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In 2010, Mondelēz and other members of the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) recognised the global climate impact of deforestation and agreed to work towards zero deforestation by 2020.
Despite its weak standards and weaker enforcement, consumer companies have pinned their hopes on the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to help them meet their zero deforestation commitments.
Perhaps one of the most flagrant examples of the RSPO’s failure to police its membership (and of companies like Mondelēz and Wilmar to enforce their policies) involves the Bumitama group, which features in this new report, ‘Dying for a cookie’.
When Bumitama launched its initial public offering (IPO) on the Singapore Exchange in 2012, its prospectus revealed that over 70,000ha had been developed without the necessary permits.
A Greenpeace International investigation reveals an apparent laundering scheme by the group designed to conceal its connection to numerous concessions during their development without permits or in breach of RSPO rules.
The scheme involved passing nominal control to one or more of a handful of ‘third parties’ supposedly unconnected to Bumitama.
At least 18 plantation companies – one-third of Bumitama’s total – passed through the hands of one or more of the ‘third parties’ before being formally acquired or reacquired by Bumitama, often for a trivial sum.
Greenpeace mapping analysis shows that since 2005, 11,100ha of forest were cleared within the ‘laundered’ concessions in the three case study areas – nearly 2,300ha of this clearance from 2014 onward.
Under RSPO rules, this should result in Bumitama’s expulsion from the RSPO.
Further, under RSPO compensation rules, financial liability for these three areas alone stands at US$35 million and US$50 million.