Reports

Complicit: An Investigation into Deforestation at Michelin’s Royal Lestari Utama Project in Sumatra, Indonesia


This report alleges that Michelin, the world’s largest tire company, was complicit in and covered up industrial-scale deforestation of over 2,500 hectares of rainforest in the run-up to the launch of its flagship  ‘eco-friendly’ sustainable natural rubber joint venture project in Sumatra, Indonesia. The project, undertaken in partnership with a company described as ‘within the Barito Pacific Group’, is currently seeking an additional $120 million in investment from green financiers.

Read the full report here and find the press release below.
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Report: Michelin Covered Up Industrial Deforestation by its Indonesian Partner in “Eco-Friendly” Rubber Venture

New report claims world’s largest tire company currently seeking millions of additional dollars from investors to restore forest that its own business partner destroyed

Available in Français, Bahasa Indonesia

WASHINGTON, DC – A new report released by environmental campaign group Mighty Earth alleges that Michelin, the world’s largest tire company, was complicit in and covered up industrial-scale deforestation of over 2,500 hectares of rainforest in the run-up to the launch of its flagship  ‘eco-friendly’ sustainable natural rubber joint venture project in Sumatra, Indonesia. The project, undertaken in partnership with a company described as ‘within the Barito Pacific Group’, is currently seeking an additional $120 million in investment from green financiers.

Evidence in the new report shows some 2,590 ha of rainforest – over seven times the size of New York’s Central Park, or equivalent to the size of central Paris – was industrially deforested by subsidiaries of Michelin’s Indonesian joint venture partner in a 33-month period to January 2015 to make way for natural rubber plantations in the flagship rubber, wildlife and conservation-focused Royal Lestari Utama (RLU) Project in Jambi, Sumatra. Of this total, Mighty Earth also found 1,298 ha of rainforest was industrially deforested in a Wildlife Conservation Area, and which is now planted with thousands of rubber trees under the RLU Project.

Situated adjacent to the Bukit Tigapuluh National Park in central Sumatra, these globally significant, wildlife and nature-rich tropical rainforests are home to two forest-dependent Indigenous communities – the Talang Mamak and Orang Rimba – and provide critical habitat for endangered Sumatran elephants, tigers and reintroduced orangutans.

France-based Michelin Group is the world’s largest tire company, and natural rubber is the key ingredient in the vehicle tires that it manufactures and sells worldwide. The RLU Project has since gone on to attract financing from Asia’s first $95 million corporate sustainability ‘Green bond’, as well as public funds from the Norwegian, UK and US governments, and is imminently slated to receive further financing from a second $120 million green bond.

“This is a major deforestation scandal,” says report author Alex Wijeratna, Campaign Director at Mighty Earth. “Our evidence shows thousands of hectares of wildlife-rich rainforests were industrially deforested in Jambi in the run-up to the agreement of the RLU Project in late 2014. Michelin knew about this terrible forest destruction, they didn’t do enough to stop it, and instead chose to provide green cover to the project in order to attract green bond investors that have since sunk millions of dollars into the scheme.”

Michelin publicly announced its 88,000-hectare joint venture RLU Project in May 2015, with an Indonesian company later officially described as ‘within the Barito Pacific Group’. At the time, Michelin said the Jambi concession area was “…ravaged by uncontrolled deforestation”, blaming outside culprits such as encroachers, migrants and organized criminal groups.

In contrast, Mighty Earth’s report alleges that it was Michelin’s joint venture partner itself – RLU’s subsidiary on the ground known as PT Lestari Asri Jaya (LAJ) – that perpetrated much of this destruction through industrial forest clearance, particularly within a block of the concession known as LAJ 4. The new publication, Complicit: An Investigation into Deforestation at Michelin’s Royal Lestari Utama Project in Sumatra, Indonesia, shows that, in April 2012, there were 3,966 hectares of intact forest covering almost the entire case study area within LAJ 4. By the time the RLU joint venture project began in January 2015, just 138 hectares of that forest remained. Analysis by Mighty Earth of high-resolution satellite images points to large-scale rubber planting replacing this natural forest.

Mighty Earth has been in talks with Michelin and RLU in Indonesia about its research in Jambi since September 2019, and has requested several key social and environmental due diligence documents and reports conducted prior to the project launch to be made publicly available. The companies have repeatedly turned down Mighty Earth’s requests, despite the fact that public funds have been used to back the project.

The campaign group did manage to view one of these confidential pre-venture assessments, and insist it confirms that Michelin was told what was happening on the ground in Jambi at the time.

“Mighty Earth has seen a confidential report commissioned by Michelin that shows the company knew deforestation in the PT LAJ concessions was partly the result of land clearing carried out by PT LAJ itself,” says Wijeratna. “The report includes geo-tagged photos of LAJ bulldozers clearing land and forests next to the Bukit Tigapuluh National Park, but it’s unknown if Michelin ever shared this information with donors, funders, or green bond investors.”

“Public and private investors in these new so-called ‘green bonds’ or ‘sustainability bonds’ have so far pumped nearly $100 million into the RLU Project in Indonesia in good faith, and will soon be asked for $120 million more,” says Wijeratna. “We’re calling for an independent investigation to get to the bottom of the murky business during the run-up to this so-called green rubber project, and believe the second ‘green bond’ offering shouldn’t go ahead until all the facts about what happened in Jambi are in the public domain.”

The opaque due diligence and community consultation processes also continue to have ongoing social ramifications in Jambi. “Farmers reported land tenure conflicts with RLU’s local subsidiary on the ground,” says Fenna Otten from the University of Göttingen’s department of Human Geography, who conducted field research in nearby Muara Sekalo village in 2017. “Villagers said they had no choice but to leave their land to the company. They were pushed off and felt powerless. Michelin shouldn’t gain green bond finance and public praise for this sham of a sustainable development project.”

In mid-September, local communities again protested what they say are unfair landgrabs carried out to establish the RLU project, holding a demonstration in Tebo, Jambi.

“You can’t stop deforestation and land grabbing unless you know who’s responsible,” says Wijeratna. “It’s part of a broader transparency problem with Michelin and the rubber industry as a whole. Michelin won’t even reveal what companies it sources its rubber from. If Michelin is to live up to its stated zero-deforestation and human rights aspirations, it needs to come clean about what happened in Jambi, and use its industry leadership position to become a champion for greater transparency across the whole rubber supply chain.”

 

Smoke in Porto Vehlo

Fanning the Flames: The Corporations Destroying the Amazon and Worsening the COVID-19 Pandemic


September 2020

A new analysis by environmental campaign organization Mighty Earth, working in collaboration with MapHubs, links meat companies JBS, Marfrig, and Minerva to the fires raging in the Amazon and highlights how these fires are likely exacerbating the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on local communities. The report maps the fires intentionally set in Brazil this year and overlays local company supply chain information to understand which companies are driving the destruction. Mighty Earth’s analysis also highlights how these fires are likely exacerbating the impacts of COVID-19. The three hotspot municipalities reported a combined 47,988 cases as of August 16, 2020, and an infection rate more than twice the national average by total population. 

Read the full report here.

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Key elements for an agreement between the EU and cocoa-producing countries, to ensure sustainability in the cocoa sector


The paper outlines a vision for a new partnership agreement between the European Union and the governments of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire to tackle deforestation, poverty and social issues in the cocoa sector. It outlines what an agreement should look like, how it should be negotiated, who should be involved, and how it could work with expected new EU laws to address imported deforestation and human rights abuses.
Read here

Ranking Soy Traders’ Performance on Deforestation


September 2020

Mighty Earth’s new report examines the sustainability policies and performance of six of the largest soy traders (Louis Dreyfus Company, Archer-Daniels-Midland Company, Amaggi, COFCO International, Cargill, and Bunge) to determine which traders have the most – and least – land impacts and land rights violations in their supply chain. The analysis is intended to illustrate to buyers, including consumer goods manufacturers and retailers, that certain traders offer less risk and less environmental and social impacts compared to their peers.

Read the full report here.

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Agroforestry in the cocoa sector: A need for ambitious collaborative landscape approaches


August 2020

Cocoa agroforestry systems can bring a wide range of ecological benefits; biodiversity con-servation of ora and fauna, carbon sequestration, preserving and strengthening soil mois-ture and fertility, contributing to pest control, and microclimatic control such as stimulating rainfall, and many other benefits.

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How the Sausage Gets Made


May 2020

Every year, the Danish meat giant Danish Crown produces huge amounts of pork from pigs fed with soy that has come from deforested areas in South America. This report from Rainforest Foundation Norway, Mighty Earth in the United States, and Forests of the World in Denmark charts the connection between Danish Crown’s soy imports and environmental destruction in South America.

Read here

The Coronavirus Climate Profiteers


April 2020

Most people see a global pandemic that is killing tens of thousands of people. But many of the world’s worst polluting companies have used the crisis as an excuse to extract tens of billions of dollars in new government subsidies and slash environmental regulations. They are doing so in ways that will make people more vulnerable to coronavirus and increase the likelihood of future pandemics. A lot of people are understandably furious about small-time coronavirus grifters, like the guy hoarding Purell in his garage. That’s bad, but it’s nothing compared to the cynicism and public health hazards created by leading coronavirus profiteers and their enablers.

Read the full report here.

Easter Consumer Report 2020


April 2020

Mighty Earth teamed up with Green America and Be Slavery free to publish the 2020 Easter Scorecard. This guide breaks down commitments and policies from chocolate companies and cocoa traders.

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A Bridge Too Far? Social and Environmental Concerns in Bridgestone’s Liberian Rubber Plantation and A Plan for Remediation


February 2020

New investigation documenting serious labor and environmental concerns at the single largest rubber plantation on the planet – the Firestone Rubber Plantation in Harbel, Liberia.

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Sumitomo Corporation’s Dirty Energy Trade


December 2019

New report exposes how Japan’s policies are empowering a major corporation that embraces and invests in dirty energy sources like coal and biomass. Download

Cocoa and African Deforestation


December 2019

New white paper analyzes the Cocoa Forest Initiative’s shortcomings and provides suggestions for improvement.

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Joint Position Paper on the EU’s policy and regulatory approach to cocoa


December 2019

Position paper calls on the European Union to strengthen human rights and environmental due diligence requirements of companies in global cocoa supply chains.

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The Companies Behind the Burning of the Amazon


August 2019

New maps and analysis from Mighty Earth, based on data from NASA, CONAB, and Imazon and released here for the first time, show which companies are most closely linked to the burning of the Amazon.

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Restoration & Reparations: Reforming the world’s largest rubber company


August 2019

Report documents social and environmental problems found at the Hévécam rubber plantation in southern Cameroon, which is owned by Halcyon Agri, “the world’s leading rubber franchise.”

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Cargill: The Worst Company in the World


July 2019

Report documents decades of bad acts by US-based agribusiness giant, Cargill, and highlights the need for urgent action.

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Easter Consumer Report 2019


April 2019

We updated our purchasing guide in 2019, adding a ‘Rotten Egg’ award and a ‘Most Improved Award’ as well as dozens of new companies.

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Behind the Wrapper


December 2018

Despite the chocolate industry’s pledge to cease sourcing cocoa linked to deforestation one year ago, a new Mighty Earth report finds that deforestation in West Africa for cocoa has continued, and in some cases has increased.

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Construction Destruction: The Hidden Carbon Costs of Dirty Steel


November 2018

Report exposes the enormous carbon footprint of steel used in green construction. The global steel industry emits 2.3 gigatons of carbon dioxide each year – equivalent to the emissions from 569 coal plants.

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Growing the Good


October 2018

Report from the Changing Markets Foundation and Mighty Earth reveals that there is a complete lack of public policies in place to ensure the food sector is part of the solution to climate change.

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