Time’s Running Out: The Deforestation Problem that Consumer Companies Created

by Diana Ruiz

March 21, 2018

A decade has passed since the Guinness World Records in 2008 awarded Indonesia the “highest rate” of deforestation on the planet, and yet we're still seeing high rates of deforestation in Indonesia. This is a result of the rapid growth in the use of palm oil — an ingredient found in soaps, shampoos, cookies, chips, and makeup. It’s basically in everything and everywhere.

A network of access roads on former orangutan habitat inside the PT Karya Makmur Abadi Estate II palm oil concession in East Kotawaringin district, Central Kalimantan. The concession is controlled by the Malaysian Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad (KLK) group. ©Greenpeace

Over the last 10 years, consumer companies like Unilever, Colgate Palmolive, and General Mills promised their customers that they would clean up the palm oil in their products by 2020 — for the forest and the climate. However, with less than two years to go, forest destruction in Indonesia shows no sign of slowing down.

Greenpeace’s new report, Moment of Truth, reveals that brands are not on track to keep their promise of a clean palm oil supply chain by 2020. The problem keeps getting bigger and the responsibility relies on the companies profiting from this destruction.

In response, Greenpeace challenged 16 of the world’s leading brands to reveal where their palm oil comes from. Since today, nine leading global brands have taken the unprecedented step to release this information. The results are shocking but not surprising: none of them can guarantee that the palm oil they buy doesn’t come from forest destruction.

One-year-old male baby orangutan Jelapat plays on the tree at Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Foundation in Nyaru Menteng, Central Kalimantan.

What are the consequences of business as usual? Let’s take a look:

Indonesia has more threatened and endangered species than any other country on Earth — largely due to the destruction of their habitats.

The Bornean orangutan population has decreased by half since 1999, with over 100,000 lost in the last 16 years. In 2017, a new species of orangutan was discovered in Sumatra, and it’s already endangered.

Around 24 million hectares of Indonesia’s rainforest was destroyed between 1990 and 2015. And since 2012, 146 football fields of rainforests have been lost every hour — that’s one football field every 25 seconds.

5 ways palm oil is wrecking the planet

It's International Day of Forests. In Indonesia an area of forest the size of a football pitch is lost every 25 seconds – a lot of this is to make way for palm oil plantations.🔊🌴 5 ways palm oil is wrecking the planet 🔊🌴

Posted by Greenpeace USA on Wednesday, 21 March 2018

There are still brands like Johnson & Johnson, PepsiCo, and Kellogg’s who continue to keep this information in the dark and from the public. We must get brands to stick to their word and make sure that they don’t use palm oil that is made at the greatest cost: the rights of people, the lives of orangutans, our forests, and our climate. That commitment doesn’t start in 2020. It needs to start now.

Share this video on Facebook to support our efforts to stop deforestation and force companies to clean up their supply chains!

Diana Ruiz

By Diana Ruiz

Diana is the Senior Palm Oil Campaigner for Greenpeace USA and is based in Washington DC, leading our work to make zero deforestation in Indonesia a reality. She has worked to make change and hold U.S. corporations accountable in countries including Indonesia, India, Peru, and Ecuador. Diana has focused on a range of issues that draw from industrial chemical systems to pesticide regulations, climate mitigation and adaptation measures.

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