Mighty Earth is working to make sure that when you purchase replacement tires for your car the only thing you need to worry about is performance and safety, not deforestation and human rights abuse. Production of natural rubber for tires is a major driver of deforestation in gibbon, elephant, and tiger habitats.

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.”

 

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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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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Bad Year: Driving Deforestation


April 2018

Investigation finds that at least two of Goodyear’s major current suppliers have been linked to deforestation and human rights abuses at their rubber plantations in Cambodia and Cameroon.

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Updates

Is Nothing Sacred?


Indigenous people in Muoy and Inn villages in Ratanakiri were recently heartbroken to find that rubber agribusiness HAGL had partially cleared the sacred Patu Mountain

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Progress Update on Cameroon Rubber Accord – October 2020


The world's largest rubber company has taken vital and encouraging steps but has a long journey ahead to make its operations in Cameroon and worldwide fully sustainable.

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European Parliament Urges the EU to Stop Deforestation


The European Parliament has 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.

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European Consumers Demand Sustainable Natural Rubber: Survey


Unsustainable natural rubber is increasingly becoming a reputational risk for consumer-facing brands

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Report: Michelin Covered Up Industrial Deforestation by its Indonesian Partner in “Eco-Friendly” Rubber Venture


World's largest tire company seeking millions from investors to restore forest that its own business partner destroyed.

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Can Agroforestry Provide a Lifeline for Struggling Rubber Farmers and Threatened Forests?


Agroforestry is a step closer to a sustainable transformation in the natural rubber sector.

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After Vote, Mighty Earth Hails Important Progress in Rubber Industry


Strong measures will improve industry’s sustainability and accountability with successful implementation

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Mighty Earth Sends Strong Message to Car Companies Ahead of Crucial Rubber Industry Vote


As members prepare to vote on several key resolutions at the annual General Assembly of the Global Platform on Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR), Mighty Earth has urged car companies to reaffirm their commitments to a sustainable rubber industry.

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European Tire & Rubber Manufacturers Plan to Put More Vehicles on the Roads in Response to Covid-19


Proposal for an EU-funded vehicle renewal scheme would likely increase car ownership and could pose serious public health risks

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Report: Bridgestone Connected to Ongoing Labor and Environmental Concerns on its Liberia Rubber Plantation


New investigation documents serious ongoing issues at the planet’s largest rubber plantation

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Stretching the possibilities for a sustainable rubber industry in 2020


We believe all these things and more are achievable in 2020, and will continue to try to stretch the possibilities for transforming the natural rubber industry this year.

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Mighty Earth’s Etelle Higonnet Named to France’s National Order of Merit


French President Emmanuel Macron has named Mighty Earth's Etelle Higonnet a Chevalier of France’s Ordre national du Mérite

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Multi-Stakeholder Workshop Lays Groundwork for Growth of Sustainable Rubber


Mighty Earth and our allies hosted a workshop in Thailand which brought together 100 rubber farmers, traders, processors, NGOs, government representatives, and consumer brands that use rubber—like Goodyear tires and Converse shoes—to discuss one thing: sustainable natural rubber.

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Deforestation Continues Because Companies Aren’t Trying


Nobody doing business with Cargill and JBS can credibly say they are concerned about deforestation

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Looking at Opportunities for Sustainability in Rubber


Join us for a multi-stakeholder dialogue near some of the most interesting sustainable rubber farming innovation in Hat Yai, Thailand.

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A Dialogue With Halcyon — Encouraging Change in the Rubber Industry


Mighty Earth decided to investigate the supply chain of the world’s biggest rubber supplier, Halcyon -- which controls 12 percent of the planet’s rubber. Positive change from this company could be key to transforming the broader industry.

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Infographic: The Hidden Cost of Rubber


Rubber is everywhere around us: in the tires on your car or bike, in your shoes, in sporting goods, and much more. But did you know the rubber in your everyday products is likely causing massive environmental devastation?

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Launch of New Global Platform Sets Stage for Rubber Industry to Address Environmental Damage


Mighty Earth joins Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber as Founding Member.

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Springing into Action on Rubber


As the World Rubber Summit kicks off in Singapore, we explain why Mighty Earth has become a Founding Member of the new Global Platform on Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR).

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World’s Largest Tire Manufacturers Roll Backwards on Sustainability


Today, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s (WBCSD) Tire Industry Project (TIP) launch its long-awaited Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR) – but sustainability advocates claim it prohibits key stakeholders like non-governmental and civil society organizations or small scale farmers from having a seat at the table.

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Continental and Yokohama Jump on the Almost-Sustainable Rubber Bandwagon


One week before the launch of a new Global Platform on Sustainable Natural Rubber hatched by tire companies and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), two big players, Continental and Yokohama, have released their own sustainable rubber purchasing policies

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Michelin’s Greenwashing Must End. It’s Time for Sustainable Rubber Production.


Rubber harvesting is causing devastation on a massive scale. And as one of the largest tire brands in the world, Michelin should be leading the charge to drive greener practices in the industry. But where the rubber hits the road, Michelin is falling short.

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A Fork in the Road for the Rubber Industry? 


By the shores of Lake Geneva, a modern office building houses a little-known organization that could play a huge part in the fate of the world’s tropical forests.  

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Tire Monster Tour Launches in Goodyear’s Home State of Ohio 


On the heels of Goodyear Tire’s announcement of a natural rubber procurement policy that experts are concerned is not strong enough to hold suppliers accountable, Mighty Earth unveils the Tire Monster — a ten-foot tall, 500-pound sculpture made of discarded tires.

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Goodyear’s New Deforestation-Free Rubber Policy Falls Short


With the recent release of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company’s new Natural Rubber Procurement Policy, experts express concern that this policy may not be strong enough to hold the world’s third-largest tire company’s current suppliers accountable.

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The Tire Monster


Coming soon to America, there will be a tire monster roaming the streets, and he’s livid about deforestation for rubber.

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Victory! Bridgestone, World’s Largest Tire & Rubber Company, Announces End to Deforestation, Land Grabbing


Bridgestone Tires, the world’s largest tire and rubber company commits to protecting rainforests that are critical habitat for wildlife like gibbons, orangutans, tigers, and elephants, as well as addressing labor and human rights abuses.

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Pirelli Tires Commits to Deforestation Free Rubber


Global tire giant Pirelli, a major user of natural rubber, has released a sustainable rubber policy that promises to protect people and forests by banning deforestation, land grabbing, and labor abuse.  

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Michelin Isn’t Reinventing the Wheel, It’s Reinventing the Rubber Supply Chain


Scientists estimate that a forest the size of Indiana will be cut down to plant rubber trees over the next eight years. Michelin, the world’s largest buyer of natural rubber, says the deforestation has to stop and it’s pledging to go green.

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