika diketahui bahwa kawasan hutan Batang Toru, lokasi proyek yang direncanakan juga merupakan rumah bagi spesies orang utan yang baru di identifikasi (Pongo Tapanuliensis), yang hidup secara eksklusif di hutan tersebut. Ilmuan konservasi terkemuka mengatakan, bahwa pembangunan bendungan di Sungai Batang Toru akan mematahkan habitat orangutan, dan membawa kepunahan spesies langka yang terancam punah ini, yang sekarang hanya tinggal sekitar 800 ekor.


Kerugian Secara Hukum

Penolakan baru-baru ini dikeluarkan oleh pengadilan Sumatera Utara atas gugatan yang di layangkan oleh Walhi, LSM Lingkungan terbesar di Indonesia, yang menentang pemerintah daerah karena mengabaikan bahaya lingkungan, ketika mengeluarkan izin untuk proyek, dan telah menimbulkan kecemasan baru di antara pendudukan setempat. Sejak itu terungkap bahwa perusahaan telah memalsukan tanda tangan seorang peneliti kehutanan pada pernyataan dampak lingkungan (AMDAL) ketika perusahaan itu meminta persetujuan untuk proyek tersebut. Namun demikian, proyek sudah dibuka dan sedang berjalan.

“Banyak orang yang sekarang merasa tidak berdaya dalam menghadapi kegagalan gugatan yang nantinya akan memihak mereka dalam masalah ini.” Kata seorang anggota tim pencari fakta, dia juga menambahkan bahwa ketakutan dan kecurigaan semakin meluas di kalangan penduduk setempat.

Perkembangan hukum ini telah membawa dorongan baru yang kontroversial, dengan banyaknya penduduk setempat sekarang yang bergabung dengan koalisi penentang proyek secara meluas, dan mengintensifkan upaya untuk membujuk pemerintah Indonesia dan mitranya dari Tiongkok, maupun mitranya dari Indonesia untuk menghentikan proyek.

Masuk ke dalam kontroversi, awal bulan ini The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), pemerintah dan badan ahli masyarakat sipil terkemuka dalam konservasi spesies, secara terbuka menyerukan moratorium pada semua proyek yang berdampak pada “Orangutan Tapanuli yang terancam punah.” Pesan tersebut secara khusus ditujukan untuk mendesak penghentian proyek NSHE.


Penemuan Fakta

Dalam upaya untuk membawa kejelasan lebih lanjut tentang situasi ini, tim pencari fakta, yang dipimpin oleh Center for Orangutan Protection (CoP) (yang diminta oleh Kantor Staf Presiden Republik Indonesia) baru-baru ini melakukan penyelidikan di lokasi, daerah Simarboru (Sipirok, Marancar dan Batangtoru) di Tapanuli, Sumatera Utara. Misi utama tim pencari fakta adalah untuk menilai perasaan penduduk setempat yang tinggal di dekat lokasi proyek yang direncanakan; lalu tim pencari fakta sampai pada beberapa kesimpulan tentang sikap-sikap yang berlaku, yaitu:·

  • Kekecewaan, Banyak penduduk yang tinggal di daerah Simarboru pada awalnya mendukung pengembangan proyek karena mereka dijanjikan akan banyak pekerjaan dalam pembangunan dan pemeliharaan pembangkit listrik. Namun, ternyata mayoritas warga telah ditolak untuk bekerja karena kurangnya kualifikasi kerja yang sesuai. Orang-orang ini sekarang sangat menentang proyek tersebut.·
  • Penyesalan, Sementara, dukungan awal untuk proyek telah goyah. Banyak penduduk setempat sekarang enggan menyuarakan tentangan karena mereka telah menjual tanah mereka ke NSHE untuk “kompensasi minimum”.·
  • Ketidakberdayaan, Ketakutan warga setempat semakin meningkat karena kegagalan gugatan Walhi, yang telah menumbuhkan perasaan bahwa mereka sedang menentang sebuah kepentingan yang sangat kuat.·
  • Kebingungan, Banyak warga setempat mengatakan, mereka tidak sepenuhnya diberi tahu tentang kemungkinan dampak lingkungan dari proyek, hal ini membuat mereka sedang dalam kebingungan tentang apa yang sudah mereka harapkan.·
  • Ketakutan, Kekhawatiran terbesar bagi penduduk adalah ketakutan akan banjir yang menimpa rumah dan tanah pertanian mereka yang disebabkan bendungan tersebut. Menurut survei teknis, bendungan akan menyedot air sungai selama 18 jam sehari dan kemudian selama enam jam berikutnya ketika pintu air dibuka, akan terjadi banjir pada tanah pertanian di daerah tersebut. Beberapa ribu orang yang memiliki rumah dan mata pencaharian di lingkungan setempat akan terpengaruh oleh tindakan tersebut. 

“Jelas dan terang bahwa perusahaan mengabaikan prinsip Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) yang merupakan hak masyarakat untuk mengatakan ‘ya dan bagaimana’ atau ‘tidak’ untuk pembangunan yang mempengaruhi sumber daya dan wilayah mereka. Hal ini berbasis pada hukum internasional dan hukum nasional di beberapa negara yang telah diperkuat melalui adopsi dari Deklarasi PBB tentang Hak Masyarakat Adat (UNDRIP) pada tahun 2008,” ujar Hardi Baktiantoro, Founder & Principal CoP. 

Sementara untuk masalah ketidakpuasan yang berkembang di antara penduduk setempat terutama masalah pribadi dan masalah lingkungan setempat, ada juga kekhawatiran internasional yang serius tentang dampak lingkungan dari proyek tersebut. Kekhawatiran ini terus-menerus diangkat oleh koalisi yang longgar dari berbagai NGO internasional dan domestik, termasuk Mighty Earth, The Ape Alliance, dan Program Lingkungan PBB, lalu secara domestik Orangutan Information Centre (OIC), Centre for Orangutan Protection (CoP), dan Sumatera Orangutan Conservation Program (SOCP).

Berikut, adalah masalah utama. Diantaranya :

  • Kepunahan, Kepunahan spesies orangutan Tapanuli yang langka segera terjadi karena fraktur habitat hutan mereka akibat pembangunan bendungan.·        Ancaman, Ekosistem Batang Toru juga merupakan rumah bagi Harimau Sumatera yang terancam punah, trenggiling, dan rangkong bertanduk, beruang madu, tapir, serow, dan sejumlah spesies langka lainnya, termasuk lebih dari 300 spesies burung.
  • Gempa Bumi, Resiko potensial terhadap nyawa dan harta benda dari pembangunan bendungan di daerah rawan gempa yang sudah diketahui terletak pada patahan tektonik. Konstruksi terowongan yang direncanakan untuk proyek juga dapat memperburuk resiko dan mengganggu aktivitas tektonik.
  • Kemungkinan, Untuk sementara proyek ini akan membahayakan bagi manusia dan satwa liar di daerah tersebut, sebenarnya penelitian menunjukan adanya opsi yang lebih layak untuk menghasilkan tenaga listrik di daerah tersebut, terutama sumber panas bumi, termasuk perluasan Pembangkit Panas Bumi Sarasulla yang sudah ada sebelumnya·
  • Ekosistem, Penataan kembali populasi lokal yang akan mengubah ekosistem kuno daerah tersebut sehingga menimbulkan resiko perubahan lingkungan jangka panjang yang merusak. 


Bahan Internasional

Bank of China dan Pemerintah Tiongkok telah menunjukkan minat untuk mendukung proyek ini secara finansial. Sejak awal, masyarakat di Indonesia menargetkan pemerintah Tiongkok dalam upaya untuk mencegah mereka berpartisipasi dalam proyek. Sebuah surat terbuka tahun lalu yang dikirim ke kedutaan Tiongkok di Jakarta menjabarkan kekhawatiran tersebut, meminta pejabat kedutaan untuk memfasilitasi pembicaraan dengan investor dan penyandang dana proyek Tiongkok untuk membuat mereka sadar akan risiko lingkungan dan sosial yang ditimbulkan oleh proyek.

“Kami percaya bahwa setiap investasi asing di negara kami, baik dari Tiongkok atau dari negara lain, tidak boleh berkontribusi terhadap erosi, mata pencaharian orang dan yang lebih penting lagi adalah kepunahan spesies yang terancam punah,” isi dari surat tersebut.

Sebagai akibatnya, telah terjadi dialog besar-besaran antara Jakarta, Beijing dan organisasi konservasi internasional mengenai bagaimana melanjutkan proyek ini. Lima tahun sejak pendiriannya, Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) milik Tiongkok, di mana proyek ini merupakan produk mereka, telah menjadi subyek kontroversi internasional yang cukup besar.

Sementara itu, masyarakat yang terkena dampak dan pelestari lingkungan terus bekerja untuk membujuk pemerintah Indonesia untuk meninjau kembali posisinya untuk bergerak maju dengan perkembangannya. Sebuah petisi online telah diposting untuk mencari dukungan domestik dan internasional untuk menyerukan penghentian pembangunan tersebut yang dapat diakses di tautan.

Sementara suara masih dihitung dari pemilihan presiden Indonesia baru-baru ini, diharapkan siapa pun pemenangnya akan bersedia untuk melihat lagi dampak negatif yang potensial dari proyek ini. Juga diharapkan bahwa slogan “Wonderful Indonesia” dapat berubah dari tagline kampanye wisata menjadi upaya nyata untuk mengambil kesempatan ini untuk menyelamatkan spesies orangutan Tapanuli yang terancam punah dan sebagai gantinya, mengabadikan kera besar yang luar biasa ini sebagai simbol dari Warisan nasional Indonesia yang unik.

“Pada dasarnya yang kami perjuangkan ini bukan semata-mata kepentingan kami saja. Ada ratusan ekor species langka dan dilindungi di seluruh dunia yang terancam punah, keanekaragaman hayati di ekosistem hutan dan sungai batangtoru, dan ribuan masyarakat yang akan merasakan dampak buruk akibat kelalaian dan pengabaian perusahaan serta pihak2 terkait dengan membangun megaproyek di area ini. Kami menunggu respon daripemerintah juga, langkah apa yang akan dilakukan untuk melindungi harta kekayaan Indonesia ini,” Panut Hadisiwoyo, Founder Director Orangutan Information Center (OIC) menambahkan. (*) 

Industry Groups Still Misleading Public on Biofuels

In response to today's industry-sponsored press conference on biodiesels and the environment, Mighty Earth released the following statement from Campaign Director Margaret Hansbrough:

“The full carbon footprint of biodiesel is as bad or worse than that of dirty fossil fuels. Big Ag and its allies are ignoring a decade’s worth of academic research demonstrating the negative environmental impacts of using these crops for fuel. In addition to climate-changing emissions, the amount of land needed to grow these biofuels has meant less land for wildlife, food crops, or forests – both here in the U.S. and around the world.

“As U.S. lands are taken over by biofuel cultivation efforts, the ecosystems in our prairies, forests, and other natural areas disappear. Native vegetation, pollinators, and wildlife suffer. And as that land is tilled, it releases sequestered carbon from the soil and accelerates climate change. Finally, the harmful chemicals used to grow these biofuel crops at industrial scale contaminate our water supply.

“While we believe that waste-based and cellulosic biofuel production are worthy of government investment, any policymaker who is serious about tackling climate change and conservation should reject food-based biofuels.”

Despite Shareholder Concerns, Pilgrim’s Pride Turns a Blind Eye to Water Pollution … Again

Concerned shareholders submitted a resolution at Pilgrim’s Pride’s annual meeting today urging the Board of Directors to adopt and implement a water stewardship policy designed to reduce risks of contamination at all facilities in Pilgrim Pride’s supply chain. Pilgrim’s Pride has refused to take any action, declining to meet with the concerned shareholders and declining to respond to letters voicing concerns about water pollution from Mighty Earth.

Pilgrim’s Pride is one of the largest poultry producers in the United States. A subsidiary of JBS, the largest meat company in the world, Pilgrim’s Pride claims to produce 1 out of every 5 chickens in the United States. Their massive production comes with serious pollution: In 2018 alone, JBS and Pilgrim’s Pride produced over 159 billion pounds of manure - 1.6 billion pounds of which came from Pilgrim’s Pride’s poultry division, and the EPA’s toxic release inventory shows Pilgrim’s Pride discharged 16973640 lbs of water polluting toxins from its facilities 2012-2017.

“The meat industry is responsible for widespread and worsening water pollution throughout the country. Chemicals and manure wash off fields and slaughterhouse floors, contaminating our rivers and oceans and even the water we drink. This year, unprecedented flooding and storms across the Midwest have only exacerbated the environmental and public health risks of the meat industry’s polluting practices,” said Mighty Earth Campaign Director Lucia von Reusner. “Shareholders are right to pressure Pilgrim’s Pride to clean up the water pollution throughout their poultry supply chain.”

“Shareholders of Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation will again be filing a resolution asking the company to improve disclosure on managing water contamination related risks by reporting on how the company is responding to increasing regulatory, public and competitive pressure to significantly reduce water pollution from the company’s owned facilities; facilities under contract; and suppliers,” said Anne Falkenberg, a member of the Socially Responsible Investment Coalition. “We believe that that the company in doing so will benefit by creating policies needed to govern sustainable and responsible operations and reducing material risks to business, brand and potential growth.”

Pilgrim’s Pride is ranked as a top corporate water polluter in the United States, based on an evaluation of EPA-reported toxic releases into waterways from their slaughterhouses, the vast quantities of manure generated by their poultry, and the pollution that washes off the industrial crop fields in the company’s supply chain.

Over 7 million Americans are exposed to carcinogenic nitrates in drinking water from industrial agriculture. According to the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory, Pilgrim’s Pride released on average over 2.7 million pounds of pollutants, mostly nitrates and ammonia, from slaughterhouses into waterways between 2012 and 2017. Yet the company lacks any policies, contracts or codes that address water quality.

In contrast to Pilgrim’s Pride’s inaction, competitors have begun taking steps to reduce pollution in their supply chains. Just in the past year, Smithfield set a target to purchase 75 percent of its grain from farms managed to reduce water pollution, and Tyson Foods has made a commitment to implement sustainable farming practices on 2 million acres of U.S. corn by the end of 2020.

“Ensuring sustainable farming practices are used in producing food is something that consumers, shareholders, and the public increasingly expect from their favorite brands,” said von Reusner. “As more and more of their competitors outpace them in this area, it’s not surprising that Pilgrim’s Pride is hearing from its shareholders. I expect these calls for action will only get louder.”

Here’s what deforestation looks like in 2019 – and what we can do about it

Here’s what deforestation looks like in 2019 – and what we can do about it

By Glenn Hurowitz 

In 2018, the world lost about 30 million acres of forest, according to important new data from World Resources Institute.  30 million acres is about 47,000 square miles – that’s an area roughly the size of the state of New York, significantly larger than the state of Virginia, and larger than 31 of the 50 US states. This data should help guide conservation priorities as we work to save the world’s precious rainforests.

WRI’s analysis this year focuses mostly on ancient primary forests, those that house the most biodiversity and terrestrial carbon. It’s important to note, however, that primary forests aren’t the only ones that matter: secondary, or regenerating, forests comprise much of the world’s remaining forests, more than two-thirds in Asia, and even greater proportions in North and Central America.  Many companies and governments have made commitments to protect those secondary forests too. And in many cases secondary forests are regenerating, restoring wildlife and carbon to the land. But protecting the Earth’s last remaining original forests remains the world’s top conservation priority

Brazil's deforestation "success story" is in serious trouble

Between 2004 and 2012, Brazil reduced deforestation in the Amazon by more than two-thirds, even as it started to regrow tens of millions of acres that had previously been destroyed. This success was achieved largely but not exclusively by private sector action: big animal feed traders like Louis Dreyfus, ADM, Bunge and Cargill banned deforestation for soy in the Brazilian Amazon, and within three years had virtually eliminated it. Interestingly, this “Soy Moratorium” was about five times as successful as any action by the Brazilian government. Big supermarkets and cattle slaughterhouses implemented similar policies; while not as comprehensive as soy, deforestation for cattle was dramatically reduced. Meanwhile, the Brazilian government protected millions of acres as indigenous reserves and protected areas.

Unfortunately, just as Brazil’s private sector was showing the world how to break the link between agriculture expansion and deforestation, a narrow segment of agribusiness interests in Brazil used their political influence to undermine this progress. In 2012, Brazil weakened aspects of its Forest Code, signaling greater toleration for deforestation even where it was legally prohibited. These weaker protections meant Brazilian ecosystems were doubly vulnerable, subject to both a changing climate and industrial exploitation. In 2016 and 2017, Brazil’s vast Cerrado ecosystem continued to be cleared for soy and cattle even as drier climate conditions led to record levels of primary forests burning in the Amazon.

The tragedy of this intentional deforestation was that it was entirely unnecessary. Brazil has tens of millions of acres of previously deforested lands where agriculture can be profitably expanded without threatening native vegetation. Brazil could remain a growing agricultural juggernaut without razing any forests.

Though conditions were wetter in 2018, which helped limit the risk of extensive forest fires, threats to forests have probably only increased with the election of President Jair Bolsonaro. Although Bolsonaro won mostly on promises to clean up corruption and stop crime, he has also formed an unholy alliance with anti-environment agribusiness interests and undermined protection of indigenous peoples.

Given Bolsonaro’s hostility to environmental and indigenous protection, it falls to the private sector to drive action, as they did in the past with the Soy and Cattle Moratoria. There is an urgent need for companies like Ahold Delhaize, Sodexo, LDC, Bigard, Burger King, and McDonald’s to shift their supply chains. They should stop sourcing animal feed from companies that continue to engage in deforestation, like Bunge, and instead purchase from others like Louis Dreyfus Company and COFCO – companies that are taking action to protect forests and looking to expand the success of the Soy Moratorium. Additionally, there needs to be much greater investment in civil society advocacy campaigns in Brazil and other parts of South America to expand the success of the Cattle Moratorium and counteract the political pressure on forests. The private sector is directly responsible for forest destruction, and the private sector can stop it, even when governments aren’t doing their jobs.

Bolivia is in dire straits - because of the same drivers as Brazil

The new mapping data reveals that other soy-producing countries are also losing tropical primary rainforest in 2018 at a rapid clip – proving that problems lie with the broader soy industry, not just the individual governments. Brazil had the most forest loss of any country in the world, according to WRI’s data; Bolivia came in at #5 worldwide with 154,488 hectares destroyed. As in Brazil, it’s vital for the soy industry to acknowledge what is happening in Bolivia, Argentina, and Paraguay – and to act fast where local authorities fail to do so.

Indonesia shows progress - but a dark 'leakage market' remains

One of the most remarkable findings of the data is that Indonesia’s rate of destruction of primary forests has declined, dropping to its lowest level since 2003. There’s still way too much avoidable deforestation happening in the country, and a lot of damage that needs to be repaired, including from fires in 2015 that burned more than six million acres, led to the premature death of 100,000 people, and cost Indonesia at least USD 16.1 billion (almost 2 percent of GDP and roughly twice what the tsunami cost).

Analysis hasn’t teased out what is behind this macro-level decline in deforestation. However, it aligns with the results that Mighty Earth has seen in our work on the private sector. More than 90 percent of globally traded palm oil, the biggest historical driver of deforestation in Indonesia, is now covered by strong forest, peatland, and human rights policies – so-called No Deforestation, No Peatland development, No Exploitation (NDPE) policies.

Meanwhile, Mighty Earth and our allies have been able to bring increasing pressure on companies like Korindo, Posco Daewoo, and the Hayel Saeed Anam Group to stop deforestation in forest frontiers like Papua and Heart of Borneo. Our Rapid Response project is driving palm oil traders to respond much faster to instances of deforestation so that it’s stopped at the 100 acre level before it rises to 10,000 acres. Indeed, over the 18 months of our Rapid Response project, the worst deforester we found, Metro Lestari Jaya, cleared 17,944 acres of forest; the 10 worst cleared more than 70,000 acres combined. While that represents a lot of deforestation, it’s a substantial drop from the 750,000 acres in annual clearance for palm oil we were seeing just a few years ago.

We need to keep up this pressure. We still face rogue actors who refuse to comply with company sustainability policies and instead feed the palm oil “leakage markets” in Asia, the Middle East, and within Indonesia itself – where there is weaker consumer demand for sustainability – and in the growing but opaque biofuel market. Over the long-term, we can’t rely on the mercies of the tycoons who control the palm oil industry alone to save our forests. Governments need to act too.  The Indonesian government has announced some great-on-paper policies in recent years, including a ban on new palm oil concessions and a moratorium on deforestation. However, enforcement has been sketchy, with areas targeted for deforestation by rogue palm oil companies often excised at their request. Indonesia is also building a major trans-Papua highway that risks opening up vast new areas of pristine forests to palm oil, rubber, timber, and mining industries. Indonesia’s success in reducing deforestation rests on preserving Papua’s intact forest landscapes, which comprise the third largest rainforest in the world.

The private sector momentum represents a huge opportunity for government. Companies want to sell Indonesian products on the global market, but even reduced levels of deforestation are enough to sully a brand’s reputation. If Indonesia’s government matches its action with the private sector, it can not only protect its natural resources and people, but also help drive economic growth.

Chocolate industry is failing

Even as the palm oil industry is showing signs of progress, one industry that has mastered the PR of protecting forests is clearly failing at actually protecting them: the chocolate industry.

In the countries where they operate, chocolate brands like Mars, Ferrero and Cadbury have had probably more of a devastating impact than any other forest commodity. For decades, approximately 30 percent of the cocoa coming from Côte d’Ivoire, the world’s leading cocoa producer, came from inside national parks and other protected areas. Cocoa has been the number one cause of deforestation that has destroyed 90 percent of the country’s forest cover and driven similarly severe impacts in neighboring Ghana.

After decades of inaction, in November 2017 the chocolate industry was finally poised to do something about deforestation. Almost all of the world’s leading chocolate and cocoa companies, as well as the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, launched the Cocoa & Forests Initiative, pledging to immediately halt deforestation, rebuild protected areas, and restore forests. Mighty Earth celebrated these commitments at the time but noted that they needed to be implemented to make a difference.

We must now ask if these companies and their trade association, the World Cocoa Foundation, were playing a cruel joke on customers who desperately wanted to not feel guilty about indulging in a chocolate bar. WRI’s 2018 satellite data found that instead of going down in the two priority countries, “Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire experienced the highest percent rise in primary forest loss between 2017 and 2018 of any tropical country (60 percent and 26 percent, respectively).”

Thus, while Brazil tops the chart for sheer volume of forest loss, Ghana is the worst country worldwide for intensification of deforestation and Côte d’Ivoire is second worst.

This finding comports with our own recent Beyond the Wrapper report: in the protected areas in Côte d’Ivoire that we analyzed, deforestation increased in as many places as it decreased, hardly a sign that the chocolate companies were doing anything more than greenwashing. At the same time, TV exposés by French and Swiss television that found a major cocoa trader connected to ongoing deforestation inside protected areas. Our recent Easter Scorecard clearly ranks and grades the chocolate industry, showing which companies are dragging everyone else down.

It’s not surprising: the Cocoa & Forests Initiative has spent more time on diplomacy and PR instead of the number one task at hand: establishing a serious industry-wide forest monitoring and enforcement mechanism to ensure that forests are actually protected. One reason this hasn’t happened is that, so far, the Cocoa & Forests Initiative has not included tough advocacy NGOs like Mighty Earth or Greenpeace in their processes, perhaps in hopes that they wouldn’t be forced to deliver results. That’s what they’ve done for decades in promising to stop child labor in the cocoa industry, a problem that continues at a heartbreaking scale: 2.1 million kids are working in cocoa today, while average income for cocoa farmers in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire continue at less than one dollar a day.

If the chocolate industry wants to actually see results, they need to demand that their industry association — the WCF and the coordinating partner IDH — get a robust monitoring mechanism operational before the end of this year.

More countries matter: deforestation shifted from Brazil and Indonesia to a much larger group of countries

“In 2002, just two countries—Brazil and Indonesia—made up 71 percent of tropical primary forest loss. More recent data shows that the frontiers of primary forest loss are starting to shift. Brazil and Indonesia only accounted for 46 percent of primary rainforest loss in 2018, while countries like Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Democratic Republic of the Congo saw loss rates rise considerably.”

WRI’s new report shows that NGOs, funders, and the private sector need to expand their scope further beyond just the Big Two – as important as they are. For instance, Mighty Earth, Rainforest Foundation Norway, and other groups have been trying for years to support local civil society groups in efforts to protect the forests and carbon-rich peatlands of Sarawak and Sabah in Malaysian Borneo. However, because these areas fall on the Malaysian side of the border, they haven’t been eligible for the kind of funding that’s available for protecting Indonesian Borneo. And yet the data shows that primary forest clearance in Malaysia in 2018 was 42% of the amount of Indonesia.

Similarly, Paraguay, Argentina, and Bolivia haven’t been a priority even though civil society and government officials alike want help to protect their highly biodiverse forests, and they remain major sources of non-Brazilian deforestation for soy and beef.  Meanwhile, data released by WRI in 2015 identified the Mekong region as one of “5 surprising hotspots for tree cover loss,” noting that “tree cover loss in Mekong countries from 2001-2014 increased by more than five times the rate of the rest of the tropics.” Cambodia had the fastest acceleration of tree cover loss in the world. Academic research published at the time showed a correlation between rubber prices and deforestation in the region – as rubber became more profitable, more trees were cleared.

These examples show that donors need to take a wider perspective on where deforestation is happening. Indeed, where funders have broadened their view before, they are getting results. The 2015 WRI report helped convince us to launch an initiative to eliminate deforestation driven by the tire and rubber industry, with the support of the Norwegian Climate and Forest Initiative, and the Arcus Foundation. This year, we joined the tire, auto, and natural rubber industries to launch the Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber, which is charged with monitoring and ending deforestation for rubber. There’s a lot of work to do over the coming months to set up an effective system, but the rubber industry is off to a good start. And, to their credit, the industry is including a wide range of NGOs in its governance mechanism – suggesting that they want to avoid the pitfalls of the chocolate industry.

WRI’s data has helped drive home the immense scale of deforestation. But despite the size of the problem, there are clear successes in the works and much more to accomplish. The data published in this year’s report will help inform our future efforts and provides valuable insight as the fight continues.

World's forests 'in emergency room' after years of losses

Reuters | April 25, 2019 

The world lost 12 million hectares (30 million acres) of tropical tree cover last year - the equivalent of 30 football pitches a minute - researchers said on Thursday, warning the planet’s health was at stake.

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World's Largest Cement Company Embraces Clean Energy

Announcement indicates growing momentum in the fight to decarbonize heavy industry

For the second time in this month, a top-heavy industrial company announced a major clean energy contract for one of their facilities. This week, work began on a One Energy wind project at LafargeHolcim’s cement plant in Paulding, Ohio. The wind energy produced by the new turbines will meet 20 percent of the plant’s energy needs and eliminate 9,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year. Earlier in April, the world's largest steel company, ArcelorMittal, announced they had signed a major clean energy contract in Spain and were investing substantially in developing clean hydrogen technology steelmaking.

In response to LarfargeHolcim's news, Mighty Earth Campaign Director Margaret Hansbrough released the following statement:

“This announcement by LarfargeHolcim is another strong signal that heavy industrial companies are starting to get serious about clean energy procurement.  Its a step in the right direction but heavy industry has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to climate action."

“Steel and cement together represent about 15 percent of all carbon emissions globally. Unfortunately, they have long been considered two of the most difficult to abate of all industries but that perception is starting to shift.

“Mighty Earth has encouraged heavy industrial companies to reduce their carbon footprints through clean energy and clean technology investments. Committing to the use of clean energy is a straightforward way to reduce the embodied carbon in their products while encouraging the growth of a clean energy economy.  Much of the cement and steel produced ends up being used in our built environment, which means that lower carbon standards for building materials are needed to drive significant climate action.

“If the top-heavy industrial companies like LarfargeHolcim and ArcelorMittal are finding new ways to reduce their carbon footprint, any company can. But this sector as a whole needs to move much faster and more companies need to follow this lead.  Additional pressure is still needed from major construction companies such as Skanska, Clark, Turner, and others to drive demand for lower carbon cement and steel.  All companies that produce and consume heavy industrial materials need to show real leadership by setting science based targets for greenhouse gas reduction and going still further to set ambitious carbon neutrality goals for the full scope of their emissions."

Mighty Earth’s Guide to Sustainable Fisheries in 2019

Mighty Earth’s Guide to Sustainable Fisheries in 2019

2018 was almost a very bad year for fish.

Last year, Mighty Earth, our allies, and environmental activists across the country successfully stopped a legislative effort to eviscerate the laws that have kept our oceans healthy. And it was a close call: special interest groups spent tremendous amounts of time and money lobbying Congress in favor of measures that would have thrown decades of smart fisheries management overboard.

Fortunately, thanks to organizing, advocacy, and the policy chops of a many stakeholders, we were able to protect the law that has successfully restored 45 fish stocks to healthy levels: the Magnuson-Stevens Act!

But the fight for healthy oceans must continue. With so many threats to our oceans, from plastic pollution to oil spills, we need support from private companies too. The task is simply too big and too important for these large companies to stay on the sidelines or, worse, exacerbate the problems we face.

Unfortunately, many companies involved in the fishing industry, like Yamaha, have stood in the way – despite having a vested interest in the health of our fisheries. Their continued success depends on abundant oceans, both now and in the future. Quite simply, they need fish for their customers to catch. Fortunately, we know how to protect the long-term viability of America’s oceans, and companies can get on board simply by supporting what we have been doing right for decades – upholding conservation-minded and science-based fishery management.

This week, Mighty Earth is releasing our “Principles for Fishery Management and Conservation.” This set of principles outlines the vision we have for continued sustainable fishery management around the country. We believe that fishery management should balance profitability with sustainability and that, in today’s world, we must address the worst effects of climate change, protect critical marine habitats and ecosystems, and hold everyone accountable to science-based conservation measures.

Companies can play a huge role in advancing policy; that’s why we’re asking them to sign on to these principles and be leaders on issues of sustainability, accountability, and transparency.

See below to read our principles:

Mighty Earth Principles for Fishery Management and Conservation

The following principles drive Mighty Earth’s U.S. fishery conservation work. We envision a world in which our oceans are healthy and have thriving ecosystems; where we manage U.S. fisheries to meet the needs of both commercial and recreational anglers, while also conserving the resource for the future. With environmentalists, anglers, and business leaders working together, we can sustain our oceans ecosystems and fisheries for future generations.

Around the country, many stakeholders know the importance of keeping our oceans healthy for the long-term viability of our fisheries, the health of our planet, and the benefit of coastal communities. Thanks in large part to the success of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), the U.S. has some of the most profitable and healthy fisheries in the world. Our management system — which has become a global model for sustainability — has curbed wide-spread overfishing, rebuilt 45 stocks to healthy levels, and is protecting the long-term viability of our fishery resources.

It is essential that we maintain the science-based management requirements of the MSA to ensure that we continue to be a global leader for sustainability, conservation, and science-based fishery management. Below are a set of principles that Mighty Earth believes to be core considerations for federal fisheries policy and management.

Conservation and Sustainability

Upholding Annual Catch Limits: One of the most critical tools to promote sustainability under the MSA is science-based annual catch limits (ACLs). ACLs assist fishery managers in ensuring that the number of fish caught is sustainable and will not adversely affect the health of the stock. ACLs prevent overfishing and rebuild overfished stocks while ensuring that the United States maintains a safe and sustainable supply of seafood. ACLs under the MSA have been remarkably successful. Science-based ACL requirements must remain strong to maintain balanced and healthy oceans for generations to come.

Maintaining Rebuilding Requirements: Rebuilding requirements under the MSA require that overfished stocks be rebuilt as quickly as possible, in a period not to exceed 10 years, unless certain conditions apply. These requirements are critical to the long-term sustainability of our fisheries. Fishery management legislation should not seek to extend these important timeframes, or allow any deviations from current rebuilding timelines, other than those in current law. Proposals to allow exemptions from the law’s rebuilding timelines threaten the progress we have made towards restoring our fisheries to healthy levels.

Protection of Marine Habitats: Fishery management must be implemented in a way that actively improves the sustainability of our fisheries by ensuring more protection of marine habitat, especially habitat that is critical for rebuilding and protecting fish stocks. As our oceans face ongoing environmental threats, it is critical that we protect threatened marine areas so that ecosystems can rebuild and thrive.

Advances in Science and Technology

Ensuring the Use of Best Available Scientific Information: Undoubtedly, scientists must continuously improve data collection to monitor our fisheries. However, fisheries management cannot wait, and the law is clear about the standard for data that must be used. We must work to improve our data while simultaneously using the best available scientific information, as outlined in the MSA, to make educated decisions.

Climate Resiliency: We can and must learn how to better adapt the management of our fisheries to changes in our oceans due to rising temperatures and ocean acidification that cause stock migration, habitat loss, and stress on fish populations.

Shared Accountability and Responsibility

Ensuring Equitable Responsibility: No matter who catches a fish, everyone must be held accountable to the science-based management requirements and conservation measures in the MSA that have kept our oceans and fish stocks healthy. Accountability means that there must be fair enforcement of the law across communities that utilize our fisheries, and that there must be corrective action when overfishing occurs.

Reducing Bycatch: Anglers must be held accountable for, help gather data on, and reduce the amount of bycatch that results from their fishing. It is critical that the amount of bycatch that results from both recreational and commercial fishing, regardless of whether it is part of catch and release fishing, be accurately accounted for so that data can be used to reduce bycatch.

Corporate Responsibility to Shareholders: As a part of their fiscal responsibility, companies must consider the long-term impacts of their legislative priorities. By promoting conservation over short-term profits, companies can assure their shareholders that they are working in their best interest by supporting legislation that will allow their business to thrive in the future, and by boosting their brand as a sustainable company.

Transparency: Corporations should disclose the legislative measures they support, whether directly through their own company or indirectly through financial contributions to other organizations. Companies should also strive to reduce conflicts of interest when it comes to their involvement in fisheries management by disclosing their financial interests and board or council memberships.

Responsibility to Consumers: We believe in corporate responsibility; it is necessary for companies to do right by their consumers and the planet by prioritizing conservation and sustainability alongside their profits. Consumers want to see the companies they buy from on the right side of conservation. So often, corporations have an opportunity to be the biggest drivers of environmental change and can be leaders amongst their peers by taking steps to protect our planet. In this case we know that healthy fisheries mean healthy oceans and that corporations have an opportunity to speak out to protect both for future generations.

We therefore ask companies to embrace corporate responsibility by disclosing their lobbying and committing to only supporting policy that:

  • Maintains a commitment to science-based measures, including annual catch limits and rebuilding requirements, that keep fish stocks at healthy levels and rebuild depleted stocks;
  • Recognizes the importance of accountability across sectors to keep our oceans healthy. We must acknowledge that everyone has a role to play in maintaining the delicate balance of conservation and access to our oceans’ resources, as well as reducing harm to our fish stocks and other marine creatures; and
  • Takes into account the impact of climate change and ocean acidification on our oceans and seeks to foster increased resilience and adaptability of fish stocks and ocean habitats with regards to these impacts. This can be done in part by advancing the science of climate resiliency and protecting marine areas in a changing climate.

Earth Day – Reflecting on environmental reforms in the cocoa industry in the past year

Reflecting on Reforms in the Cocoa Industry in the Past Year


Earth Day is a time for us to reflect on the past year and look to the future. Over the last twelve months, Mighty Earth has worked hard to reform industrial agriculture practices across all of our campaigns, including meat, soy, rubber, and palm oil.

Today, Senior Advisor Etelle Higonnet shares news and updates from Mighty Earth’s campaign to make the chocolate industry sustainable.

Since November 2017, the chocolate industry has been undergoing a revolution towards deforestation-free chocolate, traceability, agroforestry, joint industry action, and more. However, much remains to be done to fight the ongoing deforestation that permeates the industry. We need binding legislation to clean up chocolate for good. This blog post summarizes some of the biggest news that’s hit the cocoa space in 2018 and up until today – Earth Day – the good news; the bad news; and recommendations for the future.

Good News

Momentum for possible US cocoa regulation: In the USA, Congressman Elliot Engel may be willing to champion US legislation on cocoa. Engel has been fighting to clean up cocoa since 2001 when he pushed through The Harkin–Engel Protocol with U.S. Senator Tom Harkin in an effort to end the worst forms of child labor and forced labor in chocolate.

Photo Credit: CNN Freedom Project
Julia Klöckner Photo Credit: CDU Rheinland-Pfalz

Member state support grows for EU regulation of cocoa:

Germany has called for European-wide “binding regulations” to address deforestation and child labour in the cocoa industry. (The German sustainable chocolate platform GISCO is debating whether to follow the German government and endorse EU regulation on cocoa as well.) The German agriculture minister, Julia Klöckner, said earlier that “we need a clear regulation of what sustainable cocoa is”, and in November the German development minister spoke out in favor of such a regulation.

The French government called for an EU regulation on forest risk commodities like cocoa, palm oil, beef and soy, noting that that the cocoa sector “seemed ripe for a rapid adoption of this type of regulation.”

The Belgian chocolate industry, retail sector, civil society, investors, and government – under the impetus of Deputy Prime Minister Alexander De Croo – all signed the “Beyond Chocolate” partnership. They committed themselves to tackling child labor, combating deforestation and ensuring a living income for cocoa producers. Ministers De Croo, Reynders, and Marghem called upon the EC to develop an ambitious EU action plan against deforestation and forest degradation.

A growing number of chocolate companies such as MarsMondelez, and Barry Callebaut have come out publicly in support of EU regulation on imported deforestation, even calling on the EU to act. Other chocolate companies are mobilizing to speak soon for an EU cocoa law.

The EU held two cocoa parliamentary hearings in 2018. On 11 July 2018, the first-ever European Union Parliamentary hearing was held in Brussels on cocoa, deforestation, and child labor. MEPs and Commission staff acknowledged that the EU is the #1 importer, manufacturer, and consumer of cocoa and that the EU has a tremendous responsibility for this commodity’s problems. MEPs called for binding legislation to stop cocoa from coming into the EU if it is linked to deforestation or child labour, and expressed a strong determination to get an EU law passed soon. Representatives of the largest chocolate manufacturers attending the hearing agreed that a law would be welcome; and the government of Ghana representative suggested an EU law could be desirable. A follow up hearing was held in late 2018, and continued to build momentum towards EU regulation of cocoa.

Cocoa & chocolate companies are reforming bit by bit, on paper:

Through our campaigning we have now pressured most major companies to agree on paper to global deforestation-free cocoa including Barry Callebaut, Cargill, Olam, Cemoi, PBC (traders) and Nestle, Lindt, Hershey’s, Godiva, Unilever, and others. Ferrero and others have promised to accept this soon though we are still waiting for them. Some chocolate companies have even gone beyond cocoa, to make broader cross-commodity global deforestation-free commitments (like Cemoi, Lindt, Hershey’s, Godiva).

Nearly all major chocolate companies buying cocoa from Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana have accepted deforestation-free, via the Cocoa & Forests Initiative, CFI. The implementation plans for CFI – where companies explain how they plan to turn their big promises into reality – are being published. For example, here are plans from the world’s biggest cocoa trader, Barry Callebaut; and from Nestle. The World Cocoa Foundation already published the aggregate summary of all 30+ plans.

The industry came together in the Berlin Declaration to recommend an end to deforestation for cocoa and promote forest protection and restoration.






The German sustainable chocolate platform GISCO is revising its policies and positions and may perhaps accept deforestation-free cocoa worldwide, a reduction in pesticides, traceability goals, and some other good elements, including maybe support for EU cocoa regulation.




The Belgian industry, government, and civil society created their sustainable chocolate platform with relatively high ambitions.

The Swiss Platform for Sustainable Cocoa, with relatively low ambitions at present, is contemplating a reform right now to improve its standards.


A new French platform is possible, as the French industry groups appear willing to try and create a French platform embracing globally deforestation-free/traceable/sustainable cocoa, like GISCO, the Swiss, and the Belgians.

Traceability and transparency is growing

Nestle has started to disclose its cocoa supply chain down to Tier 1 and Tier 2, Mars acted in this vein recently, and Lindt’s new supply chain disclosures cover Tier 1 suppliers and geographies of origin.

Most traders have undertaken major traceability exercises of both their direct and indirect supply chains, tracing down to farmgate level for many thousands of farmers, and some companies like Cargill are rolling out mobile money payments and barcodes for cocoa bags.

Supermarkets reform: For the first time ever, supermarkets are rallying and organizing to commit to selling more sustainable cocoa. A group of retailers led by Tesco organized last year to embrace zero deforestation cocoa. They met for the first time October 9, 2018, and are likely to make their official debut public soon. Supermarkets receive 30-40% of the profits from the average chocolate bar, so it is vital that they take responsibility.

Brazilian agroforestry Photo Credit: Mighty Earth

Agroforestry spreads: There has been major progress on pushing the cocoa industry to shift to agroforestry and away from full-sun monoculture. As much as 30% of the world’s cocoa appears to be covered now by agroforestry commitments. We are still waiting for companies like Ferrero to embrace a strong agroforestry policy, and unfortunately implementation across the board is just beginning, but it’s a good start.

Producer countries are mobilizing: Three countries made big pledges to end deforestation in their cocoa production in the Cocoa & Forests Initiative:  GhanaCôte d’Ivoire, and Colombia all published “Frameworks for Action” co-signed by industry stakeholders and government. Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire revealed implementation plans to make these pledges a reality, and are expected to provide more details soon.

There is movement for similar frameworks in additional countries such as Cameroon, Liberia, Bolivia, Belize, Panama, Peru, Costa Rica, and the state of Bahia in Brazil. In all these places, either government officials (Cameroon and Liberia) or industry and civil society are speaking out to try and develop deforestation-free national cocoa plans.

Cocoa certification schemes are improving: Fair Trade just improved prices for its farmers, though the certification mechanism is still a long way from guaranteeing farmers a living income. Fair Trade committed to improving its policies for deforestation-free cocoa and agroforestry. Rainforest Alliance/UTZ fused and are improving their standards for deforestation-free/agroforestry – although Rainforest Alliance still does not guarantee their farmers a living income either.

To summarize, producing countries are reforming on paper at least, much of the industry is forging ahead with big policy reforms (and the beginning of implementation), while momentum seems to be growing for regulation in the EU.

Bad News

Bad news in Côte d’Ivoire: Despite the chocolate industry’s pledge in November 2017 as part of the Cocoa and Forests Initiative to cease sourcing cocoa linked to deforestation, a 2018 Mighty Earth investigation found that deforestation in West Africa for cocoa had continued, and in some cases has increased. The report, Behind the Wrapper: Greenwashing in the Chocolate Industry, identifies deforestation hotspots, including in protected areas and national parks, putting some of the last refuges for forest elephants and chimpanzees at risk and threatening the stability of the regional climate.

In Côte d’Ivoire, satellite analysis recorded approximately 13,748 hectares of deforestation in the cocoa-growing Southwest region alone, between November 2017 and September 2018. This forest loss is equivalent to 15,000 football fields. The report found that over half of the Ivorian forest areas reviewed showed an increase in their rates of deforestation since the announcement of the CFI one year ago.

In the Goin Debé classified forest, not much had changed since Mighty Earth’s initial 2017 investigation. One forest had been cleared and planted with cocoa just two days before researchers arrived – in the same protected area inspected less than a year prior. The field investigation documented children laboring in cocoa fields as well.

The bottom line: commitments are a key step, but corporate pledges are only as valuable as their follow-through.

The Netherlands still hasn’t come out in favor of EU regulation: The world is waiting for the Dutch to act. They are the most problematic country as a conduit for dirty, deforestation cocoa coming into Europe. The country is the #1 cocoa importer worldwide, and yet the Netherlands’ policies to clean up their cocoa imports have been left in the dust by Belgium, Germany, and France. Dutch scandalous inaction and foot dragging remains a major roadblock to meaningful EU reforms.

Bad news in Brazil: A yearlong December 2018 investigation in Brazil, by the International Labour Organization (ILO) & Brazilian Federal Labour Prosecution Office, revealed that at least 8,000 children and teenagers were working in the Brazilian cocoa supply chain.  The report found that global chocolate supply chains are often tainted by cocoa from Brazilian farms where human rights violations, like long hours, degraded conditions and debt bondage, are common. Brazil was the world’s seventh-largest cocoa producer in 2017, exporting cocoa to the United States, Argentina, Netherlands, Mexico, Chile and Uruguay.

Deforestation in West Africa Photo Credit: Mighty Earth

Bad news worldwide: The price of cocoa collapsed by 30% in 2017. Prices continued to mostly plunge or stagnate, triggering a massive economic crisis for most farmers, whose income has shrunk to under $1 per day – in may cases under 70 cents per day. Cocoa farmers are increasingly facing dire poverty, especially in West Africa.

A handful of companies are still refusing to accept deforestation-free cocoa worldwide: Traders such as ECOM, Blommer, and especially SucDen – which is one of the world’s biggest sugar traders and a very large cocoa trader – remain uncommitted to ending deforestation in all the cocoa they source despite many please. Chocolate manufacturers like Starbucks (USA) or Morinaga (Japan) still won’t engage and reform their cocoa sourcing to end all forest destruction worldwide. A number of retailers like CVS still don’t seem to care if the chocolate they sell on their shelves was made by companies who source from deforestation.

Certification schemes are lagging: RA/UTZ still hasn’t matched the price increase to farmers like Fair Trade, which recently opted to give farmers a little bit more. And even Fair Trade didn’t increase enough to pay farmers a living income – by their own admission, the price they pays simply falls short of what is needed.


Concerned citizens:

Only buy ethical chocolate, sign a petition and call, email or text your Congressperson if you are in the US or a Member of the European Parliament if you are in the European Union

Chocolate and/or Cocoa Companies:

Become a member of the Cocoa & Forests Initiative (CFI). If you’re a CFI member but you haven’t yet signed the Ghana Framework and Côte d’Ivoire Framework then do so. If not CFI, then find another model that is at least as good as CFI – match or surpass, but don’t wait around doing nothing. Embrace a worldwide deforestation-free cocoa policy; Ask all suppliers/traders to do the same and suspend them if they won’t.  Get full traceability of your cocoa, not just the direct supply chains but the indirect supply chains as well. Commit to eventually shifting all your cocoa supply over to agroforestry cocoa only.


Join the CFI supermarket initiative called Retailer Cocoa Collaboration (RCC) – or else match/surpass that;

Cocoa Producing Countries:

Adopt your own CFI Framework for Action – or surpass CFI with an even better national policy, such as a cross-commodity deforestation-free policy.

Cocoa Consuming Countries:

Pass a law to regulate the worst cocoa abuses for all cocoa imports.

Join us. The future is in our hands.

Leading French soy buying companies rated over disclosure

Feed Navigator | April 19, 2019

US based environmental campaign group, Mighty Earth, along with other NGOs, has ranked some of the leading soy buyers in France for compliance with recently established legislation in that market.

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