Indonesian President praises us for criticising forest policy

by Guest Blogger

April 9, 2010

This post is by Jamie, a web editor for Greenpeace UK (you can view the original post on GP UK’s site).

*Please note that while our international campaign urging Nestlé to stop using palm oil made from destruction of Paradise Forests is centered on a spoof of the Kit Kat brand, in the United States Kit Kat is actually licensed to Hershey Foods Corporation. Our report, “Caught Red-Handed: How Nestlé Use of Palm Oil is Destroying Rainforests and the Climate,” does not examine Hershey Foods Corporation palm oil sourcing. Popular Nestlé brand products that are sold in the US and contain unsustainable palm oil include PowerBar, Nestlé Crunch Crisp, and CoffeeMate.

It’s three weeks since we launched our Nestlé campaign and, thanks to the fantastic support we’ve received, it’s going from strength to strength. Nestlé’s Facebook page is still dominated by questions about where the company gets its palm oil from. It seems that every attempt by their admins to change topic is another opportunity to turn the conversation back to deforestation linked to palm oil and other ethically questionable practices. Meanwhile, our Kit Kat video has sailed past an incredible 1.1m views.

Greenpeace activists dressed as orangutans protest NestleBut what’s going on in Indonesia? After all, that’s where the forests we’re trying to protect are located. Well, the work our Indonesian team is doing is somewhat different. Rather than focusing mainly on a large consumer company, they’re tackling suppliers directly and challenging the government of Indonesia about deforestation.

The email updates coming from our colleagues in Jakarta show that we’re having an effect in political circles.

The president of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, has been talking a lot about forests this week. He talked tough about the "mafia in illegal logging", and commissioned a taskforce to investigate the corruption which is endemic in the industry and which contributes to the clearance of rainforest to make way for palm oil and pulp and paper plantations.

Personally, I was surprised to read that he’s also been specifically praising Greenpeace and other pressure groups for criticizing the government’s policy on forest management. In a special press conference earlier this week, he also asked for more cooperation between government and organisations like Greenpeace to help protect Indonesia’s environment.

ust after the president’s statement, our Indonesian team received a request for a meeting with his adviser, where we were joined by other environmental and social NGOs. At the meeting it was explained to the advisor how the president should tackle deforestation: with a moratorium on converting the forest into agricultural land, as well as protecting Indonesia’s peatlands.

Well, words don’t always translate into action, and Yudhoyono is known for making impressive environmental statements but not following through on his promises. Still, he has pledged to reduce Indonesia’s emissions (third largest in the world) by 26 per cent by 2020. As a large proportion of those emissions come from deforestation, reaching that target inevitably means getting serious with the loggers and the agriculture giants who are tearing down forests and burning peatlands.

There’s also been a spectrum of reaction from other Indonesian ministers. The agriculture minister said he will work with the palm oil industry to clear its name, and is planning a lobbying tour of Europe to promote Indonesian palm oil. The trade minister has called for an independent investigation into our claims, which is nice. Equally nice to hear the environment minister agreeing that Nestlé had every right to cancel their contracts with Sinar Mas; apparently he would have done the same as well.

Speaking of Sinar Mas, that giant in Indonesia’s agriculture sector and rampant destroyer of forests: the company has issued a press release (pdf) announcing it will commission its own independent investigation into our report. Call me cynical, but I don’t think I’ll be the only one questioning exactly how independent this investigation will be. To me, it sounds like a delaying tactic to draw attention away from the many laws Sinar Mas is currently violating.

We still need you to email or call Nestlé — they’re no doubt waiting to hear from you.


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