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Indonesia’s forests still under threat from palm oil industry, new research shows

Nusa Dua, Bali – WEBWIRE

As the industry gathers in Bali for the annual Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil conference, a new report by Greenpeace International [1] reveals that suppliers to the world’s biggest consumer brands still cannot guarantee their palm oil is free from forest destruction. None of the companies could prove there was no deforestation in their palm oil supply chain.

The palm oil industry is a leading cause of deforestation in Indonesia [2]. Three years after the world’s biggest palm oil traders adopted ‘no deforestation’ policies, Greenpeace International examined 11 traders to see how much progress they had made. Not only were they unable to prove their suppliers were not destroying rainforests, but most could not say when their supply chain would be deforestation-free.

“The palm oil industry is still broken and our report shows the traders don’t have a plan to fix it. Instead of taking their commitments seriously, most traders have a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy that pretends everything is under control while Indonesia’s forests go up in smoke,” said Bagus Kusuma, forest campaigner with Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

These findings will be met with alarm by household brands that use palm oil. Most brands, including the 400 companies in the Consumer Goods Forum, have committed to clean up their palm oil supply by 2020. Only two of the traders Greenpeace International assessed were planning to meet that deadline. The vast majority had no deadlines at all, leaving their customers with no way to stop dirty palm oil entering their products.

“This is a wake up call for brands such as PepsiCo, Unilever, Procter & Gamble and Mondelez, which promised their customers they’d cut their ties with forest destruction. Consumer brands cannot rely upon palm oil traders to deliver them deforestation-free palm oil. Instead, brands need to step up and make traders cut off growers that won’t change their dirty practices.”

The situation is critical for Indonesia’s forests. The country has lost 31 million hectares of forest – an area almost the size of Germany – since 1990 [3]. Deforestation is also a major threat to the endangered animals who live there, such as orangutans. This year, a study published on Borneo and Sumatra orangutans showed that the population has significantly declined, with destruction of their habitat a leading cause of the crisis. [4]

Greenpeace is calling on palm oil traders and brands to keep their promises and stop buying from companies still clearing rainforests.

Key findings from the assessment:

  • None of the companies surveyed were able to say with any certainty that there is no deforestation in their palm oil supply chain.
  • Although 10 of the 11 traders had a ‘no deforestation’ policy, only two of them had set an implementation deadline. The others were unable to say by when they will clean up their palm oil supply.
  • Most traders did not have maps of their suppliers’ plantations, making it impossible to find out whether they were clearing forests or not.


[1] Greenpeace International’s ‘Still Cooking the Climate’ report, available here.

[2] Drivers of Deforestation in Indonesia, Inside and Outside Concessions Areas analysis by World Resources institute available here.

[3] Mapping analysis from Greenpeace International’s Under Fire report, available here

[4] a) Borneo orangutans in decline, official survey shows; b) ‘Kondisi Terkini Populasi dan Habitat Orangutan’ (‘Current Condition of Orangutan Population and Habitat’) -- Media release from Environment and Forestry Ministry, 22 August 2017

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