Indonesian Forests & Palm Oil

Forests of Indonesia are the third largest tropical forests in the world and 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. From the orangutans to Sumatran tigers to the incredible birds of paradise, rare species threatened with extinction can only be found in Indonesia’s forests.

We need forests to help regulate the Earth's climate. Trees breathe carbon, and without forests, we lose the ability to remove it 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 that happens, peatland forests become highly flammable and it becomes very hard to contain fires. Burning peatlands release a staggering amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Deforestation has pushed Indonesia into one of the highest emitters of global greenhouse gas emissions, alongside the United States and China.

For almost four decades the deadly toxic smoke and air pollution from the yearly burning of peatlands and forests have exacted a toll on communities across Indonesia and neighboring countries. The fires of 2015 marked one of the greatest human environmental tragedies 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. The fires of 2019 nearly matched the scale of destruction in 2015, which have placed nearly 10 million children at risk

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 a decade, Greenpeace USA has been campaigning to have corporations clean up their act. We’ve exposed big companies like Nestlé, Mondelēz, and Mars for their use of dirty palm oil. 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. These corporations, along with the members of the Consumer Goods Forum, grossly missed their 2020 deadline and forests continue to be cleared for industrial agricultural commodities. 

We Need Real Action Not More Promises

Consumer goods companies have continued to trade with suppliers responsible for forest destruction and human rights violations while making empty promises, such as net-zero pledges, carbon neutrality, and offsets. Corporations must take meaningful action by dropping dirty suppliers, ensuring complete transparency in their supply chains by publishing the maps of producer group land holdings, and taking immediate steps to break the destructive cycle of forest destruction.

The U.S. government has a responsibility to ending global deforestation and human rights violations through its import and consumption of forest-and-ecosystem risk commodities. This includes the U.S. ending the promotion and the financing of extractive forms of development expansions overseas. Strong legislation is needed to end all forms of deforestation and reign-in corporations for their land-use emissions tied to the commodities trade.

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 Southeast Asia and network wide global offices 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, a Greenpeace International investigation revealed a massive illegal logging operation in the 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