World’s Largest Palm Oil Trader Linked to Rainforest Destruction Twice the Size of Paris

by Kate Fried

June 25, 2018

Washington, D.C – A new Greenpeace investigation reveals that Wilmar International, the world’s largest palm oil trader that supplies palm oil to global consumer companies, is still linked to forest destruction for palm oil [1], despite Wilmar’s commitment five years ago to end deforestation.

An area twice the size of Paris has been destroyed by Gama, [2] a palm oil business run by senior Wilmar executives and members of their family. Photos and video taken by Greenpeace International on a recent flyover show active deforestation in two Gama concessions in Papua, Indonesia.

These revelations prove that Wilmar is violating commitments and misleading customers,” said Greenpeace Campaigner Diana Ruiz. “They also reaffirm that when companies like Wilmar mischaracterize where its palm oil comes from and hide financial connections to other palm oil growers, it is virtually impossible to confirm that the palm oil in products used by U.S. consumers is responsibly sourced. By buying from Wilmar, major household brands like PepsiCo and Procter & Gamble are financing the destruction of the planet.”

“Our investigation has exposed Wilmar’s dirty secret. For years, Wilmar and Gama have worked together, with Gama doing the dirty work so Wilmar’s hands stay clean. But now the truth is out, and Wilmar CEO Kuok Khoon Hong must act now to save his reputation. Wilmar must immediately cut off all palm oil suppliers that can’t prove they aren’t destroying rainforests,” said Kiki Taufik, the global head of Greenpeace Southeast Asia’s Indonesian forests campaign.

Gama, one of Indonesia’s largest palm oil plantation companies, was set up by Wilmar’s co-founder, Martua Sitorus and his brother Ganda in 2011. [3] Gama’s concessions are owned and managed by members of Ganda’s and Martua Sitorus’s family, which includes Wilmar’s Country Head and Deputy Country Head for Indonesia.

In December 2013, Wilmar became the first palm oil trader to publish a “No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation”’ (NDPE) policy that applied to its own plantations and those of its suppliers. Mapping and satellite analysis shows that Gama destroyed 21,500 hectares of rainforest or peatland since Wilmar made its commitment. Wilmar also has a history of evading responsibility for environmental and human rights abuses by offloading problematic concessions to Gama. [4]

Darwin Indigo, Wilmar’s General Manager with responsibility for trading within Indonesia, is the son of Gama co-founder, Ganda, and also manages at least one Gama company. Darwin’s brother Andy Indigo manages Gama’s other concessions. Analysis of trade data shows that Wilmar continues to trade palm oil from Gama to many of the world’s biggest brands, despite being aware that Gama was violating Wilmar’s NDPE policy by clearing rainforest.

“Wilmar has been trading Gama’s oil all over the world, including to brands like P&G, Nestlé and Unilever. Brands cannot let this deception pass unchallenged, and have no choice but to suspend all business with Wilmar until it can prove it only trades clean palm oil from responsible producers,” said Kiki Taufik.

Wilmar denies having any influence over Gama, although it admitted in a FAX to Greenpeace that Gama is run by Wilmar senior executives and members of their family. [5]

Southeast Asia’s plantation sector is notorious for using shell companies run by managers or family members to hide deforestation. Just last month, Greenpeace broke ties with Asia Pulp and Paper, Indonesia’s largest paper company, after detecting deforestation in two concessions linked to APP and its parent company the Sinar Mas Group.

Wilmar is on the board of the the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), whose bi-annual conference kicks off on Monday in Paris. At least one Gama company, S&G Biofuel Ltd, is also an RSPO member. Under RSPO membership rules, companies that share management or control should be treated as one group. This makes Wilmar responsible for what happens in Gama’s concessions.

Greenpeace is calling on the RSPO to enforce its rules by requiring Wilmar and Gama to register as one group and suspending Wilmar operations until the rainforest Gama destroyed is restored.

Contact: Kate Fried, Greenpeace, (202) 257.0057, kfried@greenpeace.org

ENDS

Photos

Notes:

[1] Link to Greenpeace International investigation and satellite maps

[2] Much of this deforestation has occured in just three of the concessions examined in Greenpeace’s report:

  • PT Graha Agro Nusantara (PT GAN), West Kalimantan, Kubu Raya district – 7,000 hectares of forest or peatland cleared since 2014
  • PT Agriprima Cipta Persada (PT ACP), Papua, Merauke district – at least 3,190 hectares of forest cleared since 2015
  • PT Agrinusa Persada Mulia (PT APM), Papua, Merauke district – at least 2,500 hectares of forest cleared since January 2016.

[3]  Like many family-owned companies in Southeast Asia, Gama does not have a formal structure; instead, it is a network of plantations and palm oil companies owned, managed or controlled by Ganda and Martua Sitorus, and members of their family.

Martua Sitorus is the co-founder of Wilmar and remains a board member. He is also CEO of Gama.

Ganda’s and Martua Sitorus’s brother-in-law, Hendri Saksti is Wilmar’s Country Head, Indonesia. He also owns or manages Gama plantations.

Sitorus and Saksti’s nephew / Ganda’s son Darwin Indigo is Wilmar’s Deputy Country Head, Indonesia. He also manages S&G Biofuel, a Gama joint venture.

Sitorus and Saksti’s nephew / Darwin’s brother Andy Indigo manages the remaining Gama plantations or holding companies.

[4]

In 2004, Wilmar sold PT Jatimjaya Perkasa to Gama (then known as Ganda Group) following accusations of deforestation in the concession from Friends of the Earth.

In 2013, Wilmar sold PT Asiatic Persada to Gama (then known as Ganda Group) following accusations of social conflict with local communities.

In 2014, Wilmar sold PT Citra Riau Sirana to Gama, following accusations from Eyes on the Forest / WWF of receiving fresh fruit bunches of oil palm from illegal plantations within Tesso Nilo national park.

[5]  Link to fax

Contacts:

Kate Fried, Greenpeace, (202) 257.0057, kfried@greenpeace.org

 

Greenpeace International Press Desk: +31 (0) 20 718 2470, pressdesk.int@greenpeace.org (available 24 hours)

 

By Kate Fried

Kate Fried is a Senior Communications Specialist for Greenpeace USA. With nearly two decades of communications experience on behalf of progressive organizations, her work at Greenpeace focuses on deforestation and climate issues. She is based in Washington, D.C.

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