21 March 2014

Aerial Documentation in Central Kalimantan © Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace


Have you enjoyed eating at the much talked about Mavalli Tiffin Room (MTR) outlets? Or have tried their popular Ready to Eat foods? You have one more reason to cherish the taste you have always loved. MTR becomes the first brand in India to commit to ‘No Deforestation’. Orkla, the Norwegian company that owns it, has come out with its policy that promises sourcing palm oil only from sources not linked with deforestation.

It is big news for Indonesian forests and emerging markets like India and China. We have been talking about how palm oil is the single biggest driver for deforestation in Indonesian rainforests. Much destruction has already happened in these forests pushing wonderful animals such as Sumatran tigers and orangutans to the verge of extinction. Their hopes now lie on immediately stopping deforestation. This will only be possible if the companies – both suppliers of palm oil and their consumers which include personal care and food companies, commit to no deforestation. And since the demand of palm oil largely comes from emerging markets such as India and China, it is essential to transform these markets than anything else.

Fortunately, there has been a much needed ‘change in the making’ in the palm oil sector in the last few months. People from all across the world have demanded for clean palm oil from no deforestation sources and corporates have responded to the public pressure and taken steps to do the needful to save the tiger habitat in Indonesia. Consumer companies such as Unilever, Nestle, L’Oreal, Ferrero and Kellogg’s and palm oil suppliers like Wilmar and Golden Agri Resources (GAR) have committed publicly to discard ‘dirty’ palm oil from deforestation and move towards ‘No Deforestation’ for palm oil on a time bound basis.

Orkla’s announcement is an important addition to the list of companies committed to no deforestation. It has added a much needed geographical dimension to the rapidly happening shift in the palm oil market. It raises hopes that companies in India, the largest market for palm oil, will follow the course to save the tiger habitat.  

This also leaves multinationals like Procter and Gamble and Indian giants like Godrej, ITC, Himalaya and Britannia with no excuse left for not responding to the lakhs of consumer demands for deforestation free palm oil. They have either rejected the idea of cleaning their supply chain as impractical, or at best, have kept themselves hidden behind Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) standards. This should be a wakeup call for them to step up and take action. People from all across the world deserve to get deforestation free products. They have started demanding for it and they must get it.

Avimuktesh Bhardwaj is a campaigner with Greenpeace India