Palm oil leading cause of Indonesia forest destruction: RSPO leaves big brands exposed

Press release - 6 September, 2013
Jakarta/Sydney, 3 September 2013: The palm oil sector was the single largest driver of deforestation in Indonesia between 2009-2011, accounting for about a quarter of the country’s forest loss, revealed Greenpeace International in new mapping analysis published today.

The analysis shows that significant deforestation took place in concessions currently owned by members of the palm oil industry’s largest sustainability organisation, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, including companies such as Singapore-based Wilmar International.

More damning is the revelation that RSPO concessions accounted for 39% of the fire hotspots on palm oil concessions in Riau during January - June 2013.

"The RSPO wants its members to be industry leaders in sustainability, but its current standards leave them free to destroy forests and drain peatland. Year after year, Indonesia’s forest fires and haze wreak havoc on the region, and the palm oil sector is a main culprit. While RSPO members might have no-fire policies, the peatland they have cleared and drained is like a tinderbox – one spark is all it takes," said Bustar Maitar, head of Greenpeace International’s Indonesia Forest Campaign.

Since June, Greenpeace has contacted over 250 palm oil consumer companies asking how they ensure their supply chains are not linked to forest destruction. Of the replies received so far, it seems that almost all companies rely solely on the RSPO to meet any ‘sustainability’ commitments they may have. However, as Greenpeace evidence shows, the RSPO is currently not fit for this purpose.

"In Australia, many of the large food and grocery manufacturers, including the retailers, have commitments to source 100 per cent RSPO certified palm oil by 2015," said Reece Turner, Campaigner with Greenpeace Australia. “These companies and the household brands we find on our supermarket shelves cannot rely on the RSPO to guarantee they are not linked to forest destruction.” 

Traders, such as as prominent RSPO member Wilmar, are part of the problem. They control much of the palm oil trade from Indonesia. The palm oil traded through their refineries mixes palm oil from more responsible producers indiscriminately with palm oil from deforestation and destruction of critical wildlife habitat and peatland.

“The only solution for palm oil consumers and producers is to go beyond the RSPO – as some members are doing already. This is the challenge we pose to the industry. Brands must find out where their palm oil comes from and provide guarantees to consumers that forest destruction is not making its way into our everyday products,” said Turner

"The next Australian Government can help consumers and the forests of the region by requiring that palm oil and indeed all vegetable oils are labelled as recommended by the 2011 'Blewett' Review of Food Labelling Report'," said Turner

According to official Ministry of Forestry maps, Indonesia lost some 1.24 million hectares of forest over the period 2009 to 2011, equivalent to 620,000 hectares per year.

 Note to editor:

1. The report “Certifying Destruction” can be viewed here: www.greenpeace.org/international/certifying-destruction 

Photos can be viewed here: http://photo.greenpeace.org/C.aspx?VP3=ViewBox_VPage&ALID=27MZIFVXL539&CT=Album;

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