It’s a landmark day in the battle to stop the destruction of Indonesia’s rainforests, and to save its orangutans, tigers and other biodiversity.
Today at a press conference in Jakarta, Golden Agri Resources (GAR), the palm oil arm of giant conglomerate Sinar Mas, pledged to stop clearing forest areas that are high in carbon, referred to as 'High Carbon Storage' (HCS) forest, and renewed its commitments not to clear peatlands and forests of High Conservation Value, which are areas that are important for local livelihoods and as critical animal habitat.
Golden Agri also announced its collaboration with The Forest Trust (TFT) to implement these commitments on the ground, the same non-profit group working with Nestlé on implementing its no deforestation commitments.
India is the world’s biggest importer of palm oil, most of it from Indonesia. A large percentage of that is believed to come from Golden Agri-Resources. Palm oil is an ubiquitous commodity, found in almost everything from biscuits, chocolates and ice creams to detergents and cosmetics.
Indian players such as Godrej, Hindustan Unilever, VVF Ltd and Ruchi-Soya have already communicated their discomfort with purchasing palm oil linked to Indonesian deforestation and urged the Indian government to incentivise 'clean' oil.(1)
GAR’s announcement is an important signal that the rest of the Indian industry, and Indonesian producers, need to take note of. Today’s move could signal the start of a shift throughout the palm oil industry, and eventually lead to full forest and peatland protection.
Golden Agri has been under fire from Greenpeace for several years for its forest and peat clearance practices, which have threatened endangered species and contributed to Indonesia’s spiraling CO2 emissions.
If implemented, GAR's new policies will ensure that it is no longer clearing forest or peatlands.
A key commitment by Golden Agri-Resources is a pledge not to clear ‘High Carbon Storage’ forest. Under the company’s new plans, they have set a provisional threshold and will not be developing land which contains over 35 tonnes of carbon per hectare. Importantly, this figure is in line with figures for low carbon development recommended to the Indonesian Government by their own advisors.
As the world’s leading importer of Indonesian palm oil, India needs to send a clear signal that it does not want to be responsible for the destruction of Indonesia’s rainforests. Industrial users of palm oil in India need to ask their suppliers to clean up their act, for business and environmental reasons.
The fight against forest destruction in Indonesia is far from won, but today does mark a decisive day in what has been a long war. The focus is now on other companies to take up the gauntlet thrown down by GAR.