Palm Oil Casts Dark Shadow Over Corporate Buyers

Sustainability Claims Riddled With Fraud, Abuse

Today Amnesty International has published a damning new report into the practices of major consumer goods multinationals. The human rights NGO unpicks the palm oil supply chain and finds evidence of forced labor, child employment and dangerous working conditions within the palm oil supply chain.

Although the company primarily under investigation is Wilmar, the world’s largest palm oil producer, it is the brand names that this firm suppliers that faces the charity’s opprobrium. Colgate, Nestlé and Unilever all come under heavy criticism for allowing conditions to emerge in their supply chains that many would regard as shocking.

palm oil deforestation

Amnesty International interviewed 120 workers within Wilmar’s plantations, as well as digging deeper into their  suppliers in Indonesia.

“Corporate giants like Colgate, Nestlé and Unilever assure consumers that their products use sustainable palm oil, but our findings reveal that the palm oil is anything but,”noted Meghna Abraham, Senior Investigator at Amnesty International.

“Companies are turning a blind eye to exploitation of workers in their supply chain. Despite promising customers that there will be no exploitation in their palm oil supply chains, big brands continue to profit from appalling abuses.”

Palm oil is a highly versatile product that is estimated to be in half of all consumer products, ranging from toothpaste to shampoo. It is mostly produced in Indonesia, which services over half of global demand.

The palm oil sector is rife with corporate social responsibility issues and is linked to deforestation, where its land-intensive farms denude the Indonesian jungle and deny rare species, such as orangutans, of habitation. It also is an area of alleged worker exploitation.

palm oil deforestation

The Amnesty International report describes a punishing work regime with demanding performance targets. Failure to meet objectives can yield financial deductions. Penalties are levied at the manager’s discretion.

Many laborers, the reporters find, feel compelled to work 10-11 hour-long days, accumulating to exceed the legal maximum of 40-hours per week in Indonesia. Despite this grueling schedule many claim they are paid beneath the legal minimum wage.

The report finds that, such are the pressures under which workers are placed, they enlist their spouses and children to toil unpaid to avoid penalties from the employer. The charity found children as young as eight in employment, many of whom dropped out of school to meet their quota.

“I get the premi [bonus] from the loose fruit that’s why my kids help me<” said a plantation worker. “I wouldn’t be able to meet the target otherwise. The foreman sees my children helping me. The foreman says it is good that my child is helping me.”

Indonesia bans child labor.

Amnesty International also finds evidence of using paraquat, highly dangerous herbicide. The chemical is banned in the European Union and Wilmar itself has made commitments to phase out its use. The report finds that suppliers are still routinely making use of the chemical.

forest conservation

The investigators  found one instance of a worker that was splashed in the face by the chemical, leading to severe injuries.  “I can’t see through the eye. I get headaches in part of my head, when I do, my eye feels really swollen. I still get a bit dizzy.”

These allegations are obviously serious and, if true, highly damaging to the brands concerned. Wilmar acknowledge the report’s findings, and urged many within the industry to help combat these issues.

Read The Full Story About Palm Oil Abuses at http://www.forbes.com/sites/jwebb/2016/11/30/amnesty-international-slams-colgate-nestle-and-unilever-for-palm-oil-supply-chain-abuses/2/#456cd1564161

Palm Oil Industry Pushing Wildlife Into Extinction

Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, most of the talk about sustainability in the palm oil industry is just smoke and mirrors. This is an immediate battle for the survival of critical species in our fragile web of life. To be more precise, this is about the survival of the Sumatran tiger and the orangutans of Sumatra and Borneo.

palm oil plantations and deforestation

Of course, palm oil’s footprint is much greater than that, but these iconic creatures are on the front lines as they are being pushed closer and closer to the brink of extinction every day. Meanwhile governments and corporations stall progress and talk about their nonsense commitments to sustainable palm oil–a label that producers buy instead of earn. Even sustainable palm oil is fueling deforestation and pushing orangutans and Sumatran tigers into extinction. They destroy one forest and plant a tree somewhere else in its honor. That isn’t sustainable. That is fraud.Unfortunately, there also is the pressure from other special interests who hope to privatize the genetics of endangered species. These interests are fanning the flames of deforestation from behind the scenes. These are all crimes against nature and it’s time to put private agendas aside. We all need more than palm oil and concrete to survive.

Nothing Sustainable About Palm Oil

By Shelley Goldberg

Most people know that palm oil is one of the most widely used vegetable oils in the world. You can even find it in popular foods like pizza, ice cream, and chocolate. But not everyone realizes that the production of palm oil is also destructive.

palm oil deforestation

Indeed, since vast quantities of land and forests must be cleared for plantation development, the growth and development of palm oil is linked to major issues. Besides deforestation, there’s climate change, habitat degradation, animal cruelty, indigenous rights abuses – you name it.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, an area that’s the equivalent size of 300 football fields of rainforest is cleared to make way for palm oil production – every hour. Making matters worse, such large-scale deforestation is pushing many species to extinction.

If the situation continues, species such as the orangutan could become extinct within the next five to 10 years. The Sumatran tiger has even less time, with about three years until extinction.

Now, if you can stomach those statistics, there is an opportunity brewing in the sector. Oil palm is one of the least expensive crops in the world. And its yields are five to 10 times greater than the output of other vegetable oils.

The crop is known for production of two types of oils from its fruit. The first is the oil derived from the fruit’s flesh, which is used for cooking oil, shortening, margarines, milk fat replacements, and cocoa butter substitutes. The other oil, derived from the kernel, is used primarily in the manufacturing of soaps, detergents, lotions, cosmetics, and toiletries.

Of course, the demand for these products isn’t going to end. Demand for palm oil is also rising in the biofuel, agrifood, and oleo chemistry industries. To satisfy this demand, global palm oil production is anticipated to be on a continuous increase going forward. Already, over 60 million metric tons of palm oil are exported daily from Southeast Asia.

Now, that’s not to say producers are ignoring the problems with palm oil production. In fact, the industry is beginning to take action. A controversial new document entitled, “The Sustainable Palm Oil Manifesto” was released just weeks ago. It was signed by major palm oil producing and trading companies such as Sime Darby Plantation (SMEBF), IOI Corporation Berhad (IOIOF), and Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad (KLKBF).

deforestation and endangered species

At first, the manifesto appeared to be a major win for forest conservation. Yet organizations such as the Union of Concerned Scientists point to loopholes and vague language. They claim the document allows them to make only modest changes while continuing to destroy land (and push wildlife closer to extinction).

Now, in the spring, Procter & Gamble (PG) announced new goals to help ensure zero deforestation in its palm oil supply chain. Its goal is to trace supply chains of palm oil and palm kernel oil to supplier mills by December 31, 2015, and to plantations by 2020.

While P&G claims it’s already working with larger suppliers to improve tractability, small farmers in Malaysia and Indonesia account for 35% to 45% of the company’s palm oil production. So it has a ways to go.

More recently P&G announced that is conducting an in-field study to help small farmers improve their palm oil and palm kernel oil production. P&G is partnering with the Malaysia Institute for Supply Chain Innovation (MISI) to field this study.

deforestation and endangered species

Other companies have taken similar steps in this direction. Danone (BN.PA) has committed to sourcing traceable palm oil with no links to deforestation, setting a goal to map its palm oil supply chain by the end of 2015.  Its pledge is followed by a series of similar commitments by companies such as Colgate-Palmolive Co.(CL), General Mills Inc. (GIS), and Mars.

Demand for sustainable palm oil is anticipated to grow in the near future. Especially as the industry addresses the environmental concerns and develops new plantations on existing cleared land – while also conserving natural resources and addressing the needs of the indigenous people and wildlife.

Source: http://www.wallstreetdaily.com/2014/08/04/palm-oil-industry/

public relations firm and public affairs firm Denver and Phoenix

Crossbow Communications specializes in issue management and public affairs. It’s also promoting forest conservation, reforestation, sustainable agriculture, and wildlife conservation through its subsidiary–Sacred Seedlings. Please contact Gary Chandler at gary@crossbow1.com to join our network.

Palm Oil Executive Jailed For Illegal Deforestation

Crimes Against Nature Going To Court

The director of the Indonesian palm oil company PT Kallista Alam, Subianto Rusyid, has been found guilty of illegally clearing peat forest in Aceh, Sumatra, and has been sentenced to eight months in jail. The judges also fined him 150 million rupiah (about 13,000 US$), and said he would be imprisoned for a further three months if the fine was not paid.

palm oil deforestation

This follows on from a court ruling in a civil case in January in which Kallista Alam was ordered to pay 114.3 billion rupiah (about 9.7 million US$) in compensation and 251.7 billion rupiah (close to 21 million US$) to restore the 1,000 hectares it deforested illegally.

The company was convicted of illegally burning large swathes of the Tripa peat forest, which lies within Sumatra’s Leuser Ecosystem – the only place on earth where tigers, elephants, rhinos, and orangutans can be found living together in the wild. That case was brought against Kallista Alam by the Indonesian environment ministry.

The court also ordered the confiscation of 5,769 hectares of land managed by Kallista Alam and set a five million rupiah (about 426 US$) daily fine for each day the company delays paying the compensation and restoration costs.

palm oil deforestation

The judges heard evidence about how much damage the forest burning had caused to the soil structure in Tripa: peat layers 10 to 15 centimetres deep were destroyed. Gases triggered by the burning exceeded the permitted Threshold Limit Value. Judges at the Meulaboh District Court have also sentenced Kallista Alam’s development manager, Khamidin Yoesoef, to three years in prison and a fine of three billion rupiah (about 256,000 US$) or a further five months in prison. Kallista Alam is appealing against all three verdicts.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has identified Sumatra’s Leuser Ecosystem as one of the world’s “irreplaceable areas.”

Ian Singleton, director of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme, said the new judgement was a victory in terms of law enforcement, coming on top of the fine imposed on Kallista Alam in January.

Orangutan habitat and palm oil plantations

The public prosecutor had asked for a ten-month jail sentence for Subianto Rusyid, who was accused of negligence for failing to control his subordinates. In May, Fadila Ibra from the Coalition to Save Rawa Tripa was quoted by the Jakarta Globe as saying this demand was too lenient given the environmental damage caused, and was less than half the sentence the law stipulates. “This will not deter those who have destroyed the environment,” Fadila was quoted as saying.

Fadila has been quoted as saying Subianto could have been punished with five years in prison and a two billion rupiah fine.

The Aceh branch of Walhi (Friends of the Earth Indonesia) filed a lawsuit demanding that the 1,605 hectares in the Nagan Raya district that were allocated to Kallista Alam in August 2011 by the then governor of Aceh province, Irwandi Yusuf, should be taken over and managed by the local government. The area has again been declared a conservation area. As part of the Leuser Ecosystem, it should already have been protected.

After a large-scale international protest, the Indonesian environment ministry decided to investigate Irwandi Yusuf’s issuance of the permit. In September 2012, the new governor, Zaini Abdullah, revoked it in accordance with a ruling by the Administrative High Court in Medan, which said it was illegal.

PT Kallista Alam appealed and, in May 2013, the Banda Aceh Administrative Court ruled in the company’s favour and overturned the revoking of the permit, saying that it was not legally binding because the court decision was being challenged in the Supreme Court. The company’s Supreme Court appeal has since been rejected in a ruling that supersedes that of the Banda Aceh court.

There are criminal and civil prosecutions underway against four other oil palm companies with concessions in Tripa: PT Surya Panen Subur II, PT Dua Perkasa Lestari, PT Gelora Sawita Makmur, and PT Cemerlang Abadi.

Indonesia deforestation and endangered species

Destruction of Orangutan Habitat

Tripa is one of only three remaining peat swamp forests in Sumatra where orangutans can be found. There were some 2,000 to 3,000 orangutans in the area in the 1990s, but only a few hundred are left today.

Up to 100 orangutans are thought to have perished in forest clearing and peat burning in Tripa, and experts say they are now close to being exterminated in the area.

Orangutans are not the only animals in jeopardy in Tripa; the area has also been home to Sumatran tigers, Malayan sun bears and other endangered and protected wildlife.

Indonesia’s peatlands cover less than 0.1 per cent of the Earth’s surface, but their destruction is causing 4 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions every year. According to Greenpeace, the annual clearing of Indonesia’s peatlands releases some 1.8 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases and some put the figure at 2 billion.

Under Indonesian law, development on peat up to three meters deep is still legal, and the palm oil industry’s certification system, the RSPO, does not ban all development on peat.

Source: http://time2transcend.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/palm-oil-company-director-sentenced-to-jail-for-illegal-forest-clearance-in-indonesia/

public relations firm and public affairs firm Denver and Phoenix

Crossbow Communications specializes in issue management and public affairs. It’s also promoting forest conservation, reforestation, sustainable agriculture, and wildlife conservation through its subsidiary–Sacred Seedlings. Please contact Gary Chandler at gary@crossbow1.com to join our network.

Palm Oil Promoting Wildlife Extinction

Palm Oil Destroying Biodiversity

Palm oil plantations supplies to vegetable oil and biofuels could be accelerating the effects of climate change, new research shows, adding further credibility to claims the crop is not environmentally sustainable and eliminates biodiversity, which is pushing many species toward extinction.

An international team of scientists examined how the deforestation of peat swamps in Malaysia to make way for palm oil trees is releasing carbon which has been locked away for thousands of years. Their report has been published in the journal Nature.

deforestation and endangered species

Microbes then penetrate the carbon and the harmful greenhouse gas carbon dioxide is released, which is thought to be the biggest contributor to global warming.

Unsustainable methods of growing crop-based biofuels have come under fire as environmentalists question their overall impact on the environment and the atmosphere.  Most palm oil plantations are contributing to deforestation and total carbon buildup in atmosphere.

As governments and companies look to biofuels to provide a low-carbon alternative to fossil fuels in transport, the industry has expanded rapidly. More than 80 percent of palm oil is grown in Indonesia and Malaysia. According to some estimates, an area the size of Greece is cleared every year for palm oil plantations. Palm oil is especially attractive because it is cheaper than rapeseed oil and soybean oil for biodiesel.

palm oil deforestation

However, leaked European Union data has shown palm oil biodiesel to be more polluting than conventional gasoline when the effects of deforestation and peat-land degradation is taken into account.

In their study, the research team measured water channels in palm oil plantations in the Malaysian peninsular which were originally peat swamp forest. They found ancient carbon came from deep in the soil, then broke down and dissolved into nearby streams and rivers as deforestation occurred.

“We have known for some time that in South East Asia oil palm plantations were a major threat to biodiversity–and that the drainage could release huge amounts of carbon dioxide during the fires seen there in recent years,” said Chris Freeman, one of the authors of the report and an environmental scientist at the University of Bangor in Wales.

rainforest conservation palm oil plantations

“But this discovery of a ‘hidden’ new source of problems in the waters draining these peatlands is a reminder that these fragile ecosystems really are in need of conservation,” he added.

There are approximately 28,000 square kilometers of industrial plantations in Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo and there are even more planned, making them a major contributor to peat swamp deforestation in the region, the paper said.

“Our results are yet another reminder that when we disturb intact peat swamps and convert them to industrial biofuel plantations, we risk adding to the very problem that we are trying to solve,” Freeman said.

Indonesia deforestation and endangered species

Industry efforts to bring this deforestation under control have come through the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). It was set up in 2004 to establish clear ethical and ecological standards for producing palm oil, and its members include high-street names like Unilever, Cadbury’s, Nestlé and Tesco, as well as palm oil traders such as Cargill and ADM. Together, these companies represent 40 percent of global palm oil trade. But since then, forest destruction has continued. Many RSPO members are taking no steps to avoid the worst practices associated with the industry, such as large-scale forest clearance and taking land from local people without their consent.

On top of this, the RSPO actually risks creating the illusion of sustainable palm oil, justifying the expansion of the palm oil industry.

public relations firm and public affairs firm Denver and Phoenix

Crossbow Communications specializes in issue management and public affairs. It’s also promoting forest conservation, reforestation, sustainable agriculture, and wildlife conservation through its subsidiary–Sacred Seedlings. Please contact Gary Chandler at gary@crossbow1.com to join our network.