The global Greenpeace effort to end deforestation in Indonesia has enjoyed unprecedented success in the last year.  From the world’s largest food company and the world’s largest bank, to a global restaurant brand and one of the largest buyers of palm oil on the planet, it seemed that companies could not cut ties with palm oil from the Sinar Mas conglomerate fast enough.

The news today both results from, and dwarfs those previous announcements: Sinar Mas palm oil branch Golden Agri-Resources (GAR) has unveiled a plan to no longer destroy forests and carbon-rich peatlands.  This move by GAR would have been almost unimaginable just a year ago, and – if properly implemented – could be an historic step towards full forest and peatland protection in Indonesia.  It could also be enormously important for the survival of endangered wildlife like the orangutan and Sumatran tiger that have been pushed toward extinction as their forest habitat disappeared at a record rate.

Orangutans depend on shrinking rainforest habitat to surviveOf course, this commitment will mean nothing without implementation, and Greenpeace will be watching closely as that process moves ahead.  We understand that words without action are meaningless, and are always on the lookout for corporations trying to greenwash their image.

What does this major announcement mean for the hard-hitting global Greenpeace campaigning to achieve zero deforestation in Indonesia?  While we give GAR time to make its new policy real, we will not be calling on additional companies to cancel business with the company.  Instead, we are challenging other industry players to step up and make similar forest protection commitments.  Now is the time for other palm oil producers and users to stop stalling and start making real moves to change business as usual for the better.

This is also a huge opportunity to advance efforts by the Indonesian government to follow through on commitments to protect forests and slash climate pollution.  Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced a plan in 2010 to significantly reduce deforestation, including a two-year moratorium on forest destruction.  Efforts to formalize the moratorium have recently slowed.  The government should use this major industry announcement to move ahead, suspending new forest and peatland clearance permits, and reviewing activities in areas where licences have already been granted.

This “time out” is essential to cut down on illegal activities, corruption, confusion and to give Indonesia a chance to do sensible long-term land use planning.  By making reforms and improving its land management, the Indonesian economy – and people – will benefit with new investment, higher productivity and a position of leadership in international marketplaces.

Greenpeace exposes APP destroying forestsBack to Sinar Mas.  The giant conglomerate still has plenty of problems to address.  While we welcome this bold announcement and urge GAR to follow through, this is not an endorsement of Sinar Mas.  The commitments by GAR apply only to its palm oil branch.  So, companies like its paper arm, Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), continue with their forest destruction unabated.  That is unacceptable.  If GAR can turn a new leaf, so can APP.  As a whole, Sinar Mas companies could be a remarkable force for positive change; divided, it runs the risk of sending mixed messages, undermining Indonesia’s progress to create a greener, more prosperous future.

While there is much more to do, it is worth taking a moment now to celebrate the tremendous progress we have achieved.  That progress is due to the countless people throughout the country and around the world who took time to raise their voice and contribute their talents to this campaign.  If you are one of them, please accept my deep thanks and appreciation.  If you have not had a chance to participate yet, there is still plenty of work to be done!  You can start by telling fast-food giant YUM! Brands (and their subsidiary Pizza Hut) that it is time for them to take a stand for tropical forest protection.  Without a forest protection policy, they are not only getting increasingly out of date…they are becoming more and more a part of the problem!

for the forest (and climate),