UK brands will fail palm oil promise

The world’s largest consumer brands are using palm oil from producers that have destroyed an area of Indonesian rainforest the size of Greater Manchester in three years, a new report by Greenpeace International shows


Greenpeace has investigated 25 of the most notorious palm oil producers in Indonesia and found links to 17 major food and cosmetics brands. The Final Countdown report reveals that, between them, the 25 producers cleared over 130,000ha of rainforest since the end of 2015. 40% of that clearance (51,600ha) was in Papua – one of the most biodiverse regions on earth, untouched by the palm oil industry until recently. The report is the most comprehensive account of deforestation in Papua to date.

Fiona Nicholls, Greenpeace UK Forests Campaigner said:

“Not content with destroying precious orangutan habitat in Borneo and Kalimantan, the palm oil industry is now expanding onto the Island of New Guinea, home to 37 of the 41 known Birds of Paradise as well as thousands of other species of rare plants and animals.

“These birds may not be endangered just yet but nor was the orangutan 60 years ago. Rather than pushing more species to the brink, companies like Nestlé, Unilever and Mondelez have the power to stop these devastating losses BEFORE they happen by sticking to their promise to stop buying palm oil from companies that destroy the rainforest.”

The world’s largest palm oil trader, Wilmar International, is buying from 18 of the 25 palm oil producers and supplies 16 of the 17 brands. Brands include Nestlé (makers of Kit-Kat), Colgate-Palmolive (Colgate toothpaste), Johnson & Johnson (Baby Lotion), Unilever (Dove), Kellogg’s (Pop Tarts) Mondelez (Cadbury),  Mars (M&M’s) and Proctor and Gamble (Head & Shoulders). All products in brackets contain palm oil.

In 2013, following a Greenpeace’s exposé that revealed Wilmar and its suppliers were responsible for deforestation, illegal clearance, fires on peatland and extensive clearance of tiger habitat, Wilmar announced a groundbreaking ‘no deforestation, no peat, no exploitation’ policy. Yet Greenpeace’s new analysis exposes the total failure of Wilmar to break its links to rainforest destruction.

Kiki Taufik, head of Greenpeace’s global Indonesia forests campaign said:

“Palm oil can be produced without destroying rainforests. But our investigation shows the palm oil Wilmar trades still comes from forest destroyers. Household brands like Unilever, Nestlé, Colgate-Palmolive and Mondelez promised their customers they’d only use clean palm oil but they haven’t kept that promise. To fix this, it’s simple – brands must cut Wilmar off until it can prove all of its palm oil is clean.”

In addition to deforestation, the 25 producers profiled in the report show evidence of exploitation and social conflicts, illegal deforestation, development without permits, plantation development in areas zoned for protection and forest fires linked to land clearance.

Taufik continued:

“Papua is one of the most biodiverse places on earth, and its pristine forests had until recently been spared the destruction happening elsewhere in Indonesia. But now the palm oil industry is moving in and clearing forest at an alarming rate. If we don’t stop them, Papua’s beautiful forests will be destroyed for palm oil just like Sumatra and Kalimantan.”  

Palm oil impacts on environment, people and climate

Papua holds around a third of Indonesia’s remaining rainforest, but those forests are increasingly under threat. Deforestation in Papua  has been steadily increasing over the last five years, more than tripling between 2011 and 2016.  [GFW, Dec 2017]. NGO Conservation International has qualified both Indonesia and Papua New Guinea as “megadiverse” countries.

Half of the Bornean orangutan population has been wiped out in just 16 years, with habitat destruction by the palm oil industry a leading driver. More than three-quarters of Tesso Nilo national park, home to tigers, orangutans and elephants, has been converted into illegal palm oil plantations. Globally, 193 Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulnerable species are threatened by palm oil production.

The plantation sector – palm oil and pulp – is the single largest driver of deforestation in Indonesia. Around 24 million hectares of rainforest was destroyed in Indonesia between 1990 and 2015, according to official figures released by the Indonesian government [1].

Deforestation and peatland destruction are major sources of greenhouse gas emissions which contribute to climate change. This has pushed Indonesia into the top tier of global emitters, alongside the United States of America and China.

Plantation development is a root cause of Indonesia’s forest and peatland fires. In July 2015, devastating blazes spread in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Papua. These fires produced a haze that affected millions of people across Southeast Asia. Researchers at Harvard and Columbia Universities estimate that the smoke from 2015 Indonesian fires may have caused 100,000 premature deaths. The World Bank calculated the cost of the disaster at US$16bn.

Wilmar International and other palm oil companies are regularly accused of exploiting workers, children and local communities.




Photos and video are available here:  

Footage available here:


[1] Figures cover loss of natural forest. Sources:

1990–2012: MoEF (2016b) Table Annex 5.1, pp90–1 gross deforestation 21,339,301ha

2012–2013: MoEF (2014) Lampiran 1, Tabel 1.1 gross deforestation 953,977ha

2013–2014: MoEF (2015) Lampiran 1, Tabel 1.1 gross deforestation 567,997ha

2014–2015: MoEF (2016a) Lampiran 1, Tabel 1.1 gross deforestation 1,223,553ha


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