Unilever ends contracts with Sinar Mas over illegalities. Greenpeace calls on Forestry Minister to take decisive action

Feature story - December 11, 2009
Greenpeace this morning presented evidence to Indonesia’s Forestry Ministry of illegal forest clearance by Sinar Mas. Greenpeace activists, including two orangutans, displayed a banner reading “Mr. Zulkifli - Stop Forest Criminals”, at the Ministry entrance, and delivered an investigative report to urge Forestry Minister Zulkifli to suspend all Sinar Mas permits for forest clearance. Greenpeace’s call for action follows the news that Unilever - the world’s biggest buyer of palm oil - has suspended all purchases of palm oil from Sinar Mas.

Greenpeace activists, including two orangutans, displayed a banner reading “Mr. Zulkifli - Stop Forest Criminals”, at the Ministry entrance, and delivered an investigative report to urge Forestry Minister Zulkifli to suspend all Sinar Mas permits for forest clearance.

Unilever’s decision was prompted by the launch yesterday of the Greenpeace report “Illegal Forest Clearance and RSPO Greenwash’. (1) This report shows how companies owned and operated by Sinar Mas are involved in widespread rainforest clearance in Indonesia, as well as the destruction of deep peatland areas and other illegal practices. In November, just days after a Greenpeace action stopped forest clearing operations on peatlands in Riau province by Indonesian pulp and paper giant Asia Pacific Resources International Holding Limited (APRIL), the Finnish company, UPM, cancelled their contracts worth Euro 30 million with APRIL Minister Zulkifli subsequently suspended APRIL’s permits pending an investigation into their legality.

“These multinationals are taking action as they no longer want to be associated with forest destruction and climate change and we expect other companies to follow suit by immediately stopping their purchases of Sinar Mas products,” said Joko Arif, Greenpeace South-East Asia Forest campaigner.  “This also sends a clear message to the Indonesian government that corporations, as well as the Indonesian public, expect the government to take immediate action to save our forests.” 

Greenpeace calls on Minister Zulkifli to take the same decisive action against Sinar Mas as he did against APRIL and suspend their permits.  Furthermore, he must honour the President Yudhoyono’s International commitments to reduce Indonesia’s emissions by up to 41% with international help by declaring a moratorium on all forest and peatland clearance.

Indonesia has one of the fastest rates of forest loss in the world.  The destruction of the country’s peatlands alone accounts for 4% of global human induced greenhouse gas emissions (2), propelling Indonesia to become the world’s third largest greenhouse gas emitter, after the US and China (3). Sinar Mas is Indonesia’s largest palm oil producer, involved with forest destruction in Riau, Kalimantan and Papua. They supply to multinationals including Nestle, Kraft and Procter&Gamble. (4)  The company is also well known for its involvement in substantial deforestation through its pulp and paper subsidiary Asia Pulp and Paper (APP). (5) Greenpeace estimates that the carbon emissions associated with the group’s combined operations in Riau province alone are responsible for the emission of 113.5 million tonnes of C02 each year. (6)

The Greenpeace report on Sinar Mas’s illegal forest clearance in Indonesia comes during the critical UN Copenhagen Climate Summit where forest protection to decrease global emissions will be discussed.  Greenpeace is promoting the creation of a global fund to end deforestation in countries like Indonesia and Brazil, which requires industrialized countries to invest €30 billion (45 billion US$) annually in forest protection.

(1) You can access a copy of the report here: http://www.greenpeace.org/seasia/en/press/reports/illegal-forest-clearance-and-r (2) Hooijer, A, M Silvius, H Wösten, H and S Page (2006) PEAT-CO2, Assessment of CO2 emissions from drained peatlands in SE Asia Delft Hydraulics report Q3943 7 December 2006 (3) WRI 2008. Climate Analysis Indicators Tool (CAIT) Version 6.0 (Washington, DC: World Resources Institute) http://cait.wri.org (4) Golden Agri-Resources Ltd, Company Presentation, 9 June 2009 (5) For example, Friends of the Earth UK, (2001) Paper Tiger, Hidden Dragons, May 2001. (6) Greenpeace (2008) The hidden carbon liability of Indonesian palm oil, Greenpeace International 2008. For further information please see: http://www.greenpeace.org/climatedefenders Background media briefing on Indonesia’s forests and climate change is available at: www.greenpeace.org/climatedefenders/rainforests-and-climate-change