Most banks don’t require proof that their clients in the tropical timber, palm oil or pulp and paper sectors have the legal right to clear forest. They don’t require proof that the rights of affected Indigenous Peoples or other forest-dependent communities are respected. And they almost certainly won’t make loans conditional on any robust environmental standards.
As absurd as it sounds, this is standard practice for banks with clients in the business of clearing tropical rainforests. With little more than a claim to a patch of forest, some collateral, and a list of willing clients to sell to, a company finds it all too easy to finance deforestation. RAN believes it's time to stop big banks from bankrolling forest destruction and associated human rights abuses.
One of the largest sources of loans to companies engaged in tropical deforestation is Japan’s banking sector. But the tide may be turning. In June 2015, Japan’s new Corporate Governance Code (the Code) came into effect, which requires Tokyo-listed companies, including Japan’s major banks, to begin to disclose and address the range of environmental, social and governance problems they face.
RAN has produced guidance for Japan’s financial institutions in translating this new policy into practice. Companies causing forest destruction and rights violations should not be bankrolled anymore. RAN is calling on all banks, including Japan’s banking sector, to develop strong forest sector safeguard policies and systems so that only genuinely responsible forest sector clients can get bank loans.
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It was 8:30 PM when we finally sat down with the community leaders in Pandumaan-Sipituhuta. These leaders work all day, tapping the benzoin trees in the jungles of Northern Sumatra. These trees produce a sap used for products from incense to medicine. Only once the community leaders come back to the village, often after hours of walking through the forest, do they have time to sit together and talk about how to protect their land.
The men and women in this gathering – maybe about 10 people total – knew each other well. They have been fighting Toba Pulp Lestari, a pulp and paper company that produces the pulp that is used for rayon, viscose, and modal fabrics, for over a decade. Toba Pulp Lestari, or TPL, clear cut part of the forest that the community owns and relies on for their livelihood, and has threatened to cut down more. The community has stood up in protest many times, and has stayed strong despite intimidation from the company and from the government. The people of Pandumaan-Sipituhuta are demanding that TPL commit to never clearing on their land, and that the government gives the community legal rights to their land.
I was at this meeting because RAN has been working closely with this community, making sure that clothing brands in the US – like Ralph Lauren and the Fashion 15 - acknowledge and support community rights. We also wanted to give them an important tool for their campaigning – a tool our supporters have given us - an inch and a half thick binder with the printed out names of the almost 20,000 people who have signed onto our petition of support.
In this era of clicktavism, it can be incredibly hard to understand the impact that signing an online petition can have. It feels like our support disappears into the ether – sometimes landing on the ears of people who are ready to make changes, sometimes not. But, when those petitions are directly in support of specific communities and their struggles, those signatures can have a direct, and powerful, impact.
Communities like those in Pandumaan-Sipituhuta often fight their fights in isolation. It’s only recently that the community has been able to get cell phone service, and there is still no internet access aside from the slow data connection available on phones. Almost no one has email, let alone access to a network of allies that could make online organizing a useful tool.
In a place like this, every demonstration of support is important. People in these communities are often very surprised to hear that people on the other side of the world know who they are, let alone support them in their fight for justice. Just knowing that 20,000 people had read about who they are, and had added their name to the petition was a big source of inspiration for people who have been fighting for justice for decades.
But this binder of petition signatures wasn’t just an offer of inspiration and support. It is also a real tool. As the community leader told me, when Toba Pulp Lestari comes back to town and threatens any more community-owned land, they plan on bringing out this binder, and show it to the company as proof that the world knows about that is happening in Pandumaan-Sipituhuta. This is the kind of thing that just might give an overzealous police officer, or company official, pause.
The petitions you sign with the Rainforest Action Network really do make a difference. They inspire. They connect a grassroots struggle to a world of support. And they give activists on the ground a tool to show that there is global support for their fights. Thank you.
And…. If you haven’t signed the petition to demand an end to deforestation in communities like Pandumaan-Sipituhuta for fabric – click here to sign now! You know how much it will mean.
The campaign against Ralph Lauren is heating up. Last month, there were protests in both New York and San Francisco — and thousands of you are taking action to pressure the company.
If you’ve been following the campaign, you may already know that fabrics like rayon and viscose may contain rainforest destruction and egregious human rights abuses. If you haven’t, it may surprise you to learn that huge fashion companies rely on this deforestation to create its latest trends. These fabrics are actually produced by processing trees into fiber and weaving that fiber into fabric — making these companies responsible for destruction in Indonesia, Canada, Brazil and South Africa.
Recently, the company took a first step to address this issue in its citizenship report, released in June. In the report, the language makes it sound like Ralph Lauren cares deeply the environment and human rights — but there’s a serious disconnect between Ralph Lauren’s words and meaningful impact. Without true action, Ralph Lauren’s words are just empty rhetoric.
That is why we're demanding meaningful action. Empty words simply aren't enough while the forests are falling. Will you join us in telling Ralph Lauren to eliminate human rights abuses and deforestation from its fabric?
Reality: In order to make way for pulp plantations, communities in North Sumatra have been forced off their land and face loss of livelihoods and brutal repression. Communities are fighting back, and it’s time for Ralph Lauren to stand with them. As one of the biggest fashion brands in the world, it has the resources to make a real difference by getting human rights abuses out of its fabric. Right now, it’s unclear how Ralph Lauren plans to defend the rights of communities being impacted by deforestation for fabric.
Reality: Without a creating and implementing a comprehensive policy to cut deforestation and human rights from its supply chain, we can’t just take Ralph Lauren at its word. Ralph Lauren could start to build that trust. The company must dig into its supply chain and cut suppliers that threaten rainforests and the people who rely on them.
Reality: Ralph Lauren has the resources and ability to make a real difference globally. The company must ensure that it goes beyond words and truly protects forests and communities. The beautiful products that Ralph Lauren creates shouldn’t come at the cost of rainforests and community rights.
Ralph Lauren is aware of the problems that may be present in its supply chain. This report acknowledges the role it has to play in protecting human rights and the environment. If the company stands by these statements, it must update its citizenship report and put these values into action.
Next week, we’ll be shouting from the rooftops via social media with one key message: It’s time for Ralph Lauren to get deforestation and human rights abuses out of fashion. Will you join us? Add your name to join our rapid responders list now!
After months of campaigning on Ralph Lauren, the company has released its new citizenship report. While the report may have some quotes that make it sound like Ralph Lauren cares about the environment and human rights, the reality is a very different story. Communities are suffering the impacts of forests being destroyed for fabrics — and they’re fighting back.
We're taking the message big, fighting RL's marketing with truth online, making sure customers and the company knows that without immediate action, the name RL will be associated with forest destruction, species extinction, and human rights abuses.
Are you in? Join us now - let's raise our voices and tell RL it's time for it to eliminate controversy from its clothing for good.
“What Does ______ Have to Do with Rainforests?!”
This week, RAN posted a message of support on Facebook about the courageous civil disobedience by Bree Newsome in South Carolina. And, as a testament to the social justice leanings of our community, our post was met with predominant support.
However, there was also the de rigeur Internet Indignance.
“Why is an environmental group talking about ____?” “What does this have to do with rainforests?!!” “You no longer have my support!” We always expect these responses.
Yet when we touch on issues involving race in the United States, those responses always seem a little louder. And a lot uglier.
Systems Change: It’s What We Do
Of course, Rainforest Action Network is no stranger to civil disobedience or controversy. For 30 years, one of RAN’s core advocacy strategies has been to challenge corporate power and systems of injustice through peaceful direct action. Draping banners on skyscrapers, activists locking down in corporate headquarters, street blockades -- bringing intense public pressure onto the worst of the worst offenders has proven very effective over the years. And while we are most widely associated with environmental advocacy, our work over the past three decades has always been focused against corrupted institutional forces that are responsible for the climate change crisis and rampant human rights violations.
Quite frankly that’s why I work here. Because we as an organization take a macro view of problems in the world and find the levers of change we can grab and, with the weight of justice as our advantage, shift systems.
For us here at RAN, social justice has never been an “extra.” It’s fundamental. It’s a “Yes, and..”.
Yes we work on the rainforest, and climate change, and the financial systems that fuel destruction, and natural places and their inhabitants around the globe. And… a huge factor in those fights is the systemic disregard for laborer rights -- that’s an intentional part of the profit margin for corporations destroying rainforests. And… the theft of traditional lands and displacement of Indigenous peoples is treated as a given, otherwise how could market demand be satisfied? And… forced labor is an allowable risk for massive, global brands, as long as there’s plausible deniability and a murky supply chain that provides cover for makers of chips and ice cream and kids snacks.
These are our fights, too. These are the human rights issues that are fundamental to our work at RAN. They are non-negotiable. They are deal breakers. If corporations that we target do not acknowledge and address these issues, we continue to campaign and shine a light on their actions until they do.
What does racism have to do with your work?
With that as our history and the baseline of our programmatic commitment, we naturally reach out to support those who are fighting systems of injustice here in the United States. And institutional racism is the most entrenched system of oppression and inequality in U.S. history. Here is a good breakdown from Colorlines about the multiple layers of racism in the United States today:
Whether it be another attempt to force a pipeline across a First Nation’s community without consent or the stark reality that in the US “sacrifice zones” disproportionately impact communities of color <link >. These are just two examples of a long list of ways in which a system that is built on multiple layers of racism plays itself out with a negative and deadly impact at the intersections of the environment and humans rights.
I could try to explain how individual acts of civil disobedience can create a larger, ripple effect, but in context Bree Newsome is the best person to explain:
“We discussed it and decided to remove the flag immediately, both as an act of civil disobedience and as a demonstration of the power people have when we work together. Achieving this would require many roles, including someone who must volunteer to scale the pole and remove the flag. It was decided that this role should go to a black woman and that a white man should be the one to help her over the fence as a sign that our alliance transcended both racial and gender divides. We made this decision because for us, this is not simply about a flag, but rather it is about abolishing the spirit of hatred and oppression in all its forms.
I removed the flag not only in defiance of those who enslaved my ancestors in the southern United States, but also in defiance of the oppression that continues against black people globally in 2015, including the ongoing ethnic cleansing in the Dominican Republic. I did it in solidarity with the South African students who toppled a statue of the white supremacist, colonialist Cecil Rhodes. I did it for all the fierce black women on the front lines of the movement and for all the little black girls who are watching us. I did it because I am free.
To all those who might label me an “outside agitator,” I say to you that humanitarianism has no borders. I am a global citizen. My prayers are with the poor, the afflicted and the oppressed everywhere in the world, as Christ instructs. If this act of disobedience can also serve as a symbol to other peoples’ struggles against oppression or as a symbol of victory over fear and hate, then I know all the more that I did the right thing”
So whether it be Bree scaling the flag pole, sit-ins in federal buildings, or blocking the arctic drilling rigs in Seattle, it is all linked. It as part of a theory of systems change. A collective effort to change from a system of oppression, othering, and extraction to a system of justice, inclusion, and equity.
For people and planet,
Brad A Schenck - @BradASchenck
Digital Engagement Director
People all over the world are calling on Maruchan, and its parent company Toyo Suisan, to adopt a truly responsible palm oil policy.
As a major user of palm oil in its instant noodles, Maruchan needs to be a leader and ensure that its products don’t destroy rainforests or the communities who depend on them. Please use the numbers below to raise your voice for forests and forest-dependent communities.
If you’re an English speaking activist, call the US office at: (949)-789-2300 line #2 consumer affairs
If you’re a Spanish speaking activist, call the Mexican office at: 52 55 5669 1794
If you’re a Japanese speaking activist, call the Japanese office at: 0120 181 874 or 03 3458 3333
Here is a simple script that you can use for calling Maruchan:
“Hi, My name is [your name], from [your city]. I’m a [mom, student, etc]. Marchuan is falling behind its peers and is at risk of using Conflict Palm Oil.
Your company has taken the first step by publishing a new palm oil commitment, but this falls short of what is needed.
Maruchan can not rely on the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to cut Conflict Palm Oil from its supply chain. The RSPO is an inadequate certification system that permits the destruction of rainforests, peatlands, and has a poor track record of upholding the rights of local communities and workers.
In order to be a true leader Maruchan must adopt a truly responsible time-bound palm
oil policy that sets a higher standard than the RSPO and cut its ties with bad actors that clear rainforests, peatlands and abuse the rights of communities and workers in the palm oil sector.”
"Hola, soy [su nombre ] , de [ su ciudad] . Soy [ madre , estudiante, etc] . Marchuan se está quedando atrás de sus compañeros al arriesgarse en usar indiscriminadamente el aceite de palma.
La empresa ha dado el primer paso con la publicación de un nuevo compromiso de uso de aceite de palma , pero no está a la altura de lo que se necesita para cumplir.
Maruchan no puede basarse en la certificación otorgada por la Mesa Redonda sobre el aceite de palma sostenible o ( RSPO ) para prevenir el uso indiscriminado de aceite de palma en su cadena de suministro. La RSPO es un sistema de certificación inadecuado que permite la destrucción de las selvas tropicales , turberas , y tiene un pobre historial de defensa de los derechos de las comunidades y los trabajadores locales.
Para ser un verdadero líder, Maruchan debe adoptar una politica de aciete de palma con plazos verdaderamente responsable que establece un estándar más alto que la RSPO y cortar sus lazos con los malos actores que destruyen las selvas tropicales, turberas y abusan de los derechos de las comunidades y los trabajadores en el sector del aceite de palma."
It’s so easy and only takes a moment!
Once you make the call, please let us know how it went by filling out the info on the right.
At 5 AM, our alarms went off, and we began to peel ourselves out of beds and off of couches all over the house. We had a box packed with information cards calling on Nissin Foods to cut Conflict Palm Oil, we had our banner, freshly painted from the night before and of course, we had “Strawberry”, our charismatic orangutan costume, waiting by the door. We had planned to get to the gates of the Nissin Foods headquarters in Los Angeles, CA at 6:30am so we could greet staff upon their arrival. This headquarters is ground zero in our efforts to cut Conflict Palm Oil as it is where the majority of the country’s Top Ramen and Cup Noodle are made, products at risk of containing this controversial ingredient.
Nissin Foods is one of the Snack Food 20, a group of the world’s largest companies exposed by RAN for their links to Conflict Palm Oil. Earlier this month, Nissin was called out as a laggard due to its weak palm oil commitment that relies solely on the inadequate Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification system. Nissin is falling behind its peers as it has not set strict requirements for its suppliers to end destruction of rainforests, peatlands and abuse of human and labor rights. This has to change, and with more actions like these, it will.
When we got to the headquarters, our main goal was to make ourselves as visible as we could to Nissin Foods employees. We unfurled our banner, and began to have conversations with as many employees as we could as they pulled into the parking lot. When employees were willing to stop and talk to us, we explained the urgent need to stop the destruction of forests for palm oil and handed them a postcard that outlined what their company could do to help. Our ask was this: As a matter of urgency, Nissin Foods needs to adopt a globally responsible palm oil procurement policy that includes a time-bound plan to cut Conflict Palm Oil.
Our plan was also to deliver a copy of RAN’s new report Testing Commitments to Cut Conflict Palm Oil and a letter from our Executive Director, Lindsey Allen, to Nissin Foods USA President. I met the VP of Marketing outside, handed over the report and letter and explained the urgent need for Nissin Foods to adopt a truly responsible palm oil policy.
This demonstration was a tremendous success! Nissin Foods has heard first hand that it must cut Conflict Palm Oil and for the next month calls will be pouring into Nissin from palm oil activists around the world. This is just the beginning. We’ll need to keep the pressure up until Nissin Foods adopts a responsible palm oil procurement policy. You can join us by signing up to organize your own call-in day to Nissin.
Many thanks to the incredible activists who made this action the success that it was: Shannen, Danny, Becky, Kathy, Anna, Nikki & Oceans!
On Wednesday, activists in San Francisco descended on Ralph Lauren’s San Francisco store, calling out its role in rainforest destruction and human rights abuses.
Last week, Ralph Lauren released its updated citizenship report, which describes the company’s work in the last year on environmental issues and its operating guidelines. This is a first step for the company; Ralph Lauren updated the report to acknowledge that deforestation and human rights abuses are important issues the company needs to address.
Now the real work begins. Ralph Lauren must update the report with specific language to eliminate controversy and protect forests and communities in a meaningful way.
In order to deliver this message, ten RAN activists protest in front Ralph Lauren’s store in San Francisco. We handed out balloons (printed with our Ralph Lauren brand jam) and made sure customer knew about Ralph Lauren’s role in rainforest destruction for fabric. Located in a busy shopping district, we were able to talk to a range of people—from folks who work in the neighborhood to those on their way from yoga, from little kids to their grandparents.
The balloons provided a great opportunity for us to chat with folks about the issue of forests in fabric. While this issue is still new (and surprising) to many, the people we engaged were really supportive. Several asked how they could be more involved—a group that works at a business near the Ralph Lauren store told us that they are planning to send emails as an office activity. This movement is clearly growing.
It was beautiful day, and looking down Fillmore St. the sea of gold balloons printed with our campaign message was a glorious sight! Once again, this light-hearted tactic captured people's’ attention.
But those of us on the street in San Francisco weren’t the only ones taking action—thousands of you were taking action online—emailing Ralph Lauren and asking the company to protect forests and communities. If you haven't already, please send your email now!
We will be keeping the pressure on in the coming months, so please stay tuned for what’s next.
Maruchan—America’s #1 instant noodle brand—has been linked to the controversial ingredient Conflict Palm Oil. The true costs of Conflict Palm Oil are staggering. This widely used vegetable oil has been tied to the destruction of rainforests, carbon-rich peatlands and the abuse of human and worker rights.
Maruchan sells 67% of the instant noodles eaten in the US and uses massive amounts of palm oil in their top selling instant noodles sold across the globe. The average package of ramen noodles is a whopping 20% palm oil (by weight) ...that’s a LOT of Conflict Palm Oil.
Rainforest Action Network recently release a report titled Testing Commitments to Cut Conflict Palm Oil that exposed Maruchan, and its parent company Toyo Suisan Kaisha, Ltd., as the ‘worst performing’ laggard in the race to cut Conflict Palm Oil from the supply chains of the Snack Food 20. The company was clearly lagging behind its peers as it had not adopted any palm oil commitment. The report found that Maruchan’s products are at extremely high risk of being contaminated with Conflict Palm Oil.
Maruchan has responded by issuing a palm oil commitment that falls short of what is required. The company is requiring its suppliers to meet the entirely insufficient RSPO standard by 2020. To make matters worse, this commitment only applies to operations in the US, not products sold worldwide. With a massive worldwide reach, this is simply not enough.
Maruchan remains a laggard who has failed to meet the responsible palm oil benchmark set by its peers as it relies solely on the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an inadequate certification system that permits the destruction of High Carbon Stock rainforests, peatlands, and has a poor track record of upholding the rights of local communities and workers. More on why the RSPO system is entirely inadequate can be found here.
In order to be a true leader Maruchan must adopt a truly responsible time-bound palm oil policy that sets a higher standard than the RSPO and cut its ties with bad actors that clear rainforests, peatlands and abuse the rights of communities and workers in the palm oil sector.
We have a real chance to leverage change in the palm oil sector by convincing Maruchan and other instant noodle manufacturers to cut Conflict Palm Oil for good.
Maruchan can and must do better. You can help by calling on Maruchan and other Conflict Palm Oil laggards to step up and be a leader that adopts and rapidly implements a truly responsible palm oil policy today.
Thousands worldwide have demanded that Ralph Lauren take action to eliminate human rights abuses and deforestation from its supply chain. Ralph Lauren is not only aware of the issue, but has the resources to lead the way.
This recently released report represents a small first step for the company, but it lacks the specificity to protect forests and communities in a meaningful way. Ralph Lauren must revise its citizenship report to include criteria for cancellation with controversial suppliers, including Toba Pulp Lestari, and set time-bound goals for implementation. Until Ralph Lauren does that, we ask you to help us keep the pressure on — and to stand for forests and community rights.
Sign here to send an email telling Ralph Lauren to step up for rainforests and the people who depend on them.