Palm Oil

Tesco : a basket of problems for the Amazon

Palm oil and timber giant Korindo backs down in long-running case to silence civil society organizations

Baca dalam Bahasa Indonesia

Bahasa language press release

(Hamburg, Germany 21 Feb 2023) The plaintiff in the legal proceedings, a company belonging to the Korindo group of businesses, has agreed to end a long-running lawsuit, after a judge in Germany looked set to dismiss the case. PT Kenertec Power Systems’ lawsuit was obviously intended to silence a civil society campaign to protect rainforest, in Indonesia’s Papua province, threatened by Korindo’s extensive palm oil operations.  


Korindo’s operations span the globe, ranging from timber, paper, rubber, and palm oil to renewable energy. In 2016, Mighty Earth, Rainforest Rescue and several Indonesian and Korean NGOs (non-governmental organisations) were signatories to a letter highlighting Korindo’s rampant deforestation in its huge palm oil operations in Papua, Indonesia. The letters were sent to Kenertec’s major wind tower customers in Germany. 

In 2017 Mighty Earth submitted a complaint to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a global sustainable forestry certification body, regarding Korindo’s clearing of more than 30,000 hectares of Indonesian rainforests in Papua. The FSC launched an investigation.1 

In 2018, Korindo instructed legal firm, LPA Singapore, to send threatening emails to at least seven organizations that signed the 2016 letter. The email stated: 'Korindo’s policy is to engage legal actions against individuals or organisations that circulate incorrect information or make factually erroneous public statements about Korindo - with the intention or effect to damage Korindo’s business interests. Korindo is consequently in the process of initiating legal actions against Mighty Earth.’ 

In 2019, Korindo’s PT Kenertec Power Systems German lawyers2 filed a libel lawsuit in Germany, against the Center for International Policy (CIP), a former fiscal sponsor to Mighty Earth, and the German NGO, Rettet den Regenwald (Rainforest Rescue). Kenertec’s German lawyer argued that statements, made in letters sent to wind tower customers in Germany, namely Siemens AG (Germany), Gamesa Corporation (now Siemens Gamesa) and Nordex SE (Germany), were defamatory. 

In 2019 Korindo’s legal firm, threatened the FSC, which was investigating Korindo’s violations of its policies, based on Mighty Earth’s 2017 complaint. The investigation found that Korindo had destroyed more than 30,000 hectares of forest  (equivalent to 42,000 football fields) in the previous five years and committed violations of Indigenous peoples’ traditional and human rights, in contravention of FSC standards.3 The investigation estimated that Korindo haddeprived indigenous communities in Indonesia’s Papua province of $300 million by underpaying for the timber harvested from their lands 4 

In late 2021, the FSC expelled Korindo based on its failure to cooperate with the FSC and agree on a process to address the impacts of its forestry and palm oil operations.5 

Korindo agrees to settle  

On 21 February 2023 Kenertec and Rainforest Rescue agreed to settle the dispute, instigated by Korindo three years ago, based on a proposal put forward by the German court. The judge declared that Kenertec could not sue CIP for statements made in the letter signed by Mighty Earth. 

The SLAPP lawsuit was obviously designed to silence and intimidate the civil society groups and prevent them from repeating some statements in the letters, or be fined €250,000 in each case of violation, or face imprisonment.  

What is SLAPP? 

The lawsuit is an example of a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, or SLAPP suit, in which big corporations or high-profile individuals, file lawsuits designed to harass and drain substantial resources from watchdog organizations, activists, journalists, trade unions, media organizations, and those who represent the public interest. 

Amanda Hurowitz, Senior Director for Southeast Asia, Mighty Earth said: 

“Korindo’s attempt to silence Mighty Earth and our NGO allies was completely baseless. Finally, after three years, as a German court was preparing to dismiss the case, Korindo backed down. They agreed to settle without any damages or injunctions being awarded against Mighty Earth, CIP or Rainforest Rescue and agreed to pay most of the court’s legal costs.” 

“Rogue companies that destroy the planet shouldn’t be wasting the courts’ time with cases aimed at gagging civil society groups, who are rightly pushing for a global end to deforestation for palm oil, timber, soy, beef, and other commodities, to tackle climate change and nature loss.”  

Professor Roger Mann of German legal firm, Damm & Mann, acting for CIP and Rainforest Rescue, said:   

“After more than three years, Korindo has accepted a settlement proposal made by the court after it was inclined to dismiss the case completely. The court had made it clear, at an early stage, that the claims against CIP and for revocation against both defendants were completely without merit.”  

“Regarding the claims for injunctive relief in relation to the statement about the setting of illegal fires by Korindo, the defendants had presented so many facts and offered so much evidence that the court considered hearing witnesses in Indonesia. This did not happen because, after a change of judge, the court indicated that the plaintiff was not entitled to injunctive relief because its business was wind turbines, and it wasn’t involved in the palm oil business of Korindo.” 

Franky Samperante, Yayasan Pusaka (Indonesia) said: 

“For decades, Korindo has gotten away with violating indigenous peoples’ land rights without exposure. Korindo should be seriously committed to respect and recover the rights of affected Papuan Indigenous communities and protect local environment. 

Andi Muttaqien, Satya Bumi (Indonesia):  

Korindo has destroyed tens of thousands of hectares of rainforest in Papua. The company should be using its resources and money to restore the damage it has caused, instead of wasting them to silence activist campaigns in protecting forests and indigenous peoples. 

Shin Young, Advocates for Public Interest Law, APIL (Korea)  

“If Korindo is serious about improving its credibility and environmental and human rights performance, it needs to stop its legal harassment of civil society groups who have tried to stand up to its abuses, restore the forest habitat it destroyed and pay restitution to affected Papuan Indigenous communities." 


Notes to Editors: 

1 FSC launches investigation into Korindo after Mighty Earth files complaint, Mighty Earth May 2017 

2 Lawyers Manner & Spangenberg Partnerschaft von Rechtsanwälten mbB, An der Alster 64, 20099 Hamburg, Germany, Ref.: 10025-003 SCM 

3 FSC overview of findings against Korindo, following the FSC Complaint Panel field trip to the Korindo’s palm oil plantations in December 2017 FSC  

4 As reported by Mongabay and The Gecko Project based on a leaked version of the full FSC Complaint Panel report. 

5 FSC announces disassociation from Korindo. FSC press release 16 October 2021  

Images and broll available here 

Astra Clearing Forest NOW in Rarest Orangutan Habitat

Astra Clearing Forest NOW in Rare Orangutan Habitat

New Satellite Imagery Shows October 2021 Forest Destruction

BATANG TORU, NORTH SUMATRA, 9 NOVEMBER 2021 – New satellite imagery caught Indonesian mining, financial services, auto and agribusiness giant Astra International destroying the home forests of the rarest great ape in the world – as recently as last week. The investigation shows operations at Astra’s Martabe gold mine eating away at the habitat of the critically endangered Tapanuli Orangutan between October 9 and 29, 2021.[1]

“Since February, Astra has been in talks over a plan to gauge the impact of the neighboring Martabe mine on Tapanuli Orangutan habitat,” said Annisa Rahmawati, Environmental Advocate at Mighty Earth. “But while talks have dragged on for months, this new evidence shows deforestation continuing all along.”

The Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis) was identified in just 2017, the first time since the 1920s that a new species of great ape had been found. Indonesia is the only country outside of the Democratic Republic of the Congo that can boast of being home to three species of Great Ape. Fewer than 800 Tapanuli orangutans exist in the world, less than any other great ape species.

“The Batang Toru ecosystem landscape is our last frontier forest in North Sumatra. The government should evaluate all permits on this landscape and take a firm action against companies that threaten the sustainability of this critical landscape,” said Roy Lumbangaol, a campaign manager at WALHI North Sumatra.

Astra International is also a major player in the palm oil sector, with a special policy on deforestation. Its managed palm plantation operations and trading operations (under the company name Astra Agro Lestari) operate under a No Deforestation policy.

“Astra has not extended its palm oil sustainability policy to operations like the Martabe mine,” said Annisa . “That’s even though many of their consumer-product customers like Hershey’s and Unilever have cross-commodity-deforestation commitments on record. In essence, this recklessness around Martabe puts their entire agribusiness operation at risk.”

Scientists estimate that the Tapanuli orangutan population has almost halved since 1985, and it will continue to decline unless comprehensive protection measures are implemented. Conservation biologists have projected that if the adult population decreases by more than 1% of

 each year, the genetic diversity of the primate will decline to the point that it will go extinct That’s why scientists with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature have called for a moratorium [2] on the development of projects impacting the Tapanuli orangutan’s habitat.

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, also rely on this habitat.

2 endangered-tapanuli-orangutan

# # # For further information,please contact:

Indonesian Campaign Advocacy, Mighty Earth

Annisa Rahmawati

08111097527 [email protected]

PR Consultant, Image Dynamics

Ayunda Putri

08122001411 [email protected]

Astra Tertangkap Lakukan Deforestasi di Habitat Orangutan Terlangka

Siaran Pers Untuk Disiarkan Segera

Astra Tertangkap Lakukan Deforestasi di Habitat Orangutan Terlangka

Citra Satelit Mengungkap Kerusakan Hutan terbaru pada Bulan Oktober 2021

BATANG TORU, SUMATERA UTARA, 9 NOVEMBER 2021 – Citra satelit terbaru berhasil menangkap perusakan hutan pekanlalu oleh Astra International yang saham induknya dimiliki oleh Jardine Matheson1, adalah sebuah perusahaan yang bergerakdi bidang pertambangan, jasa keuangan, otomotif dan agribisnis raksasa pada wilayah habitat spesies kera besar terlangka didunia. Hasil investigasi juga menunjukkan kegiatan operasional Astra di tambang emas Martabe dalam rentang waktu 9sampai 29 Oktober 2021 telah merusak habitat orangutan Tapanuli yang terancam punah.2

“Sejak bulan Februari, Astra berencana untuk menakar dampak tambang Martabe terhadap habitat orangutan Tapanuli,” kata Annisa Rahmawati, Advokat Kampanye Indonesia Mighty Earth. “Namun, bukti baru ini telah menunjukkan bahwa perusakanhutan terus berjalan ketika pembicaraan mengenai rencana masih berlangsung.”

Orangutan Tapanuli (Pongo tapanuliensis) yang diumumkan sebagai spesies baru pada tahun 2017, adalah kera berukuranbesar baru pertama yang ditemukan oleh ilmuwan sejak tahun 1920-an. Dengan temuan ini, Indonesia menjadi satu-satunyanegara selain Republik Demokratik Kongo yang memiliki tiga spesies kera besar. Saat ini, hanya tersisa kurang dari 800orangutan Tapanuli di seluruh dunia, lebih sedikit dari spesies kera besar lainnya.

“Ekosistem Batang Toru di utara Sumatera merupakan satu-satunya habitat orangutan Tapanuli dan sepanjang sejarahmanusia, belum ada satu pun spesies kera besar yang punah. Satwa ini adalah salah satu kerabat terdekat umat manusia,dan saat ini kita tidak memiliki banyak waktu untuk menyelamatkan mereka.” kata Annisa.

Astra International adalah salah satu pemain utama di sektor kelapa sawit dan mempunyai kebijakan khusus mengenaideforestasi. Beroperasi di bawah nama Astra Agro Lestari, baik pengelolaan perkebunan kelapa sawit maupun kegiatanperdagangan perusahaan ini merujuk pada komitmen Nol deforestasi.

“Astra belum mengadopsi komitmen Nol Deforestasi tersebut untuk sejumlah kegiatan operasional mereka yang lain, seperti di tambang Martabe,” lanjut Annisa . “Padahal banyak pelanggan produk mereka seperti Hershey dan Unilever telahmenerapkan komitmen No deforestasi lintas komoditas. Intinya, kelalaian di tambang Martabe ini dapat membahayakanseluruh operasi agribisnis mereka dan memperparah krisis iklim di bumi.”

“Lanskap ekosistem Batangtoru adalah hutan alam terakhir di Sumatera Utara. Pemerintah harus mengevaluasi kembaliseluruh ijin-ijin yang berada di lanskap ekosistem Batangtoru ini dan berani menindak tegas perusahaan yang mengancam keberlangsungan kehidupan di lanskap ekosistem ini”

kata Roy Lumbangaol, Manajer Advokasi dan Kampanye WALHI Sumatera Utara.

Para ilmuwan memperkirakan bahwa populasi orangutan Tapanuli telah berkurang hingga hampir separuhnya sejak tahun1985 dan akan terus menurun jika tidak ada tindak perlindungan yang komprehensif. Para ahli biologi konservasi jugamemproyeksikan bahwa jika populasi orangutan dewasa berkurang lebih dari 1% setiap tahunnya, keragaman genetik primataakan menurun hingga akhirnya punah. Itu sebabnya para ilmuwan dari International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) menyerukan diberlakukannya moratorium3 pengembangan proyek yang berdampak langsung pada habitat orangutanTapanuli.

Tidak hanya bagi Orangutan Tapanuli, lanskap ekosistem Batang Toru juga merupakan tempat tinggal bagi sejumlah hewanpaling terancam punah di dunia, seperti harimau Sumatra, trenggiling, dan rangkong. Kehidupan satwa seperti beruangmadu, tapir, serow serta beragam spesies langka lainnya, termasuk lebih dari 300 spesies burung, terlebih lagi bagi masyarakat adat dan masyarakat sekitar yang sangat bergantung kehidupannya pada keberadaan hutan dan keanekaragaman hayati di lanskap ekosistem Batangtoru.



3 red-tapanuli-orangutan

# # #

Untuk informasi lebih lanjut, hubungi: Advokat Kampanye IndonesiaMighty Earth Annisa Rahmawati

08111097527 [email protected]

Manajer Advokasi dan Kampanye WALHI Sumatera Utara

Roy Lumbangaol

+62 822-7656-8624 [email protected]

PR Consultant Image Dynamics Ayunda Putri

08122001411 [email protected]

Notorious palm oil and timber company Korindo expelled by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

Baca dalam Bahasa Indonesia

Jakarta, Indonesia — The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a leading global forestry certification organization, announced that it has decided to terminate the certification of Korindo Group, a notorious Korean-Indonesian logging and palm oil conglomerate operating in Papua and North Maluku, Indonesia.

The decision follows a 2017 Mighty Earth complaint, and efforts by multiple organizations across Indonesia, Korea, and the world to expose the company’s wrongdoing.

“The FSC’s expulsion of Korindo provides more evidence that despite all its grandiose claims that it is embracing sustainability, the company still cannot rouse itself to meet basic standards for environmentally responsible business in the 21st Century,” said Mighty Earth advocate Annisa Rahmawati. “The FSC's decision should serve as a warning to any company that thinks they can use greenwashing and legal intimidation to destroy forests and trample on Indigenous communities’ rights with impunity.”

The FSC Complaints Panel found Korindo had destroyed more than 30,000 hectares of rainforest (equivalent to 42,000 football fields) in the previous five years and committed violations of Indigenous peoples’ traditional and human rights, in contravention of FSC standards.  Papua is the largest intact rainforest in Indonesia, and one of the most important landscapes for the climate in the world.

Nevertheless, the FSC had retained a ‘conditional association’ of Korindo, requiring Korindo to enact improvement and remediation measures.  The FSC’s Secretary General  announced today it was terminating the association based on Korindo’s failure to agree to procedures to independently verify its compliance. In a statement about the decision, Korindo said it would try to regain certification.

“Although the FSC found that Korindo had violated its policy through vast deforestation and abuse of Indigenous people’s rights, Korindo has continued to spread false information about the severity of its actions and has used its continued association with FSC to greenwash its bad practices,” Rahmawati said. “With today’s announcement, Korindo can’t hide behind the FSC anymore."

In addition to failing to meet its obligations to FSC, Korindo has sought to silence its critics by filing a SLAPP lawsuit in Germany against civil society organizations who have worked to expose its wrongdoing and call for remedy.   As a result, a jury of distinguished European parliamentarians and expert NGOs – empanelled by the Coalition Against SLAPPs in Europe (CASE) – awarded the Korindo Group the dubious title of International Bully of the Year.

“Korindo is clearly not acting in good faith.  If Korindo is serious about improving its environmental and human rights performance to address its violations of FSC’s standards, it needs to restore the forest habitat it destroyed, pay restitution to affected Papuan Indigenous communities and stop its legal harassment of civil society groups who have tried to stand up to its abuses,” said Hye Lyn Kim, a Campaigner with the Korea Federation for Environmental Movements.

High quality photos and video of Mighty Earth’s investigation into Korindo communities are available for download here.

Rimba Collective Could Be a Game Changer for Commodity Agriculture

Yesterday, the world’s largest palm oil company, Wilmar International, along with palm oil users Nestle, PepsiCo, and Procter & Gamble, joined with Lestari Capital to announce the Rimba Collective, a project to mobilize $1 billion and drive more than one million acres of forest and peat conservation and restoration. Mighty Earth CEO Glenn Hurowitz shared the following statement:

"There’s been great success in persuading large commodity companies to avoid future harm by stopping deforestation, and you can see that in the more than 90% drop in deforestation for palm oil. But until now, few companies have done much of anything to go beyond avoiding harm and make an actual positive contribution to conservation.

"The Rimba Collective announcement begins to change that by pledging to mobilize real dollars for real conservation. This is a far better investment for companies that use palm oil than just throwing money at certification schemes, and has the potential to deliver gigaton-scale climate benefits and expanded habitat for orangutans, tree kangaroos and other wildlife that have been pushed to the edge of extinction by plantation agriculture.

"Of course, just as pledges to stop deforestation only mattered when they were actually implemented on the ground, these conservation commitments will only matter once the money starts flowing and is invested in high-quality conservation that benefits Indigenous and local communities. When that happens, it could be a game changer for commodity agriculture."

Grist: How to stop runaway deforestation? Look at Indonesia.

Following a new analysis from the supply-chain watching nonprofit, Chain Reaction Research, Grist spoke with Mighty Earth's CEO Glenn Hurowitz to discuss the significance of the results.

In areas dominated by the palm-oil industry like Southeast Asia, deforestation has plummeted.

“This is the fourth straight year that palm-oil deforestation has been at a fraction of historic levels, and trending down,” said Glenn Hurowitz, CEO of the environmental nonprofit, Mighty Earth.

Read the full story here.

Palm Oil Firm Korindo Aims to Silence NGOs With Baseless "SLAPP” Lawsuit

First hearing in a German Court will be on January 22

Hamburg, Germany:
 Germany’s Rainforest Rescue (Rettet den Regenwald) and the Washington, D.C.-based Center for International Policy (CIP) blasted a baseless defamation lawsuit brought to the Hamburg Regional Court by a supplier to the Korindo conglomerate, a notorious Korean-Indonesian palm oil, logging and wind tower manufacturing giant. The first court hearing for the case is scheduled for 12:00 on January 22.

Korindo has engaged in large-scale deforestation and violations of the rights of Indigenous people in Papua and North Maluku, Indonesia, as exposed in Mighty Earth’s 2016 “Burning Paradise” report and numerous other reports, publications and documentaries, including a recent BBC exposé.

"This lawsuit is a classic dirty corporate strategy. In the face of mounting revelations about its massive rainforest destruction and abuse of Indigenous rights, Korindo is using this lawsuit to try to intimidate and silence NGOs, journalists, and activists from exposing its wrongdoing,” said Deborah Lapidus, Vice President of Mighty Earth. “But this is a grave miscalculation as it further exposes Korindo's sinister approach and its continued denial of the harms it’s caused.”

The lawsuit hinges on letters signed by Mighty Earth, Rainforest Rescue and a coalition of other NGOs in October 2016 — over four years ago. Those letters sought to make some of the plaintiff’s major corporate wind tower customers – including Siemens AG (Germany) and Gamesa Corporation (now Siemens Gamesa) and Nordex SE (Germany) – aware of Korindo’s large-scale rainforest destruction in Indonesia. The lawsuit challenges some of the assertions in those letters and is demanding a retraction of those statements as well as seeking judicial penalties - including hefty fines and imprisonment – if they are repeated in future.

The lawsuit is an example of a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, or SLAPP suit. It’s part of an alarming worldwide trend in which powerful interests, including corporations or high-profile individuals, file lawsuits designed to harass and drain substantial resources from smaller watchdog organizations, activists, journalists, trade unions, media organizations, and those who represent the public interest.

“The destruction of the rainforests is one of the greatest environmental crimes of our time. But instead of prosecuting the perpetrators, courts are increasingly being used to harass environmentalists”, said Bettina Behrend, President of Rettet den Regenwald. “Our democracy has been turned upside down, the rule of law abused. But we will not be intimidated and are instead determined to raise our voices for the people who are suffering from environmental degradation."

SLAPPs are a threat to democracy and fundamental rights, including freedom of speech and the right to assembly. There is growing public awareness of the visceral threat that SLAPP suits pose to the public’s right to be informed. European Commission Vice-President Věra Jourová recently vowed to “look into all possible options” to counter the threat SLAPPs pose to European democracy and a coalition of 87 journalistic and civil society organizations, including Mighty Earth, are calling on the European Union to adopt legislation to protect people across the EU against SLAPPs.

The choice of Germany as the location to pursue the lawsuit reflects how the company is pursuing “jurisdiction shopping” as a harassment strategy against organizations that expose environmental and human rights abuses in its operations. Germany has been identified by legal experts as one of several jurisdictions in the EU where national laws and court rulings have conferred advantages to filers of baseless defamation lawsuits.

This lawsuit is just the latest instance in which Korindo or alleged group companies have initiated or threatened legal action, or other intimidation measures, to try to bury exposure of its wrongdoing:

  • In 2018, Korindo’s lawyers sent letters threatening legal action to several NGOs involved in exposing its practices all over the world.
  • In September 2019, Korindo targeted the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a global certification body for responsible forest management, with dubious legal threats, including the reported delivery of a "cease and desist" letter to intimidate the FSC into withholding its planned release of a 100+ page public summary of its findings from a two-year investigation into the Korindo Group.  Instead, the FSC released[i] a mere two page summary, which concluded Korindo violated its standards through significant conversion of forests, destruction of “high conservation value” forests, and violation of traditional and human rights. “Due to a disagreement with Korindo, the original complaints panel report is not available, but a summarized overview of the investigation findings can be found here,” states the FSC on its website.
  • The FSC-commissioned “social analysis” of Korindo’s operations in Indonesia found that: “the affected communities have suffered considerable harms… These range from the threat and in some cases use of violence,in an ongoing atmosphere of intimidation (and above and beyond that associated with the prevailing local security setting) …”
  • In response to a June 2020 Al Jazeera documentary about Korindo, Selling Out West Papua, Korindo issued a statementthreatening legal action.
  • In a press statement responding to the November 2020 BBC documentary, The Burning Scar, Korindo referenced how it had taken NGOs to court over similar claims.

“Lawsuits against public interest organizations aren’t going to restore Korindo’s reputation or bring back the numerous palm oil and forest products customers that walked away from Korindo over its severe environmental harms,” said Lapidus. “Recent Korindo customers, including General Electric Corporation (USA), News Corps Australia, and Sumitomo Forestry (Japan) should urge the company to pursue remedy for the harms it has wrought on local communities and the planet’s last precious rainforests, instead of wasting time and money suing NGOs.”

[i] All of the FSC investigatory reports referenced above on Korindo can be found at the bottom of this webpage:

Following BBC Investigation, Global Certification Organization FSC Must Suspend Korindo and Reopen Investigation into Fires in its Palm Oil Concessions

By Mark Hays, Senior Campaigns Director, Mighty Earth

Today, the BBC published an in-depth investigation (the "Burning Scar") into fires on Korindo palm oil concessions in Papua, Indonesia. The findings are disturbing: as the BBC’s report states, "according to a new investigation by the Forensic Architecture group at Goldsmiths University in London and Greenpeace International, published in conjunction with the BBC, there is evidence that indicates deliberate burning on the land during the land-clearing period. The investigation found evidence of fires on one of Korindo's concessions over a period of years in patterns consistent with deliberate use" (emphasis added).

The BBC's findings are supported by testimony from local landowners. In interviews with the BBC, these landowners told the organization that the company had set fires on the concessions over a period of years. For example, the BBC states: "a local farmer said he saw Korindo employees collecting leftover wood, ‘the worthless stuff’. They piled up long rows, maybe 100-200 metres long, and then they poured petrol over it and then lit them."

These findings reinforce Mighty Earth's Burning Paradise report, released in September 2016. Yet, on its website, Korindo continues to deny its use of fires, stating that it "has never used and will never use fire to clear land in any of its operations."

As described in the BBC story, a 2018 report by an independent Complaint Panel appointed by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a global certification body for responsible forest management, found that Korindo Group had significantly violated the FSC's policies on deforestation and human rights during the period 2013-2017. The Panel concluded that there were "strong and sufficient grounds for the disassociation of all the companies associated with these serious violations."

Despite these conclusions, and two supplementary investigations that made similar findings, in June 2019 the FSC decided to maintain its relationship with Korindo on the condition that Korindo adopt improvement measures. The versions of the investigation ultimately released to the public were heavily censored by the FSC after receiving legal threats from Korindo, including the delivery of a “cease and desist” letter, according to an email Mighty Earth received from the FSC.

At the time, the FSC Complaint Panel said they were unable to find sufficient evidence to confirm the deliberate use of fires. Now, in light of the new facts and analysis in the BBC investigation, Mighty Earth calls upon the FSC to reopen its investigation into the allegations that Korindo deliberately used fire in its oil palm concessions.

FSC has also inexcusably sat on its hands for over a year on initiating the stakeholder process to determine how Korindo is going to compensate and remediate for its liabilities on deforestation and human rights violations, leaving impacted communities in the dark. FSC must act with urgency to conduct a fair and transparent process, rapidly deliver remedy long overdue, and re-evaluate its decision not to suspend Korindo.

Watch Forensic Architecture's short film on the investigation:


Consumers Push Back on Japanese Travel Company Driving Forest Destruction


Thousands of concerned travelers around the world have signed on to a threatened boycott of Japanese travel giant H.I.S. International, according to a new briefing paper from environmental campaign organization Mighty Earth. The paper highlights consumer outcry around the unexpected but clear link between Japan's second largest travel company and environmental destruction in Southeast Asia that threatens climate-vital rainforests and destroys the habitats of endangered orangutans. These latest consumer actions contribute to a rising tide of activism focusing on H.I.S., which has come under intense scrutiny for its foray into climate-polluting energy production.

The analysis, Think Twice About Traveling with Forest Destroyer H.I.S., highlights the recent campaign and relays the company’s efforts to expand its business portfolio into energy generation, and specifically identifies its under-construction power plant – a palm oil-burning facility in Kakuda City, Miyagi Prefecture – as a potential driver of ecological devastation.

“The palm oil industry drives about 250,000 acres of deforestation every year. Unchecked expansion of palm oil plantations destroys precious rainforests, threatens the survival of endangered orangutans, and exacerbates climate change,” said Rose Garr, Vice President at Mighty Earth. “H.I.S.’s power plant would require importing 70,000 more tons of palm oil each year, accelerating these trends. Even if that palm oil is subject to sourcing standards, there is an extremely limited supply of truly sustainable palm oil. The idea that we should burn it as fuel is just incredibly wasteful, and that’s why we’ve seen a global public outcry.”

H.I.S. is an international travel company that brings tourists to Japan to visit its quirky and offbeat destinations, including hotels staffed by robots and a theme park in Nagasaki that recreates old Holland. But in 2017, H.I.S. embarked on a new venture and established H.I.S. Super Power to sell discounted electricity to customers in Japan. Not content to be just an electricity middleman, H.I.S. Super Power began to build their own generation plants, putting up solar panels at their Dutch theme park but also investing in this large-scale power plant that would burn enormous quantities of palm oil.

Japanese environmental groups alerted H.I.S. to their concerns with the project and even met with the company’s CEO in February 2019. In July 2019, approximately 200,000 consumers from around the globe demanded H.I.S. protect forests by scrapping this proposed plant and getting out of the palm oil business. But H.I.S. management refused to accept the petitions and pushed forward with construction of the power plant.

H.I.S.’s lack of response prompted another round of international campaigning. The international coalition of NGOs delivered a letter to major H.I.S. branch offices in the United States, Europe, and Australia, reiterating its concerns about the power plant project. They sent a similar letter to H.I.S.’s major investors. Digital ads across multiple platforms are also being rolled out this week. The recent campaigning has led to an additional 7,200 people, including many frequent travelers, to pledge not to travel with H.I.S. or stay in its hotels until the company ends its involvement in palm oil power generation. H.I.S. has so far remained silent in the face of consumer protests, and after COVID 19-related delays, the power plant could begin operation in the coming weeks.

"As we hopefully put the worst of the pandemic behind us, there's going to be a huge pent-up desire to travel,” said Garr. “If the Olympics take place next year, international travelers will be flocking to Japan. But Americans, Australians, and Europeans don't want to travel or stay with a company driving destruction of the rainforests.”

“We understand H.I.S.’s desire to diversify into energy due to risks exemplified by the current pandemic and as Japanese domestic travel declines. However, their palm oil venture is shortsighted and risks generating a consumer backlash that threatens their core business. H.I.S. still has a chance to do the right thing: drop its plans to burn palm oil and instead invest in solar or the burgeoning Japanese wind power market.”

European Parliament Urges the EU to Stop Deforestation

Today, the European Parliament adopted a legislative initiative report urging the European Commission to propose a strong law to ensure products sold in the Union are deforestation-free and don’t cause human rights abuses.

Nico Muzi, Europe Director of environmental NGO Mighty Earth, applauded the vote:

“For too long, deforestation around the world has been driven by consumption right here in Europe,” he said. “But Europeans are increasingly demanding change and seeking assurances that the food they buy isn’t worsening climate change, destroying forests or accelerating mass extinctions. Today’s vote shows that their political representatives are listening. It’s high time for the European Commission and major companies to do the same.”

The EU is responsible for over 10 percent of global deforestation through the imports of commodities such as meat, soy, dairy, palm oil, cacao, coffee and rubber. The European Commission has opened a public consultation to tackle deforestation caused by EU consumption. Mighty Earth has joined the #Together4Forests campaign along more than 100 NGOs urging the European Commission to pass strong regulation to ensure only deforestation-free products are sold in the bloc. So far more than 250,000 people have joined the movement calling for deforestation-free products.

The report adopted today, drafted by MEP Delara Burkhhardt, calls for mandatory due diligence to make sure products sold in the Union are deforestation-free and do not cause ecosystem destruction (e.g. savannah, peatlands, mangroves) or human rights abuses. The report covers all businesses, including banks and investment funds, to prevent the use of Europeans’ savings to bankroll deforestation. The report also introduces a clear system of civil liability to sanction corporations that bring deforestation products to the EU.


Indonesia's Omnibus Bill Approval Poses Dire Threat to Anti-Deforestation Efforts

Bahasa Indonesia

Palm Oil Industry Should Resist Legislative Rollback of Deforestation Restrictions

The Indonesian parliament passed a controversial economic stimulus “Omnibus Bill” today despite significant opposition from environmental and Indigenous rights groups and international investors’ concerns that elements of the new law will worsen deforestation and land rights abuses and reverse recent successes in reducing forest loss. The decision by Indonesian lawmakers to approve the bill with those elements intact also threatens to negate meaningful progress made by the palm oil sector toward adopting more responsible production practices.

“Today the Indonesian parliament made a ruinous false choice between environmental sustainability and economic growth by effectively legitimizing uncontrolled deforestation as an engine for a so-called pro-investment job creation policy,” said Phelim Kine, Senior Campaigns Director with Mighty Earth. “That’s a tragic miscalculation because foreign investors and major trading partners are increasingly basing their investment and import decisions on standards of environmental sustainability that will protect Indonesia’s priceless forest cover and biodiversity rather than destroy it.”

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration has justified the new law’s expansive provisions, which involve the insertion of 174 new articles into 79 existing laws governing areas including taxation, labor, investment and the environment, as an essential job creation tool amidst the Coronavirus pandemic. But the new law includes multiple provisions that analysts warn will worsen deforestation in Indonesia and, by extension, inflict international reputational harm on the palm oil sector. An analysis by the Indonesian nongovernmental organization Madani has warned that the new law weakens existing legal protections for natural forests with catastrophic potential impacts, including the complete destruction of natural forest cover in the provinces of Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, Bangka Belitung and Central Java over the next two to three decades.

Some of the new Omnibus Law’s troublesome provisions reportedly include:

  • Loosening the requirements for conducting environmental impact assessments of industrial and agribusiness projects.
  • Empowering the central government to approve business and investment in officially designated forest and peatland areas, which are currently under a deforestation moratorium.
  • Eliminating the current requirement that provinces maintain a minimum forest cover of 30% of provincial land and instead allowing provinces to set their own standards “proportionately.”
  • Eliminating strict legal liability for companies with fires occurring on their concession areas, which has served as a key incentive for companies to prevent and extinguish fires and refrain from burning.

Parliament approved the new law despite the government’s inadequate public consultation on its substance and implications. On October 5, a grouping of global investors managing $4.1 trillion in assets issued a letter to the Indonesian government stating their concerns about “the negative impact of certain environmental protection measures affected by the Omnibus Bill.” In July, a coalition of Indonesian environmental and civil society groups warned in a public letter to domestic and international financiers that the bill’s passage would mean that “Indonesian​​ current laws and regulations will no longer​​ comply​​ with​​ globally accepted​​ environmental and social safeguards.” That same month, the World Bank’s Indonesia and Timor Leste country director, Satu Kahkonen, cautioned that the Omnibus Bill would “move Indonesia’s environmental legislation further away from the implementation of best practices.”

Indonesia’s palm oil sector is particularly vulnerable to blowback from importers due to the new law’s problematic environmental provisions. Major palm oil importers including the European Union and United Kingdom are considering increasingly more stringent environmental standards for agricultural imports, including palm oil. Industry implementation of “No Deforestation, No Peatland, No Exploitation” (NDPE) policies has helped ensure Indonesian producers can meet those standards. Passage of the bill will likely encourage more deforestation by palm oil producers, tainting the industry and its customers as a whole. The bill’s pro-deforestation elements also fly in the face of the Indonesian government’s enactment in August 2019 of a permanent moratorium on forest clearing for timber and plantation development.

“Indonesian palm oil firms are on notice that they shouldn’t undermine years of progress they’ve made in driving down deforestation linked to palm oil production just because the Omnibus law now makes it easier for companies to decimate forests and ecosystems,” Kine said. “The palm oil sector should recognize that the long-term viability of its export business hinges on policies that protect forests rather than destroy them. Taking advantage of the new law’s loosened requirements will be a massive step backwards for the industry.”

Despite the reputational and economic stakes, major palm oil traders including Wilmar, Golden Agri, Musim Mas, RGE Group, Bunge, Sime Darby, and Louis Dreyfus remained publicly silent about the Bill. Major consumer goods producers including Unilever, Cargill and Nestle, who have committed to NDPE policies, have likewise not expressed concerns about the bill. The only major palm oil company to comment on the bill was Astra Agro Lestari (AAL), whose Vice President Director, Joko Supriyono, expressed unqualified support for the legislation. By doing so, Supriyono flouted AAL’s own NDPE policy and contradicted AAL’s parent company, Jardine Matheson’s, expression of explicit support last week for international regulatory measures to rein in deforestation.

“Now that the Bill is law, the battle shifts to implementation.  The Indonesian government should ensure that it formulates the new law’s specific implementing regulations in close consultation with environmental and civil society organizations to mitigate its malign implications for the country’s forests,” Kine said. “And the palm oil sector should demonstrate its willingness to hold itself to environmentally responsible production standards despite the government’s failure to do so.”


Opposition Mounting to Anti-Forest Legislation in Indonesia

New York Times report, public announcements by major companies highlight risk to Indonesia’s economy

As Rick Paddock and Muktita Suhartono of the New York Times document, there is growing concern in Indonesia and around the world about legislation that would roll back bedrock forest and environmental protections. This story and a recent announcement from Jardine Matheson, a company with a major presence in Indonesia, underscore the potential economic fallout of the proposed “Omnibus Bill,” which is set to pass the Indonesian parliament by the end of next week.

The Times reports:

“The government is pursuing this policy as if they were completely deaf and blind to the effect on people by the emerging climate crisis,” said Phelim Kine, senior director for Asia at Mighty Earth, a global environmental campaign organization. “This is the Indonesian equivalent of ‘Drill, baby, drill.’”

Indonesia, which straddles the Equator and once had vast rainforests, has lost much of its forest cover to intentional burning that has been used for decades to clear land for palm oil plantations.


The lack of safeguards and the reduction in environmental protections could make foreign investors — especially those from Europe, where environmental standards are high — less interested in putting money in Indonesia.

Reinforcing this point is a recent announcement from multinational conglomerate Jardine Matheson, which has come under fire for its environmental practices in Indonesia and is the owner of Indonesia’s largest company, Astra International. On September 30, Jardine Matheson released a public letter in support of “proposed UK legislation aimed at ensuring that companies only use responsibly sourced ‘forest risk’ commodities, and the EU initiative to reduce the impact on deforestation and forest degradation of products sold in the EU.”

Like most palm oil and paper companies in Indonesia, Astra Internatonal’s Astra Agro Lestari palm plantation operations are growing without deforestation. In fact, palm oil deforestation has declined from 400,000 hectares per year to fewer than 100,000 in each of the last three years; overall deforestation in Indonesia is at its lowest level since 2003.

But the elements of the Omnibus Bill that risk accelerating deforestation pose a serious risk to Indonesia’s attractiveness to international investors that are increasingly enshrining environmental sustainability standards into their investment decisions. This risk could negate the government’s hopes that the Omnibus Bill is an essential tool for boosting international investment in the country.

That assessment was implicitly echoed in July by the World Bank’s Indonesia and Timor Leste country director, Satu Kahkonen, who criticized the bill by warning that in its present form it “is basically not helping Indonesia” because it will “move Indonesia’s environmental legislation further away from the implementation of best practices.”

Indonesian palm oil producers, whose exports constitute more than two percent of Indonesia’s annual gross domestic product, should recognize that the bill’s pro-deforestation elements are counter-productive and speak out against the rush to pass a bill that could harm their long-term economic interest.

Taken together, these statements and concerns clearly demonstrate the environmental and economic perils of the Indonesian parliament passing the Omnibus Bill without significant changes.

The government of Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and Indonesian lawmakers should heed these warnings and suspend the passage of the Omnibus Bill in order to allow for public consultation on its environmental implications.

Haze in Central Kalimantan

Indonesia Deforestation, Forest Fires Compound COVID-19 Threat


500+ health professionals’ open letter urges Indonesian govt action to prevent forest and land fires

The Indonesian government must recognize and take preventative action against the threat that forest and land fires pose in compounding the public health risks of COVID-19, urged more than 500 medical professionals in an open letter published on September 24. The letter was shared with Dr. H. Andi Akmal Pasluddin, M.M. (Commission IV DPR RI) and General TNI Doni Monardo (Head of SATGAS Covid-19 / Head of BNPB) during a webinar entitled “Preventing Deforestation for a Healthy Indonesia” organized by Tempo Media Group in collaboration with Yayasan Madani Berkelanjutan and Yayasan Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI) on Thursday, September 24, 2020.

The webinar attracted 234 participants and underscored the medical and health necessity of forest and land fire prevention in this pandemic era. The webinar drew attention to the troubling fact that the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, is spreading across Indonesia at the same time of the year when the risk of forest and land fires are highest. Both COVID-19 and fires can have fatal consequences for public health, and smoke inhalation from those fires have the potential to worsen the medical outcomes of those who develop COVID-19. COVID-19 is already burdening the capacity of Indonesian hospitals, and that stress on the medical system will only worsen if members of the public require medical care from inhalation of smoke created by forest and land fires. The combination of COVID-19 and forest and land fires will also complicate disaster management efforts of local governments.

“I am very grateful to my colleagues who already took the time to support by signing this open letter in the midst of fighting this Covid-19 pandemic. Public health problems must be resolved from upstream to downstream. Prevention of forest and land fires and deforestation in general, is an integrated effort to maintain and improve the health of the people of Indonesia and the world. Do not let the Covid-19 situation become complicated, such as at this time public health is increasingly burdened by the haze of forest and land fires. At this point we are lucky because the dry season is not as dry and as long as usual. In the future, let’s continue to protect our forests, for a healthier Indonesia,” said drg. Monica Nirmala.

The webinar’s keynote speaker, Prof. DR. dr. Nila Moeloek, Sp. M (K) (Minister of Health of the Republic of Indonesia 2014-2019), also warned of the compounded health threat posed by fires and COVID-19. “Smoke can come from cigarettes,[and] it can also come from forest fires, [which] will eventually irritate the lungs. We expect oxygen to easily enter our lungs to breathe, but it turns out this virus [puts the Indonesian public] at greater risk when lungs are affected by [smoke from] forest fires.”

Based on government data, forest and land fires have burned around 64,600 hectares from January-July 2020. Analysis from Yayasan MADANI Berkelanjutan also shows that there was an expansion of the potential burn area from 18,000 hectares in July to a total of 84,000 hectares in August. Fortunately, in September, as the dry season has started to shift to the rainy season, forest and land fire “hotspots” have started to decrease.

Despite the fact that the weather conditions are often erratic this year, so that the air temperature is not as hot as usual, the potential burn area data show that the government needs to be more vigilant and expend maximum effort so that an even worse disaster can be avoided. This situation can get worse if public awareness to participate in protecting the environment and forests is minimal and law enforcement and monitoring of corporations is not occurring.

Muhammad Teguh Surya, (Executive Director Yayasan MADANI Berkelanjutan) cautioned that the forest fire situation in Indonesia today should not be taken lightly. Teguh Surya warned that there are still many factors that cause forest and land fires apart from weather which are even more worrying and that we must be aware of including changes in land cover as well as forest and peat lands destruction.

“In MADANI’s analysis for the last five years, the 2015 to 2019 period saw 5.4 million hectares of forest and land burned. There are three factors that influence the increase and decrease of forest and land fires in an area. The first is changes in land cover. Second, the existence of a [business development] permit, and thirdly, damage to the function of the peat ecosystem. So it needs proper mitigation and anticipation in the face of forest and land fires by protecting forests and restoring peat as well as ensuring the level of compliance of the permit owner to prevent forest and land fires,” said Teguh Surya.

In addition, the government’s economic stimulus “Omnibus Bill,” which parliament is expected to approve in the coming days, contains provisions which will heighten the risk of both forest fires and future pandemics. If parliament approves the Omnibus Bill without removing those controversial elements, it has the potential to accelerate the destruction of forest areas in Indonesia. That destruction will harm the local and indigenous communities as well as the biodiversity that live in and around the forest.

For the public good, the government and legislators should suspend passage of the Omnibus Bill in its current form to avoid such environmentally detrimental impacts. A MADANI study of the Omnibus Bill’s negative impacts include the likelihood of an acceleration of destruction of natural forests. Specifically, five provinces – Central Java, Bangka Belitung, South Sumatera, Jambi, and Riau – are in danger of losing all their natural forests to deforestation if the bill is passed in its current form. In addition, there are several provinces -Central Kalimantan, Aceh, West Nusa Tenggara, West Kalimantan, West Sumatera, South Kalimantan and Jambi – that are in danger of losing all of their natural forest outside the PIPPIB area due to deforestation linked to elements of the Omnibus Bill. This likely environmental destruction linked to the Omnibus Bill in its current form will also have malign knock-on effects on the marine sector, fisheries and the Indonesian economy.

There is a very close relationship between forest sustainability, human health, and government regulations. If any one of these three elements negatively impact the others, it can have a significant adverse effect not only for the environment, but also for human life and health, including creating the conditions for a pandemic. It is well-established that the novel coronavirus which causes COVID-19 is a zoonotic illness which originated in an animal species similar to HIV/AIDS, Ebola, SARS and MERS. Zoonotic illnesses jump from animal species to humans for reasons including shrinking natural forest cover caused by deforestation. Therefore, preventing deforestation and educating the public about the importance of protecting the natural environment are essential in order to create a healthier Indonesia.

Webinar Attendees Included:
drg. Monica Nirmala, MPH (Senior Public Health Advisor Yayasan ASRI), Muhammad Teguh Surya (Excecutive Director Yayasan Madani Berkelanjutan), Dr. H. Andi Akmal Pasluddin, M.M. (Commission IV DPR RI), General TNI Doni Monardo (Head of SATGAS Covid-19 / Head of BNPB), moderated by Wahyu Dyatmika (Chief Editor of Tempo Magazine). The event was opened by Prof. DR. dr. Nila Moeloek, Sp. M (K) (Minister of Health of the Republic of Indonesia 2014-2019) as Keynote Speaker

How Pressuring Corporations Can Save the Amazon from Destruction

As the Amazon undergoes another wave of deforestation, a blueprint for halting the runaway exploitation can be found in Southeast Asia, where pressure campaigns on companies and improved government monitoring are finally slowing the devastation caused by the palm oil industry.

Mighty Earth's CEO Glenn Hurowitz discussed this finding in an opinion piece for Yale E360:

As severe and sweeping in impact as the Amazon deforestation crisis is, it is also avoidable. Lessons from half a world away show us that it is possible to transform private industry and improve governance to dramatically reduce deforestation.

In Southeast Asia, the palm oil industry’s environmental notoriety is well-deserved. In just a few decades, it has burned and bulldozed more than 30,000 square miles of the region’s forests and replaced them with monoculture plantations in order to make cheap vegetable oil, soap, and biofuels. In the oil-palm-growing heartland in Indonesia and Malaysia, you can fly in a jet several miles up in the air, look out your window, and see nothing other than oil palms stretching to the horizon in what was once orangutan and tiger habitat. For many, this deforestation is a lot more than a statistic: It represents dozens of Indigenous communities dispossessed of their lands and their livelihoods.

However, despite important remaining challenges and risks, an analysis by the nonprofit, Chain Reaction Research, shows that deforestation for palm oil has plummeted from a million acres per year to fewer than 250,000 acres in each of the past three years. While that is still way too much, it is a remarkable decline.

Read the full piece at Yale Environment 360.

Indonesia’s Big Palm Oil Firms Silently Complicit with Pro-Deforestation Omnibus bill

Indonesia’s Big Palm Oil Firms Silently Complicit with Pro-Deforestation Omnibus bill

September 9, 2020

Indonesia’s palm oil industry and its global buyers should urge Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and Indonesian lawmakers to remove provisions of an economic stimulus “Omnibus Bill” that threaten to worsen deforestation and reverse recent successes in reducing forest loss, driven in large part by the adoption of more responsible palm oil production practices.

“This bill poses an existential threat to Indonesia’s forests – and risks dramatic economic losses for its palm oil industry, whose success is predicated on meeting international market expectations for responsible production,” said Phelim Kine, Senior Campaigns Director with Mighty Earth. “Leaders of major palm oil firms should break their silence and make it clear that this bill undermines years of progress they’ve made in driving down deforestation linked to palm oil production and will be a massive step backwards for the industry.”

Recent progress made in Indonesia by the palm oil industry in reducing deforestation and destruction of peat lands in its production chains – due in no small part to pressure and engagement from buyers, financiers, civil society groups, Indigenous peoples and frontline communities – has been a comparative bright spot in an otherwise disturbing trend of ongoing global deforestation.

An estimated 83% of palm oil refineries in Indonesia and Malaysia have committed to “No Deforestation, No Peat and No Exploitation (NDPE)” policies, an increase from 74% of refineries in November 2017. These commitments remain works in progress, but have contributed to a dramatic decline in deforestation for palm oil in Indonesia from a million acres a year to fewer than 250,000 acres in each of the past three years. Overall, according to analysis by the nongovernmental forest monitoring organization Global Forest Watch, primary forest loss in Indonesia has declined to its lowest levels since 2003.

Yet, the Indonesia parliament is poised to undo much of that progress by approving the Omnibus bill before the conclusion of the current legislative session on October 9, 2020.

The bill includes multiple provisions that analysts warn will worsen deforestation in Indonesia and by extension inflict international reputational harm on the palm oil sector. An analysis by the Indonesian nongovernmental organization Madani has warned that the bill weakens existing legal protections for natural forests with catastrophic potential impacts, including the complete destruction of natural forest cover in the provinces of Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, Bangka Belitung and Central Java over the next two to three decades.

Some of the bill’s troublesome provisions include:

  • Loosening the requirements for conducting environmental impact assessments of industrial and agribusiness projects.
  • Empowering the central government to approve business and investment in officially designated forest and peatland areas, which are currently under a deforestation moratorium.
  • Eliminating the current requirement that provinces maintain a minimum forest cover of 30% of provincial land and instead allowing provinces to set their own standards “proportionately.”
  • Eliminating strict legal liability for companies with fires occurring on their concession areas, which has served as a key incentive for companies to prevent and extinguish fires and refrain from burning.

President Jokowi’s administration has justified the bill’s expansive provisions, which involves the insertion of 174 new articles into 79 existing laws governing areas including taxation, labor, investment and the environment, as an essential job creation tool amidst the Coronavirus pandemic.

Ironically, the bill’s problematic environmental provisions could actually worsen economic prospects for the palm oil industry. Major palm oil importers including the European Union and United Kingdom are considering increasingly more stringent environmental standards for agricultural imports, including palm oil. Industry implementation of “No Deforestation, No Peatland, No Exploitation” (NDPE) policies has helped ensure Indonesian producers can meet those standards. Passage of this Omnibus bill as is will likely encourage more deforestation by palm oil producers, tainting the industry and its customers as a whole. The bill’s pro-deforestation elements also fly in the face of the Indonesian Government’s enactment in August 2019 of a permanent moratorium on forest clearing for timber and plantation development.

Despite the reputational and economic stakes, major palm oil traders including Wilmar, Golden Agri, Musim Mas, Bunge, Sime Darby, and Louis Dreyfus have failed to voice concerns about the Omnibus Bill. Major consumer goods producers including Unilever and Nestle, who have committed to NDPE policies, have likewise appeared silent about the bill.

The glaring exception to this has been PT Astra Agro Lestari Tbk, a subsidiary of the British conglomerate Jardine Matheson, which has, through its leadership, expressed support for the bill. Astra Agro Lestari, Indonesia’s second largest palm oil producer, has significant influence within both the palm oil sector and the Indonesian government through Joko Supriyono, Astra’s Vice President Director and Chairman of the Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association, or GAPKI.

Despite Astra’s adoption in 2015 of a No Deforestation policy, in February 2020, Supriyono expressed unqualified support for the Omnibus Bill as “a solution to the complexity of licensing in the palm oil sector.” He added that “GAPKI must be part of the birth of the Omnibus Law by actively contributing to it. This is none other than the interests of the national palm oil sector.” Since that full-throated expression of support for the Omnibus Bill GAPKI, Supriyono and Jardine Matheson subsidiary Astra Agro Lestari have ignored the bill’s ramifications for Indonesia’s forests.

The importance of the palm oil sector in engaging the Indonesian government on the dangers posed by the Omnibus Bill is heightened by the Government’s inadequate public consultation on the bill’s substance and implications. In July a coalition of Indonesian environmental and civil society groups flagged that failure in a public letter to domestic and international financiers, warning that the bill’s passage will mean that “Indonesian​​ current laws and regulations will no longer​​ comply​​ with​​ globally accepted​​ environmental and social safeguards.”

The palm oil sector has an opportunity to divert the serious long term economic and environmental fallout posed by the bill by taking the following steps:

  • Immediately conveying its concerns about the elements of the bill that undermine the forest conservation and human rights agenda to Jokowi’s office and the Indonesian parliament
  • Urging the Government to freeze proceedings on the bill until it undertakes proper consultations with environmental and civil society groups
  • Advocating for environmental and agricultural policies that boost economic growth while conserving forests and peatlands and recognizing the customary land rights of Indigenous peoples

Haze in Central Kalimantan

Toxic Forest Fires and COVID-19 Could Be a Deadly Combination in Southeast Asia

By Etelle Higonnet and Erika Dailey

Every summer since the 1990s, toxic smog has descended over Southeast Asian countries, as dangerous fumes from raging tropical forest and peatland fires in Indonesia spill over into Malaysia and Singapore. However, this year, the smog and the COVID-19 pandemic could pose a double crisis, as experts say that air pollution could exacerbate the number of coronavirus deaths.

While the area consumed by fires so far this year pales in comparison to 2019, the Indonesian province of Central Kalimantan—the country’s third largest—has already declared a state of emergency lasting from July 1 until September 28, after provincial authorities identified more than 700 active fires since the start of the year. If Indonesian authorities do not succeed in controlling the fires in Central Kalimantan, the Malaysian Meteorological Department expects the seasonal cross-border haze to hit the country again this year in August or September. Meanwhile, Indonesia already has one of the highest death rates from the pandemic in Asia, and cases continue to rise.

The hazardous haze is no accident. Every year the region suffocates from fires, which are frequently used by companies and farmers to clear forest and peatland to prepare land for oil palm plantations. Peatland fires cause carbon-rich soils to burn for days or weeks, even smoldering underground and re-emerging away from the initial source. This makes these fires difficult to extinguish, unpredictable and uncontrollable.

The fires are visible from outer space, and last year, photos of the annual fires in Indonesia turning the sky blood red went viral. But these fires aren’t just an eyesore; they’re also an environmental and public health emergency that forces tens of millions of people to inhale toxic fumes for months on end. In 2015, wildfire smoke consumed 2 million hectares of forest, exposed 69 million people to unhealthy levels of smog and is estimated to have caused over 100,000 premature deaths in that year alone. Smog from Indonesia even reached the island of Guam, more than 2,000 miles away. The 2015 episode also burned and killed endangered orangutans and destroyed so much of their habitat that scientists estimated that it could wipe out a third of the remaining wild population. Moreover, the fires were a climate catastrophe: 2015 Indonesian haze emissions outstripped the entire US economy’s emissions for 38 out of 56 days in a row.

Indonesia is now the world’s largest producer of palm oil, which is rapidly becoming a go-to source of biofuel in Asia, used to generate petrol for running automobiles and machinery. It is one of Southeast Asia’s biggest exports, supplying this essential commodity to the United States, Europe, and the region’s economic giants, China and India. The majority of consumers in countries that import the commodity may not even be aware of the ubiquity of palm oil as a household item. It is found in half of what the average American shopper takes home from the supermarket, from cookies to lipstick to cleaning fluids—like in the popular brand Palmolive—to cooking oil used to fry doughnuts and other foods.

Forest and peatland fires, especially in Indonesia, have continued to reach alarming levels, despite policies implemented by Indonesian President Joko Widodo in 2015 aimed at addressing deforestation and poor peatland management. While Indonesia and Malaysia have banned the use of fire, agribusiness producers face few consequences as a result of ignoring these laws. Corruption, weak law enforcement, unequal access to justice for impacted communities, political finger pointing between Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia, and a lack of transparency surrounding the supply chain in the plantation sector also lead to there being a predictable and deadly fire and haze crisis every year. The decades-old practice of illegal land grabbing means that indigenous communities continue to fight the encroachment of industries, including the palm oil industry, on their customary lands. There is concern that continued exposure to smog could put indigenous populations, who often have limited access to health services such as COVID-19 testing, and live in communities where infections can spread rapidly, particularly at risk. Now, reallocation of disaster preparedness funds for the COVID-19 pandemic also may result in diminished resources being put toward controlling forest fires and haze.

The exploitation of the rainforests to grow palm oil and other agricultural crops is a major economic driver in the region. Indonesia has already announced plans to clear over two million acres of peatland in Borneo to implement a mega ‘rice plan’. The government of Indonesia is aggressively driving demand for domestic palm oil biodiesel by currently mandating a state biodiesel blend of 30 percent palm oil, which it plans to increase to 100 percent over the next few years. To this end, it is subsidizing palm oil biodiesel producers, and in July 2020, provided $195 million in subsidies to the industry as part of the COVID economic recovery plan. What’s more, there is no requirement that companies receiving the subsidies adhere to environmental practices nor even to the state’s own no burning law. In fact, one company that is heavily subsidized by the government for palm oil biodiesel production is Tunas Baru Lampung Tbk, which, according to a recent analysis, had the second most fires on its plantation areas of any palm oil company in 2019.

Even in the midst of the pandemic, the Indonesian government is intent on passing a controversial omnibus law that gives sweeping powers to the executive branch, strips labor protections, and weakens environmental safeguards and review processes in the name of economic growth. The draft bill would reduce penalties for environmental offences and allow the central government to issue forest use permits, making it even harder for indigenous and frontline communities to monitor and influence decision-making around forest use. Notably, the bill would strip companies of legal liability for fires on their plantation areas, removing a key deterrent to burning and disincentivizing firefighting and prevention.

Like the fires that have devastated Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, the blazes in Indonesia have far-reaching, transboundary, and even global consequences. The fires destroy irreplaceable ecological resources and biodiversity, as well as cause tens and thousands of unnecessary deaths and respiratory illnesses, a figure that is likely to balloon due to COVID-19. Unless the government and industrial agri-businesses are forced to change course, the Indonesian fires will continue to be another manufactured disaster—tragic in both its scale and its evitability.

Etelle Higonnet is a senior campaign director at Mighty Earth and Erika Dailey is senior officer for research and publications at the Open Society Justice Initiative. This piece has been cross-posted under a creative commons license from the Open Society Justice Initiative.



Photo: Members of the indigenous community live at the riverbanks in Kapuas river where the air is engulfed with thick haze at Sei Ahass village, Kapuas district, Central Kalimantan province on Borneo island, Indonesia. 2015 © Ardiles Rante / Greenpeace

Consumer Brands Set Precedent by Suspending Samling Group

As the notorious timber and palm oil conglomerate Samling Group continues to destroy rainforests, Mighty Earth’s new scorecard reveals that many consumer brands like Nestlé and Unilever have taken action to suspend the group from their palm oil supply chains 

These actions could signal a new trend of adopting zero tolerance towards egregious groups that continue to engage in deforestation, peatland destruction and exploitation of vulnerable forest-dependent communities. However, urgent action is needed to close out markets for other rainforest destroyers like Samling. 

Our Rapid Response Deforestation Monitoring system uses satellite imagery to detect new instances of deforestation and peatland development across palm oil and timber plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia. The system identified at least 1,038 hectares of deforestation since August 2017 within Samling’s concessions in Sarawak, Malaysia. This is one of the largest amounts of deforestation by any single group detected by Rapid Response over the past three yearsFurthermore, the company has a long history of egregious human rights abuses.  

Therefore, buying palm oil from Samling constitutes a serious violation of the No-Deforestation, No-Peat and No-Exploitation (NDPE) policies that many of the world’s largest consumer brands have adopted. Mighty Earth reviewed the publicly available palm oil mill lists of these brands and contacted 17 companies that disclosed supply chain links to Samling. 

More than half of the 17 brands have taken the progressive step of instructing their suppliers to suspend Samling, earning an “A” score. These companies include Colgate-Palmolive, Danone, FrieslandCampina, Hershey’s, Nestlé, PZ Cussons, Reckitt Benckiser, Unilever and Upfield. 

By issuing a clear suspension instruction to their direct suppliers, these brands have taken a preventative stance on purging Samling palm oil from their supply chains. These suspensions block potential points of leakage from other companies that continue to source from Samling, such as BLD Plantation (part of the KTS Group), even though the company has adopted an NDPE policy. They also ensure that brands are not reliant on their direct suppliers – palm oil traders – to maintain suspensions themselves on rogue palm oil producers and sends a much stronger signal upstream that noncompliant producers will not have access to the NDPE markets. 

An example of an “A score from a brand is: We have communicated the suspension of direct / indirect supply from this group until further investigations and corrective actions are taken.” 

Many other brands have failed to issue a clear directive to all suppliers to suspend Samling but have engaged with their palm oil suppliers to ensure Samling palm oil is not entering their supply chains, receiving a “B.” These companies are General Mills, Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg’s, Mars, P&G and PepsiCo 

An example of a “B” score from a brand is: We identified potential links through several of our direct suppliers. We reached out to all suppliers with potential links to Samling and confirmed that all have either suspended or will not engage Samling in their supply chains.” 

Avon and Mondelēz International have failed to respond to Mighty Earth’s repeated emails, earning an “F.”  

In total, 88% of brands in our scorecard have taken varying levels of action to expel Samling palm oil from their supply chains. Notably, these consumer brands acted largely as a result of the evidence of Samling’s ongoing deforestation for timber plantations rather than for palm oil production Doing so demonstrates that brands have begun to understand the need to implement a group-level, cross-commodity approach to eradicating deforestation from their supply chain. For true transformational change, brands should exclude groups from their supply chains that continue to engage in deforestation and human rights abuses, regardless of what commodity was the driver of the violations.  In the end, the profits from commercial purchases go to the group’s owners or beneficiaries, who use them to continue their destructive practices and/or expand their business.  

However, more action is needed. Samling continues to destroy rainforest and has not adopted a group-wide NDPE policy or committed to remediate past destruction and abuses. Other tycoon-owned Sarawak logging and palm oil conglomerates such as Rimbunan Hijau Group and Shin Yang Group continue to clear rainforest in Sarawak and are still in the supply chains of major palm oil traders and consumer brands.   

The Samling case illustrates the value of transparency.  Based on companies’ public mill lists, Mighty Earth was able to communicate with key buyers of Samling and enable them to take action.  Those brands whose supply chains remain hidden from public view remain at severe risk of having rogue actors like Samling lurking in their supply chains. They cannot guarantee consumers that they have proper due diligence processes in place to eliminate deforestation and human rights violations from their supply chains.  For example, brands such as McDonald’s, Burger King, Starbucks and Yum Brands! have refused to release any publicly available information about the mills that they’re sourcing their palm oil from.   

Until consumer brands commit to true traceability, transparency and implementation of their NDPE policies, palm oil from unethical suppliers like Samling will continue to infiltrate the supply chains of many of the brands we know and love.  

Consumer Brand



Note to Readers
Our scoring rubric for evaluating company actions in response to Samling’s record was as follows:

A: Full Suspension
Company has communicated a “no-buy” requirement to their palm oil suppliers to ensure Samling is excluded from their supply chains

B: Partial Suspension
Company has not issued a formal “no-buy” requirement; however, the company has taken other significant action to ensure Samling palm oil is excluded from their supply chain

C: Engagement
Company is engaging their suppliers on the issue of Samling

F: No response
Company has not responded to Mighty Earth’s emails

Project to Build Japan's Largest Palm Oil Burning Power Plant Defeated

Environmental groups call on government to reform renewable energy incentives and for H.I.S. to abandon plans to build a similar plant

KYOTO, JAPAN – Environmental groups are celebrating today’s dissolution of Maizuru Green Initiatives GK, a company set up to build a palm oil burning power plant in Maizuru City, Japan. The controversial large-scale 66-megawatt biomass power plant was the subject of a 9 months-long campaign by local residents with support from Japanese and international environmental groups.

“This is a great victory for tropical forests and the residents of Maizuru. We are now calling on travel company H.I.S. in Miyagi and Sankei Energy in Kyoto to end their involvement with palm oil power plants, and for the Japanese government to stop subsidizing biomass power that worsens climate change,” said Yuichiro Ishizaki of HUTAN Group.

The Maizuru power plant sparked controversy for its use of palm oil as its primary fuel source. Malaysia and Indonesia are the primary producers of palm oil for Japan. Native tropical forests, including habitat for endangered orangutans, are being lost, with 3.5 million hectares of tropical rainforest in Indonesia and Malaysia converted into oil palm plantations over the last 20 years. Japan imports approximately 750,000 tons of palm oil per year, mainly for use in foods and products. If the Maizuru palm oil power plant were constructed, it would significantly add to this burden, burning an additional 120,000 tons per year.

Pressure from residents, including a petition with 11,000 signatures, prompted the project sponsor, AMP Energy of Toronto, Canada to withdraw from the project in April 2020. In a letter sent on Earth Day (April 22), Executive Chairman Paul Ezekiel stated: “Going forward, our company and our group will not consider power generation business that uses palm oil as its fuel.” Ezekiel was also quoted citing project difficulties which included “strong opposition from local residents.”

AMP’s withdrawal left a question as to whether the plant constructor and operator, Hitachi Zosen, would look for a new sponsor. At its annual shareholder meeting on June 23, 2020, Takashi Morimoto from the Maizuru residents group raised concerns and questioned Hitachi Zosen Managing Director Toshiyuki Shiraki about their plans for this plant. Shiraki responded that Hitachi Zosen would withdraw from this project. When asked for an explanation by a reporter, Shiraki stated: “It is because we have no prospect of investing in palm oil in the future.” Maizuru City followed suit, with the mayor announcing on June 26 that the city would no longer pursue the power plant project.

“It was all hands on deck for what we expected to be a years-long fight against this plant. It is amazing that we were able to see its cancelation in just nine months. I believe we were able to achieve victory due to a combination of local grassroots activities and advice from experienced NGOs. The world is full of problems, but I believe people in other regions can also change society for the better,” offered Takashi Morimoto of the Environmental Group of Maizuru West District.

Maizuru Plant Part of Larger Trend

In Japan, government incentives have spurred the use of palm oil for power generation. In 2012, Japan began incentives to support renewable energy (through the “feed-in-tariff” or FiT) where the government guarantees utilities will purchase electricity generated from renewable energy at a fixed price. Until recently, the feed-in-tariff system had the highest incentive in the world for biomass power (primarily wood pellets, palm kernel shells and palm oil) of 24 yen/KWh.

The more palm oil is burned for biomass power generation, the more global demand for palm oil will increase. As of March 2018, the total capacity of the palm oil power plant projects approved under the Japan’s FiT system was 1700 MW. If all were to be built, 3.4 million tons of palm oil would be burned each year -- nearly five times more than Japan’s current palm oil imports. This surge in demand threatens to have a huge environmental impact.

Japanese environmental advocates are battling a second large palm oil power plant under construction in Kakuda City, Miyagi Prefecture, and to date have collected 200,000 signatures against it. This plant is being built by H.I.S. Super Power, an affiliate of Japanese travel giant H.I.S.

“As a travel company, H.I.S. runs ecotours to places like Borneo, promoting a chance to experience the wonder of the natural world. How can they explain to these customers why they are also involved in a business which will burn large amounts of forest-destroying palm oil to make electricity? We are calling upon H.I.S. to follow Hitachi Zosen’s lead and renounce their involvement in palm oil power plants,” stated Kanna Mitsuta of Friends of the Earth, Japan.

Subsidizing Climate Change Biomass Worsens Climate Change

Unfortunately, Japanese government policy failed to put safeguards in place to avoid fuel sources linked to deforestation and with significant greenhouse gas emissions. A 2019 analysis done for Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) showed that palm oil had similar emissions to natural gas over its lifecycle (including cultivation, processing, transportation). However, when tropical forests are cleared, emissions increase five times; when peatlands are developed, emissions increase a staggering 139 times.

In addition to burning palm oil, Japan’s biomass policies also incentivize cutting down forests and burning wood, a practice that hinders our progress against climate change, as new trees regrow and reabsorb carbon slowly. Most wood burned in Japan is shipped from Vietnam or North America.

Maizuru Plant Attracted International Opposition

The Maizuru palm oil power plant attracted international attention, with environmental groups alarmed at Japan’s surge of biomass power plants. In a joint letter to 44 domestic and international financial institutions, 25 groups from 8 countries opposed this project, and palm oil power in general.

“The clock is ticking in our fight against global climate change – with only a few years to act, we cannot afford to waste time on false climate solutions,” said Mighty Earth Senior Campaign Director Deborah Lapidus. “Burning palm oil accelerates the destruction of the forests we need to absorb carbon. Burning wood biomass literally sends years’ worth of carbon sequestration up in smoke. Halting the Maizuru plant is an important step in ending the false promise of biomass and will help put the focus on truly renewable power solutions.”

Urgent Need to Reform Japan’s Renewable Energy Incentive Program

In April 2020, after calls for reform, METI required greenhouse gas assessment for new biomass fuel types under the feed-in-tariff. Advocates are urging METI to also place strict greenhouse gas emissions limits on existing fuels including palm oil, wood pellets and palm kernel shells.

“Japan’s renewable energy incentives should not subsidize fuels that worsen climate change,” stated Sayoko Iinuma of Global Environmental Forum. “Due to its high greenhouse gas emissions, palm oil should be excluded from the feed-in-tariff, and METI needs to adopt strict emissions limits for wood biomass as well.”

Campaign website (Japanese/limited English):

Indigenous Papuan Man Killed by Brutal Beating at Korindo Palm Oil Plantation

Mighty Earth recently received news of the tragic death of an Indigenous Papuan man and former palm oil plantation employee named Marius Betera, who was brutally beaten at the hands of the local police authorities and died hours later.

The news came from Mighty Earth’s civil society partners in Papua, Indonesia. SKP KAMe Meruake, a Catholic humanitarian organization based in the area where this incident occurred, issued a statement in response to the killing, which shares detailed testimony from witnesses concerning the circumstances of Betera's death. The statement also notes that large companies like Korindo frequently use violence to repress community concerns, with local police commonly acting as company security. The statement further calls for immediate action to bring the perpetrator to justice and for the local government to provide strict sanctions on companies that violate laws and regulations, ranging from the revocation of licenses to the restoration of Indigenous rights.

According to eyewitness accounts, Betera was attacked at the office of a palm oil plantation company owned by Korindo Group, a notorious Korean-Indonesian logging and palm oil conglomerate with a long record of deforestation and exploitation of indigenous communities in Indonesia. Betera had reportedly come to the company's office to lodge a complaint after the recent destruction of his banana plantation, which he suspected had been cleared by a Korindo company excavator the previous day.

In response to the news, Mighty Earth Senior Campaign Director, Deborah Lapidus, released the following statement:

“Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Marius Betera, who are now suffering as result of this appalling act of violence. There must be swift action by local law enforcement and Korindo to ensure justice is provided to Betera’s family and his community.

“But the response can't stop there. Our investigations into Korindo's operations have exposed the company’s record of wanton disregard for and exploitation of Papuan rainforests and the indigenous people who call those forests home. Yet Korindo has largely dismissed these concerns, or, when it could no longer avoid accountability, merely paid lip service to agreements to improve its practices. One such agreement, as stated on the Korindo website, is to ‘resolve grievances promptly, responsibly, responsively, and proactively;’ yet Betera’s grievance resulted in his death.

“The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which certifies its member companies’ adherence to environmental and human rights standards, should also immediately open its own investigation into this alleged act of violence and suppression, especially in light of Korindo’s earlier agreement with FSC to ‘comply with the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) and remediate its negative impacts on communities.’”

A two-year investigation of Korindo's deforestation practices by the FSC, prompted by a complaint filed by Mighty Earth, found that, among other violations, Korindo had violated traditional and human rights in Papua and North Maluku, Indonesia. The investigative reports detailed how Korindo had repeatedly manipulated, intimidated, and cheated communities, impacting their health, livelihoods, and rights.

Under pressure from Korindo, the FSC stopped short of sanctioning or withdrawing its certification of Korindo. Instead, in its agreement with the FSC, Korindo committed to “Undertake remedy and improvement processes to assure social measures have been and will be fair and proportionate and subject to FPIC of affected communities in Papua and North Maluku.” To date, the FSC has not provided any updates on the stakeholder process it promised to initiate that will determine Korindo’s liabilities to local communities and its deforestation legacy. The FSC further stated that “FSC will closely monitor Korindo’s progress of its implementation of the measures and conditions stipulated by FSC. Failure to satisfactorily meet these conditions would be basis for FSC to end its association with the company.”

Photo: A Korindo-owned plantation in Papua, © Mighty Earth 2016

Unilever, Mars, Hershey, and World's Largest Palm Oil Traders Suspend Rogue Supplier Over Its Relentless Deforestation

Notorious tycoon-owned timber and palm oil conglomerate Samling scrambles to adopt sham “No Deforestation” policy to keep customers while continuing to destroy rainforests

Some of the world’s largest consumer goods brands and their palm oil suppliers have suspended one of Malaysia’s most notorious timber and palm oil conglomerates, Samling Group, due to its relentless deforestation. To date, major consumer brands including Unilever, Mars, and Hershey – as well as palm oil traders including ADM, Bunge, Cargill, IOI, KLK, Louis Dreyfus, Sime Darby, Fuji Oil, and Wilmar (the world’s largest palm oil trader) – have suspended Samling from their supply chains.

As part of its Rapid Response deforestation monitoring program, Mighty Earth has documented at least 886 hectares of deforestation during the period September 2018-March 2020 in Samling’s timber plantation concessions in Sarawak, Malaysia.

Samling’s palm oil operations cover around 40,000 hectares in Malaysia and Indonesia, whereas its industrial tree plantation licences in Sarawak cover over 200,000 hectares, an area over five times the size of Singapore.

“Unilever, Mars, Hershey and others have acted swiftly by instructing their palm oil suppliers to impose a procurement suspension of Samling for its global supply chain. Samling has responded to these suspensions with a desperate bid to keep its remaining palm oil customers – not by halting all its forest clearance, but by holding up a shiny policy with one hand to distract its customers while continuing deforestation with the other hand,” said Mighty Earth Senior Campaign Director Deborah Lapidus.

A Samling-owned palm oil company – Glenealy Plantations – has declared a moratorium on further oil palm development and issued a no-deforestation policy. However, the new policy fails to stop Samling’s largest source of ongoing deforestation – its continued expansion of monoculture timber plantations. In addition, Glenealy’s oil palm land bank is mostly developed already, making the impact of the new policy minimal.

Palm oil trader Sime Darby informed Mighty Earth that: “We would like to confirm that we have notified Samling that we will no longer be sourcing from them due to concerns raised by our key customers. Central to these concerns is the adoption of NDPE [No Deforestation, No Peat, and No Exploitation] commitments across the whole Samling Group, and not just for Glenealy Plantations.” Fuji Oil, another palm oil trader, has also suspended Samling on the basis that its continued deforestation is not aligned with Fuji Oil’s Palm Oil Sourcing Policy and group-level association.

Publicly available mill sourcing lists and other data indicate that companies including BLD Plantations (KTS Group), Sarawak Oil Palms (Shin Yang Group), Nestlé, Mondelez, and PepsiCo have yet to take action to exclude Samling from their supply chains, despite having No Deforestation policies.

“In our outreach to Samling’s palm oil buyers, many stated that they didn’t need to take action because Samling’s deforestation was for timber, not palm oil. But a rainforest being destroyed for timber plantations is just as bad as a rainforest being destroyed for palm oil, and the profits are going to the same shareholders of the Samling group. There is no excuse for a company with a No Deforestation policy to be buying from rogue deforesters like Samling, plain and simple,” said Lapidus.

Founded by Datuk Yaw Teck Seng over 50 years ago, the Samling Group has a long track record of forest destruction and violations of the rights of indigenous peoples. In 2017, a coalition of Burmese civil society groups published a report detailing land grabbing, indigenous rights violations, and environmental problems in Samling’s palm oil operations in Myanmar. Findings included Samling’s role in the pollution of local water sources and clear-cutting of forests inside a proposed national park that is home to endangered tigers. A February 2020 article by The Sarawak Report, a NGO run by a British investigative journalist, alleges that a Samling-related company in Papua New Guinea has failed to “pay four indigenous groups nearly USD$100 million in compensation for large-scale illegal logging, environmental destruction and serious human rights abuses related to the Kiunga – Aiambak road project in Papua New Guinea.” This finding is based on a 2011 Papua New Guinea court judgment. A 2002 Greenpeace International report on this ‘road project’ (‘Partners in Crime’) described it as an unlawful, destructive ploy to open up new areas of rainforest for logging.