One year after Nestlé committed to giving rainforests a break

What has been achieved?

Feature story - 23 May, 2011
It’s now been one year since pressure from thousands of people around the world convinced the world’s largest food and drink company - Nestlé - to give Indonesian rainforests and their inhabitants a break by removing products responsible for deforestation from their supply-chains.

After a truly extraordinary and inspiring campaign that saw supporters, activists and concerned consumers - both online and off - maintain relentless pressure for change, the food giant took a giant step forwards by agreeing to a set of unprecedented commitments.

Following this, Nestlé announced its partnership with The Forest Trust (TFT) to implement a program that would see deforestation removed from all of its products as well as provide the kind of accountability and transparency so often lacking from such commitments. The company is making a serious attempt to raise the bar when it comes to corporate action against deforestation and we will continue encouraging them along this track.

Such tangible commitments from a company like Nestlé plainly demonstrates not only the importance of the issue, but also the effectiveness of one of our most innovative, sustained and well supported campaigns to date. People power in action is a beautiful thing and everyone involved deserves a big congratulations and a thank you.

In March 2010, after we launched the campaign online, the removal of our 'Have a break?' from YouTube sparked a groundswell of interest as well a rapidly escalating PR disaster for Nestlé. Views of the video shot up and helped to drive interest in the campaign –the total number of views on all versions of the video is currently two million!

A year later and we have seen Nestlé - in collaboration with TFT - adopt new Responsible Sourcing Guidelines (RSGs), supply-chain maps for almost all palm oil and a supplier assessment process that sees Nestlé working with suppliers to identify shortcomings and help them to become a No Deforestation supplier.

But it gets better! In an inspiring demonstration of the infectious nature of change, Golden Agri Resources (GAR) - the palm oil arm of the Sinar Mas Group announced earlier this year its adoption of a Forest Conservation Policy, as a direct result of the pressure from Nestlé and other companies like Unilever and Kraft. Working with The Forest Trust, GAR has committed to halt the clearing of areas designated High Carbon Storage (HCS), peatlands and areas of High Conservation Value - including areas vital to local livelihoods and animal habitat.

But, there is still a lot of work to be done. Despite such positive and encouraging developments, Indonesia’s rainforest continues to disappear at a terrifying rate. While GAR, one arm of Sinar Mas, makes commitments to conservation, another of its companies - Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) - continues to pulp millions of tonnes of Indonesian rainforest every year; including the habitat of the endangered Sumatran tiger and areas of High Carbon Storage. A map released by the Indonesian government to accompany last week’s announcement of a moratorium, which puts a temporary halt to forest destruction, makes clear that the Indonesian government will keep allowing APP to destroy significant areas of natural forest and peatland.

APP and Sinar Mas need to hear the demands of people all over the world and feel the pressure of the amazing momentum that is building towards forest protection. Until it implements policies that stop the ongoing destruction of Indonesia’s carbon-rich peatlands and rainforests, the Sinar Mas group will continue to sell rainforest destruction in its products and Greenpeace will continue to investigate and expose its malpractices.

Deforestation at the APP (Asian Pulp and Paper) Concession in Siak District, Indonesia taken from the Greenpeace report 'How Sinar Mas is Pulping the Planet'. Image: FB Anggoro / Greenpeace