As world leaders line up in Copenhagen to agree a new climate treaty, we've also been working hard to secure a result that will have a positive impact on the global climate - by protecting Indonesia's forests.
Today we're publicly releasing new evidence that Sinar Mas, Indonesia’s biggest palm oil producer, has been persistently engaging in widespread illegal deforestation and peatland clearance. We presented presented the evidence in this dossier to one of their biggest customers, the giant Unilever corporation. Now Unilever has decided to stop buying palm oil from Sinar Mas.
"What we're seeing here is a major buyer of palm oil using its financial
muscle to sanction a supplier for destroying rainforests and clearing
peatlands. This has set a new standard for others to follow"
John Sauven, Executive Director, Greenpeace UK
The reasons? Well, not only are Sinar Mas’ operations devastating forest biodiversity, they're also releasing vast amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere through the clearance of forest peatland, which are some of the most carbon rich landscapes in the world. It's activities like this which have helped to push Indonesia to the unenviable position of being the world’s third largest greenhouse gas emitter, after China and the US.
Unilever is the world’s largest consumer of palm oil. As such its announcement is expected to have far reaching implications for the palm oil sector, as other producers and suppliers move to avoid similar sanctions and position themselves as good environmental citizens.
Executives at Unilever confirmed that the evidence against Sinar Mas was now too strong to ignore and action had to follow. Ending contracts with this company is the only way to send strong signals that palm oil consumers want to break the link between the palm oil they use and forests and peatland clearance.
According to Greenpeace Director John Sauven Unilever's decision "could represent a defining moment for the palm oil industry. What we're seeing here is a major buyer of palm oil using its financial muscle to sanction a a supplier for destroying rainforests and clearing peatlands. This has set a new standard for others to follow. Companies that wish to be seen as environmentally responsible must immediately stop sourcing products from the Sinar Mas group."
The Sinar Mas group is a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, an industry association intended to promote environmental sustainability in the palm oil industry. Evidence of Sinar Mas wrongdoing, presented in our report, shows that membership of the RSPO alone is not sufficient proof of a company's environmental credentials.
Sinar Mas is the largest palm oil company in Indonesia and the second largest in the world. It's also behind Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), Indonesia's most notorious paper producer. Greenpeace estimates that the carbon emissions associated with the company's operations in Riau province alone are responsible for 2.5 million tonnes of C02 each year.
Major brands including Nestle, Kraft, and McDonalds continue to buy Sinar Mas palm oil. Other companies such as Proctor and Gamble and Mars, by purchasing palm oil through traders such as Cargill, can't yet confirm that they have suspended all purchases from Sinar Mas. Cargill remains one of Sinar Mas's largest customers. Greenpeace is calling on these companies to follow Unilever's example and remove Sinar Mas from their supply chains immediately.
Updated 21st January 2010