Greenpeace links Indian companies to palm oil suppliers it says are destroying Indonesian rainforests, peatlands, in new 'Frying the Forest' report

JAKARTA/MUMBAI , June 19, 2012 (press release) – Various companies in India, the world’s largest importer of palm oil, have been found to hold business links with irresponsible suppliers that are destroying Indonesian rainforests and peatlands, a new investigative Greenpeace India report has found.

The report, ‘Frying the Forest’,(1) shows how Indonesia’s forests and peatlands continue to be destroyed by oil palm plantation companies such as Duta Palma to supply the Indian market. India consumes almost 19 per cent of the global production, with the bulk of its supply coming from Indonesia.

Duta Palma, one of Indonesia’s largest palm oil producers and member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), is still destroying rainforests, peatlands and the livelihoods of local communities. In 2010, BBC’s Panorama exposed Duta Palma for peatland clearance in Central Kalimantan.(2) This followed an earlier by Greenpeace in 2007 which showed how the company was clearing deep peat and forests for oil palm plantations.(3)

“The shocking unwillingness by Indian palm oil buyers to clean their supply chain of palm oil from deforestation is putting their brands at risk and contributing to the destruction of one of the world's richest tropical rainforests, endangering the habitat of Sumatran tigers and orangutans, the livelihoods of forest-dependent communities and the global climate,” said Nandikesh Sivalingam, forest campaigner with Greenpeace India.

The Greenpeace India report, released on Tuesday, reveals that Duta Palma’s palm oil finds its way into the products of Indian companies such as ITC, Parle and Britannia through importers such as Ruchi Soya.(4)

“Indian firms are well placed to use their market power to pressure palm oil suppliers to ensure that no rainforests and peatlands are being cleared for their plantations,” said Iqbal Abisaputra, forest campaigner with Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

Global demand for palm oil has increased rapidly over the past few decades contributing to massive deforestation in countries such as Indonesia. Indonesia’s National Climate Change Council identifies the palm oil sector as one of the key drivers of natural forest loss in the country. Indonesia is responsible for 5% of annual global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and around 85% of this comes from forest and peatland destruction. (5)

Despite the recent commitment by Indonesia’s largest palm oil producer, Golden Agri-Resources (GAR), to a ‘no deforestation footprint’ (6) and the Indonesian government’s statement that the country’s deforestation moratorium needs to be strengthened, the destruction of Indonesia’s forests and peatlands for palm oil production continues.

Several global corporations, including Nestle and Unilever, have already introduced sourcing policies to tackle deforestation for commodities such as palm oil, but Indian companies are dragging their feet. (7)

“We have been in dialogue with the Indian companies for a long time now, but none of them have made any substantial commitment to stop sourcing palm oil linked to Indonesian rainforest destruction. We urge Indian companies to fulfil their responsibility to put policies in place before it is too late,” Sivalingam added.

Greenpeace is demanding that these Indian companies introduce a time-bound, zero deforestation policy. This would involve stopping trading with companies that destroy forests and peatlands both directly and through third party suppliers.

“In addition, Greenpeace demands that all palm oil producers urgently adopt ‘no deforestation’ policies like GAR and work with Indonesia’s government, local communities and civil society to move towards truly sustainable palm oil production for the sake of the forests, the global climate and for the people and biodiversity that depend on them,” said Iqbal.

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