Palm oil giant IOI moves to eliminate deforestation and human rights abuses from supply chain
by Rodrigo Estrada
April 28, 2017
The IOI Group, one of the world’s largest palm oil traders, has today made a significant commitment to address deforestation and exploitation throughout its supply chain. 
Greenpeace has suspended its active campaign to give IOI time to show it is serious about reform.
Today’s announcement comes one year after the Malaysian company was suspended from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) for clearing peatlands in Kalimantan, Indonesia.  Dozens of companies including Unilever, Mars and Nestlé cancelled contracts with IOI as a result. 
If properly implemented, IOI’s commitments would be a significant step towards eliminating deforestation and exploitation in the palm oil industry. IOI has agreed to independent third-party verification of its progress in one year’s time.
Kiki Taufik, Global Head of Greenpeace’s Indonesian Forests Campaign, said:
“IOI has come a long way in the past twelve months, and has now started taking meaningful action to eliminate forest destruction and human rights abuses from its supply chain. Greenpeace will be watching closely to make sure IOI follows through. There is still a lot of work to be done to clean up the palm oil industry and we expect other traders to respond with action plans of their own.”
Since January, IOI has begun proactively monitoring its palm oil suppliers to ensure they are not destroying rainforests or peatlands. It has agreed to work with NGOs to find a solution to the social conflict between the communities of Long Teran Kanan and the IOI-Pelita joint venture in Sarawak, Malaysia.  IOI also committed to change its practices to respect the rights of plantation workers and has commissioned a consultant to verify its progress on labour issues.
Greenpeace advises companies intending to resume trade with IOI to specify in their contracts that the company must demonstrate ongoing progress in line with its Sustainable Palm Oil Policy and the additional commitments it has made today.
Palm oil is the most widely-used vegetable oil in the world, but the industry has a well-deserved reputation for rainforest destruction and human rights abuses.  The major palm oil traders have ‘no deforestation’ policies, but have done little to ensure their suppliers meet these standards.  As a result, many household brands are still supplied by palm oil growers that destroy rainforests or exploit workers and local communities. 
“Consumers have had enough of the palm oil industry failing to deliver. Companies cannot keep ignoring forest destruction and human rights abuses. The only way to clean up the industry is for other palm oil traders to follow IOI’s lead and start cutting off suppliers that destroy rainforests or abuse workers,” said Taufik.
Over the past ten years, dozens of civil society organisations have been pushing IOI to reform.  A complaint from NGO AidEnvironment led to the company being suspended from the RSPO in April 2016. Hundreds of thousands of Greenpeace supporters took part in the campaign, which included a blockade of IOI’s palm oil refinery in Rotterdam and a protest at its headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 
Greenpeace is calling on other palm oil traders, such as Wilmar International and Golden Agri Resources, to publish similar plans to identify suppliers that are clearing forests, draining peatlands or exploiting workers and exclude those that won’t reform.
Companies that buy palm oil should require their suppliers to demonstrate how they will ensure deforestation and other unacceptable practices are eliminated from their supply chain.
Notes to editors:
- IOI’s statement is available here: http://www.ioigroup.com/Content/NEWS/NewsroomDetails?intNewsID=837
- In March 2015, NGO AidEnvironment submitted a formal complaint to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) regarding the destruction of High Conservation Value forests and peatlands in IOI’s plantations in Kalimantan, Indonesia. The RSPO suspended IOI in April 2016, although it lifted the suspension in August 2016. AidEnvironment and IOI published a joint statement in December 2016 declaring the case resolved.
- See, for instance: http://www.foodnavigator.com/Market-Trends/Major-brands-dump-palm-oil-supplier-IOI-following-RSPO-suspension
- In November 2016, an investigation by Amnesty International found human rights abuses, including child labour, in plantations controlled by Wilmar International, the world’s largest palm oil trader: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/11/palm-oil-global-brands-profiting-from-child-and-forced-labour/
- For example, 26 Indonesian and international NGOs signed an open letter about IOI in May 2016. http://www.greenpeace.org/seasia/Global/seasia/CoalitionLtr_DropIOI.pdf
- Images of the actions performed by Greenpeace supporters around the world can be found here: http://media.greenpeace.org/collection/27MZIFJJQ3TUX
Rodrigo Estrada, email@example.com, 202-478-6632