Indonesian Forests & Palm Oil

Forests of Indonesia are the third largest tropical forests in the world. Tropical forests are one of the greatest biodiversity hotspots on Earth. Indonesia is home to 10% to 15% of all known plants, mammals and birds on the planet. Many rare animal species can only be found in Indonesia’s forests — from orangutans, Sumatran tigers, birds and rhinos — which are increasingly threatened by extinction.

We need forests to help to regulate the Earth's climate. Trees breathe carbon and without forests, we lose the ability to remove carbon from the atmosphere. These forests store nearly 300 billion tonnes of carbon, which is roughly 40 times the annual greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels.

Palm Oil and Peatland Forests

Palm oil is highly versatile and is a key ingredient in snack foods, cosmetics, and cleaning products — this vegetable oil is in over half the products sold in supermarkets, meaning it’s in pretty much everything we use daily.

In Indonesia companies drain carbon rich peatland forests to create palm oil plantations. When you drain peatland forests they become flammable. Once these forests ignite, it becomes very hard to control and it releases a staggering amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Deforestation has pushed Indonesia into the top tier emitters of global greenhouse gas emissions, alongside the United States and China.

In July 2015, devastating blazes spread in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Papua. These fires produced a haze that affected millions of people across Southeast Asia. Researchers at Harvard and Columbia Universities estimate that the smoke from 2015 Indonesian fires may have caused 100,000 premature deaths. The World Bank calculated the cost of the disaster at US$16bn.

Despite government regulations Indonesia’s forests are still being cleared for palm oil, pulp wood, logging and mining. Palm oil continues to be one of the leading drivers of deforestation and Indonesia is the largest producer of palm oil.

Corporate Commitments

For over ten years, Greenpeace has been campaigning to have corporations clean up their act. We’ve exposed big companies from Nestle, Mondelez to Mars for their use of dirty palm oil from forest destroyers. After tremendous consumer pressure world wide, many of these companies committed to put an end to deforestation and exploitation in their palm oil supply chains by 2020. None of them are on track to meet this deadline.

Companies need to stop trade with all suppliers responsible for forest and ecosystem destruction. Leading companies have so far been unwilling to drop suppliers with known links to deforestation. To ensure and demonstrate they are doing so, companies must publish maps of producer group landholdings and make their supply chains fully transparent.

Illegal logging & Pulp and Paper

In Indonesia, forests and peatlands are also cleared to create monoculture pulp and paper plantations to grow tissue, paper, and packaging.

Greenpeace over the years focused on two major pulp and paper companies: Asia Pulp and Paper and APRIL, whose paper products reach corporations around the world from toilet paper, candy wrappers, and office supplies.

In 2018, Greenpeace International investigation revealed massive illegal logging operation in critical orangutan habitat landscape in West Kalimantan. Photos taken by Greenpeace Indonesia in March 2018 reveal at least six illegal logging settlements inside the PT Mohairson Pawan Khatulistiwa (MPK) concession in Sungai Putri, a 57,000 hectare peatland forest and one of the last orangutan strongholds in the world.

Despite Forest Conservation Policies, certifications and the proliferation of ‘no deforestation commitments’, the industry is still responsible for ongoing and widespread deforestation.

Rang-tan: the story of dirty palm oil