This holiday shopping season, it’s time to stand with the forests and the people who depend on them.
Too many leaders in the fashion industry are failing to lead on environmental and human rights issues, and are failing to adopt and implement policies that protect the forest. That is why communities in Indonesia and around the world are losing their lands and livelihoods as forests are cleared for pulp plantations.
This holiday season send a strong message to laggards in RAN’s Fashion 15: I won’t buy clothes from brands that don’t take responsibility for the deforestation and human rights abuses in their supply chain.
By signing the Deforestation Free Shopping Pledge, you’ll be letting all of the companies listed below know that their inaction is costing them businesses. Here are the targets:
- Closet Classics: Guess, Abercrombie and Fitch, Forever 21
- Athletic Wear: Under Armour, Foot Locker, Gaiam
- Luxury Brands: Prada Group, Michael Kors, and LVMH
Thank you for taking action, and making sure that we take deforestation and human rights abuses Out of Fashion!
More reforms are needed to RSPO standard, auditing and enforcement of its members in the palm oil sector
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Emma Rae Lierley, Emma@ran.org, +1 425.281.1989
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - At a time of increased global pressure to improve the palm oil industry, key players have gathered in Kuala Lumpur for the annual meeting of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). The issue at the top of the agenda is the increasing lack of credibility in the RSPO’s so-called “sustainable palm oil” brand.
It remains to be seen whether or not the RSPO will undertake the reforms needed to address this, as its members continue to be linked to forest fires, deforestation, egregious labor rights abuses and ongoing conflicts with communities across Indonesia, Malaysia, and new frontiers in Liberia, Latin America and Papua New Guinea.
“Amidst an environmental, human rights and health crisis resulting from the forest fires in Indonesia, which have been intentionally lit to cheaply clear land for palm oil development, and increasing exposure of the abuse of workers in the palm oil sector, the RSPO’s efforts fall short of what is needed to protect forests, climate and the rights of workers and local communities,” said Gemma Tillack, Agribusiness Campaign Director for Rainforest Action Network (RAN).
“The RSPO continues to certify palm oil companies that are driving the gross violation of human and workers’ rights across the globe. Its failure to implement a truly independent audit of the systemic human and labor rights abuses recently documented in the plantations of its member, Malaysian palm oil giant FELDA, is only one demonstration of its shortcoming.
“The RSPO is also failing to uphold the rights of communities across Indonesia, Malaysia, Liberia, Latin America and Papua New Guinea who are saying ‘No’ to palm oil development by RSPO members, such as Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad (KLK),” Tillack said.
The RSPO has responded to the increasing scrutiny by proposing a new voluntary scheme, know as RSPO Next.
“One of the most significant weaknesses of RSPO Next is that it remains an opt-in verification system, which will not apply to all RSPO members. The RSPO Next indicators still fall short of other leading voluntary verification standards, notably the Palm Oil Innovation Group (POIG).
“These vital flaws mean that its members’ operations will still be at risk of association with deforestation, climate emissions from clearance on peatlands and human and labor rights violations, thus leaving the credibility of RSPO certification in question,” Tillack said.
RAN recommends the RSPO prioritize efforts to universally improve the RSPO system and performance of all its members. RAN recommends the RSPO undertake three key actions, including:
Fast-track a review and update of the Principles & Criteria, and adopt recommendations by December 2016;
Commission an independent investigation of the RSPO’s current auditing system against best practices, with a focus on human and labor rights, and adopt a time-bound plan to reform RSPO auditing procedures by March 2016; and
Adopt a transparent and enhanced mechanism for enforcing sanctions against member companies that repeatedly violate the RSPO Principles and Criteria and Code of Conduct by June 2016.
*Critical shortcomings of the proposed RSPO Next strategy include:
The failure to require no development on High Carbon Stock forests using the High Carbon Stock Approach. A ‘carbon neutral’ based approach modeled after the Sustainable Palm Oil Manifesto High Carbon Stock Study is unacceptable.
The failure to require a ban on recruitment fees for workers, prohibit retention of passports or other identity documents, or define working hours and leave.
The failure to require improved participatory land claim mapping and land use planning processes to accommodate local communities’ livelihoods and aspirations, and respect for the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities to give or withhold their free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) to proposed developments that may affect their lands. Land use planning must ensure food security on customary lands over time, including periodic reviews and renegotiation of agreements to ensure inter-generational food security.
The failure to require a ban on the use of Paraquat and other highly toxic, bio-accumulative and persistent pesticides.
The failure to require plans to monitor, report and progressively reduce greenhouse gas emissions from all sources.
For a full list of indicators that should be incorporated into a strengthened standard please see http://tinyurl.com/odjmubz. These indicators have been developed, and are being field tested, by the Palm Oil Innovation Group members.
RSPO Can’t Be Trusted to Provide Truly Responsible Palm Oil, Says International Coalition of Civil Society Groups
Key gaps in labor standards and enforcement leave palm oil workers vulnerable to exploitation
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Emma Rae Lierley, Emma@ran.org, +1 425.281.1989
Abby McGill, firstname.lastname@example.org, +1 913.620.5063
Renata Sandhi, email@example.com, +62 813 190 935 93
Glorene Das, firstname.lastname@example.org, 010 360 32 69
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - At the opening of the annual meeting of the palm oil industry certification system, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), in Kuala Lumpur, a group of international, Malaysian and Indonesian environmental and labor rights organizations are calling on the RSPO to fix significant gaps in its monitoring and enforcement of labor standards.
Following the documentation of forced labor and human trafficking on several RSPO member plantations, including Malaysian palm oil giant FELDA as reported recently in the Wall Street Journal, the coalition of civil society groups call out the RSPO and its proposed scheme, RSPO Next, as half measures. Neither the RSPO or RSPO Next go far enough to ensure sufficient oversight of fair labor practices, including independent auditing, nor do they enact necessary consequences to members found in violation of the RSPO Principles and Criteria (P&C).
The civil society groups call on the RSPO to align its standards and operational guidelines for members with the Free and Fair Labor in Palm Oil Production: Principles and Implementation Guidance document that was developed by a forum of experts and key stakeholders and based on the International Labor Organization’s core conventions and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
“The RSPO standard needs to be brought in line with the Free and Fair Labor Principles, which should be seen as an extension of the P&C and not as a competitor to it. The Fair Labor Principles can provide a bottom-up approach to ensuring that RSPO members uphold fair labor rights for their workers. Once the standard is improved, there needs to be independent auditing of members, and those found not in compliance with the improved standard should have their membership and certification revoked, so that they can’t continue to sell supposedly sustainable RSPO certified palm oil to the market,” said Herwin Nasution from Oppuk, a non-profit organization established in Medan, Indonesia, to improve labor working and living conditions in North Sumatra and across Indonesia.
The coalition highlighted a number of serious issues, including forced and child labor, human trafficking, wage theft, discrimination against women and minorities, and health and safety violations, including the use of highly hazardous pesticides, on RSPO member plantations. These issues are allowed to persist in part due to poorly trained auditors, difficulty of accessing complaints mechanisms and a tendency to reward companies for company-created unions rather than creating space for genuine worker organizing.
“Plantation managers have an enormous amount of influence in the RSPO audit process. The auditors tell management in advance when they are coming and managers tell workers what to say, so what is happening on the plantations is not getting to the RSPO. What is needed is a truly independent audit process with well-trained auditors qualified to assess labor conditions. These auditors should improve the superficial checklist currently in use, randomly select workers without management interference, and allow workers access to audit results,” said Manggalam Panjasaram from Tenaganita, a Malaysian-based nonprofit that works to promote and protect the rights of women and migrant palm oil laborers.
“Simply put, the RSPO does not protect workers,” said Robin Averbeck, Senior Campaigner at Rainforest Action Network (RAN). “Despite ongoing violations and findings of noncompliance, a RSPO member has never lost its certification over labor issues. RSPO certification provides no assurances that massive labor rights violations are not taking place on plantations.”
“The RSPO is deceiving customers and consumers by claiming its palm oil is ethically produced, when that is so clearly not the reality on the ground,” said Eric Gottwald, Legal and Policy Director at the International Labor Rights Forum, a Washington DC-based non-profit organization dedicated to promoting labor rights around the world. “The RSPO does more harm than good when it ignores fundamental human rights violations rather than forcing members to improve working conditions. To maintain a legitimate voice, RSPO needs to immediately reassess its approach to rampant labor violations in the palm sector.”
*Labor delegates will be available for comment and questions after the RSPO Roundtable event, Addressing Social & Labor Issues, held in the Sabah Room of the Shangri-La Hotel, from 9:00 - 10:30 AM on Tuesday, November 17, 2015.
**Join the “Promoting Fair Labor Practices in the Palm Oil Industry” event for a panel discussion on labor conditions in the palm oil industry, how companies can assess and proactively address labor and human rights risks in their supply chains, and what role the RSPO can play in promoting and enforcing best labor practices amongst its members. This event will be held in the Johore Foyer, Lower Level, Shangri-La Hotel Kuala Lumpur, from 1:00 - 3:00 PM on Wednesday, November 18, 2015.
PepsiCo’s new palm oil policy and ‘action plan’ has a loophole the size of Indonesia.
Throughout the month of October, forest fires, intentionally lit to clear land for palm oil production, raged across Sumatra and Borneo while people took action around the globe to #ChallengePepsi to close this destructive loophole. We received hundreds of photos from supporters in which people declared PepsiCo vending machines, soda fountains, and store displays “Out of Order” to demand PepsiCo cut deforestation, human rights abuses, and climate pollution from its supply chain.
We received action photos from a wide range of places: from people in Arizona, Minnesota, New York, British Columbia, London, Taiwan, and Australia, to name just a few.
Watch this two minute video compilation of all the action photos from across the globe:
Unfortunately, after the month of public pressure, PepsiCo responded by issuing a so-called ‘action plan’ that falls woefully short of what is required. PepsiCo continues to not address the deadly crises that results from its use of Conflict Palm Oil and continues to refuse to take necessary action while Indonesia is literally burning. We must keep the pressure on and expose PepsiCo’s ‘action plan’ for what it is––nothing more than spin!
Here are several things you can do to keep the pressure on:
Email PepsiCo - Email PepsiCo’s CEO Ms. Indra Nooyi here and demand that it close the loophole in its palm oil policy.
Post on PepsiCo’s Facebook page- Share the action video and let them know what you think of their palm oil policy. A sample message could be: Hundreds have taken direct action on your products, as shown at http://on.fb.me/1O8xRSI, because we demand an end to deforestation, land theft, species extinction, and child and forced labor for cheap snacks.
Write a letter to the editor - Big companies like PepsiCo hate bad press, so that is exactly why we need you to write letters to the editors of your local papers today. With the exception of the frontpage, this is the most read section of the newspaper.
Thank you to everyone who participated in the #ChallengePepsi actions! Let’s keep the pressure on!
Two years ago a major palm company called Equatorial Palm Oil (EPO) began clearing the customary lands of local Jogbahn communities in Grand Bassa County, Liberia, without their Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). The communities said no to palm oil development on their land then and they say no to palm oil development on their land now.
The communities have taken their complaints against EPO and its parent company Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad (KLK) to the Liberian government, to the industry certification system the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), and to the boardrooms of EPO and KLK. Yet, two years later, their grievances remain unresolved and their rights to their land not respected.
Amplify the Jogbahn communities’ voices and their right to say no to development of palm oil on their lands by sending an send an email to the CEO’s of EPO and KLK today.
Banner Image: Community members of Jogbahn clan (Grand Bassa) at a meeting in Tarloe Town discussing the EPO plan to expand onto their customary land.
Photo Credit: Sustainable Development Institute
For the last year, people all over the world have been calling on the Fashion 15, including Guess, to get deforestation and human rights abuses out of their fabric. As an iconic American brand, Guess must create and implement a policy to ensure that its products don’t destroy forests or the communities who depend on them.
Please use the numbers below to raise your voice for forests and the people who depend on them:
- Call Guess at 1-800-394-8377
- Pick your language of preference (there’s a simple prompt)
- Dial 7 - “All other inquiries” and you’ll reach a real person who you can talk to!
Here’s a simple script you can use for calling Guess:
Hello , my name is ___ from _____ and I’m calling today because I want to be sure that the clothing I buy doesn’t lead to rainforest destruction or human rights abuses. Guess is a major U.S. brand, and, as such, should show that leadership by eliminating suppliers who have been implicated in rainforest destruction and human rights abuses. I’m asking that Guess develop and implement a policy to make sure that this sort of destruction is eliminated from its supply chain for good.
Thank you so much for your time, and for your action for the forests.
It’s so easy and only takes a moment!
Once you make the calls, please let us know how it went.
Alarming Developments in Latin American Palm Oil Industry Spur Global Call To Action For Palm Oil Traders
International coalition of NGOs says murder, intimidation and the devastation of community livelihoods tied to rampant palm oil plantation expansion must be stopped
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friends of the Earth-United States, Jeff Conant, email@example.com, U.S. +1 510 900 0016
Rainforest Action Network, Emma Rae Lierley, Emma@ran.org, U.S. +1 425.281.1989
ActionAid USA Douglas Hertzler, Doug.Hertzler@actionaid.org, U.S. +1 202 370 9922
Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA, Kelsey Alford-Jones, firstname.lastname@example.org, U.S. +1 202-529-6599
San Francisco, CA - Spurred by the recent murder of Guatemalan environmental and human rights defender Rigoberto Lima Choc, a coalition of global human rights and environmental organizations today alerted the world’s biggest palm oil traders of the gross violations of human rights occurring in the palm oil sector in Mesoamerica.
Recent conflicts between companies and communities in Guatemala and other Latin American countries have triggered global efforts to expose bad actors and seek intervention by governments and buyers of palm oil from the region to avoid ongoing human rights violations and environmental destruction.
The coalition has issued a letter calling on global commodity traders that may be operating in Guatemala and the wider Mesoamerican region including Cargill, IOI, Wilmar, Musim Mas, AAK, ADM, Bunge and GAR, as well as palm oil processors and federations in the region, to disclose the details of all palm oil suppliers and publish credible plans to tackle human rights violations, social conflict and environmental destruction in their Mesoamerican supply chains.
Jeff Conant, International Forests Campaigner with Friends of the Earth-US says, “The murder of human rights defender Rigoberto Lima Choc on September 18, 2015 is yet another shocking example of the violence that plagues the palm oil sector. This should be a wake-up call for the multinationals doing business in Mesoamerica, especially those that have committed to ‘no exploitation’ in their supply chains: the only way to ensure that multinationals are not complicit in violence of this nature is to daylight their entire supply chains.”
Gemma Tillack, a Agribusiness Campaign Director for Rainforest Action Network said, “Today, we have alerted the world’s biggest palm oil traders and processors to the human rights crisis unfolding in the palm oil industry in Guatemala and Honduras. Through their demand for cheap palm oil, these companies are driving the expansion of palm oil across Latin America. They have the responsibility to ensure their suppliers uphold strict environmental and human rights standards. We will hold them to account for the impacts of their global supply chains, including in new expansion frontiers in Latin America.”
Soren Ambrose, of ActionAid International said, “Communities in Guatemala are being forced off their land to make way for palm oil production. These human rights abuses will not be tolerated. We are calling on global palm oil companies to come clean on their links to dirty suppliers, and to make clear commitments showing how they will address the social and environmental impacts of their partners in Latin America. Consumers around the world will not accept violence and intimidation for cheaper cookies and chips.”
The same day that Rigoberto Lima Choc was killed, three other Guatemalan human rights defenders, Hermelindo Asij Mo, Lorenzo Pérez Mendoza and Manuel Perez Ordoñez, were kidnapped. The murder and kidnapping occurred shortly after a criminal court ordered REPSA to suspend operations, based on charges that Mr. Lima and his environmental group had filed denouncing a massive fish kill along a 100-mile stretch of the Pasión River, downstream from REPSA’s facilities in the region of Sayaxché, Guatemala.
Kelsey Alford-Jones, Executive Director of the Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA concluded by saying, “In Guatemala, community members engaging in legitimate actions to protect their water quality and environment consistently face threats, attacks, and assassinations, often committed with impunity due to a lack of judicial independence, widespread government corruption, and ineffective oversight of corporate practices. A zero tolerance policy must be put into effect immediately for any suppliers using or benefiting from violence and human rights abuses in their palm oil operations.”
The coalition will be tracking efforts of the global commodity traders and palm oil companies in Mesoamerica to reform their supply chains, starting with disclosing the details of all palm oil suppliers; resolving grievance and advocating for real actions to be taken to reform bad actors in the palm oil industry in Latin America.
The joint letter was sent to Cargill, IOI, Wilmar, Musim Mas, AAK, ADM, Bunge, GAR, Oleofinos, Henry Lamotte Oils GmbH, Aceites y Derivados Sociedad Anonima (Aceydesa), Corporacion Industrial de Sula S.A. (COINSU), Palmeros de Aguan S. A. (PALMASA), and GREPALMA (The Palm Growers’ Guild of Guatemala).
The signatories to the letter are: Friends of the Earth-US, Rainforest Action Network, Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA, Environmental Investigation Agency, Union of Concerned Scientists, ActionAid International, Oxfam America, Forest Peoples Program, Forest Heroes, GRAIN, Alliance for Global Justice, and Other Worlds
A generic version of the letter can be found, here.
Ongoing Clearance by Palm Oil Industry Spurs Imminent Species Extinction and Massive Climate Impact, Says New Progress Report on Critical Leuser Ecosystem
Rampant Plantation Expansion Devastates Deep Peatlands and Major Sumatran Elephant Habitat; Fate of Region Depends on Collective Action by Industry Giants and Local, National Governments
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Emma Rae Lierley, Emma@ran.org, 425.281.1989
San Francisco, CA - In the midst of a catastrophic Indonesian forest fire season, a new report released today by Rainforest Action Network (RAN) exposes ongoing destruction to one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet. The RAN report––titled The Last Place on Earth: Tracking Progress and New Opportunities to Protect the Leuser Ecosystem––cites evidence of continued clearance by palm oil growers supplying palm oil to mills in the region. It highlights Wilmar International, Musim Mas Group and Golden Agri Resources––dubbed the “Big Three Buyers” of palm oil currently at risk of sourcing from the region––and outlines the steps that they, and government officials, need to take to protect endangered species and community livelihoods from encroaching industrial development.
The progress report defines the opportunity to find a new pathway of development for Indonesia's Aceh province––one that protects the Leuser Ecosystem, secures peace and livelihoods, and creates new economic opportunities for local communities. Indonesian President Joko Widodo is a key factor in securing this opportunity, as he has the power to reject the approval of a disastrous pending spatial plan for Aceh that may soon be subject to a civil suit in Indonesian courts.
Published a year after RAN first exposed the threats to the Leuser Ecosystem in November 2014, this latest report finds that rainforests continue to fall, peatlands continue to be drained, conflicts remain between companies and communities, and the ongoing legal protections for the Leuser Ecosystem remain under threat. The report releases new satellite images and field investigations that expose the ongoing destruction of the most valuable remaining lowland rainforests and peatlands for Conflict Palm Oil. The report also names the companies responsible for the deforestation eating away at the edges of the vast, but threatened, ecosystem––including the Indonesian Government’s own plantation company PT. Perkebunan Nusantara (PTPN) III. From the scale of ongoing destruction in these critical areas, it is clear that if more collective action is not taken now, we risk losing the Leuser Ecosystem forever.
Gemma Tillack, Agribusiness Campaign Director for Rainforest Action Network, said:
“The Leuser Ecosystem is one of the world’s most richly biodiverse landscapes, and millions of people depend on it for their food, water and livelihoods. But the fate of this natural crown jewel––including its peatlands and lowland rainforests that are home to tigers, orangutans, rhinos, elephants and sun bears––depends on critical decisions being made right now.
“The ‘Big Three Buyers’ at risk of purchasing Conflict Palm Oil from the Leuser Ecosystem have the buying power to halt the destruction of the Leuser Ecosystem. These buyers need to step up efforts to work with other stakeholders, and provide real incentives to their suppliers and local and provincial governments, to push forward a moratorium on the destruction of rainforests and peatlands and secure ongoing legal protection for the Leuser Ecosystem.
“A balance must be found between building a diverse economy while protecting human rights, the forests and the ecosystem services that local communities rely on. This opportunity must be seized or Indonesia’s last forest frontiers, including Aceh’s most valuable asset––the Leuser Ecosystem––will fall victim to the same flawed industrial scale development model that has destroyed rainforests and peatlands, led to the loss of livelihoods for communities and driven land grabbing, conflict and the abuse of workers rights across Sumatra and Borneo.
“The destruction of the Leuser Ecosystem would be disastrous for millions of Acehnese people and would push endangered species even closer to the brink of extinction,” continued Tillack. “President Widodo has the power to join forces with these Big Three Buyers––and their peers in the recently launched Indonesian Palm Oil Pledge (IPOP)––to do what’s best for the people of Indonesia and preserve the country’s irreplaceable natural legacy. Efforts to halt the destruction of forests and peatlands––and to stop the forest fires intentionally set to aid the expansion of industrial palm oil development––will reduce Indonesia’s carbon footprint, the severity of the annual haze crisis and secure the lives and livelihoods of countless communities.”
Rainforest Action Network runs hard-hitting campaigns to break North America’s fossil fuels addiction, protect endangered forests and Indigenous rights, and stop destructive investments around the world through education, grassroots organizing, and non-violent direct action. For more information, please visit: www.ran.org
Right now, bulldozers are destroying the heart of the rainforests and peatlands of the Leuser Ecosystem for Conflict Palm Oil.
At 6.5 million acres, Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem is like nowhere else. Its lowland rainforests are the last place on Earth that can support, together in the wild, viable populations of rare species like Sumatran tigers, orangutans, rhinos, elephants and sun bears. If protected, its nearly half million acres of carbon-rich peatlands could help secure a stable climate. Otherwise, the draining and deforestation of these peatlands, and forest fires that may be intentionally set to cheaply clear the land, result in massive greenhouse gas emissions—fires like these are the primary cause of the current Indonesian haze disaster.
The Threat: Conflict Palm Oil
Driving this destruction is the skyrocketing global demand for palm oil. Found in over half of all packaged goods in an avergae local supermarket, the blind growth in demand for palm oil has recklessly pushed massive, industrial-scale plantations deeper and deeper into the heart of Indonesia’s rainforests, including the vital Leuser Ecosystem.
Today, RAN released a new report exposing the 'Conflict Palm Oil Culprits' responsible for the ongoing destruction of the lowland rainforests and peatlands of the Leuser Ecosystem. Right now, nine Conflict Palm Oil Culprits threaten the lowland rainforests that are the world’s best remaining habitat for the critically endangered Sumatran elephant. Other companies are destroying the carbon-rich peatlands, including the Indonesian government’s own PTPN III, which is draining and destroying the Leuser Ecosystem’s largest, deepest, and most intact peatland. This destruction and climate disaster must be stopped.
Forest clearance by palm oil company PT. Tualang Raya within the Leuser Ecosystem, August 2015. Forest clearance was also confirmed as recently as September 2015.
From the scale of ongoing destruction in these critical areas, it is clear that if more collective action is not taken now, we risk losing the Leuser Ecosystem forever.
A year ago RAN exposed the threats to this global biodiversity hotspot in an effort to stop the destruction of the Leuser Ecosystem and secure its permanent protection. As a result, the 'Big Three Buyers' of palm oil from the region—Wilmar International, Musim Mas Group and Golden Agri-Resources—have prioritized taking action to protect the Leuser Ecosystem. Despite these efforts, the Big Three Buyers so far have failed to halt the bulldozers.
There is hope that the Big Three Buyers can use their buying power to drive real change on the ground in the Leuser Ecosystem. Together, these traders have significant influence as they buy, refine, and export a significant proportion of palm oil produced by growers operating in the Indonesian provinces of Aceh and North Sumatra. These traders must take real and immediate action to achieve a moratorium on the destruction of rainforests and peatlands and to secure ongoing legal protection for the Leuser Ecosystem.
A Wallace's flying frog (Rhacophorus nigropalmatus) pictured in the Leuser Ecosystem, August 2015.
The Big Three Buyers must drive the transformation of the palm oil sector in Aceh by providing incentives for their suppliers to comply with a higher standard for responsible palm oil production and to cut ties with any bad actors that fail to halt the destruction of rainforests and peatlands or continue to violate the rights of local communities and workers. Along with protecting and restoring critical rainforest and peatlands, these major palm oil traders must ensure all their suppliers fully respect the right of communities to give or withhold their Free, Prior and Informed Consent for palm oil development on lands where they hold customary, legal, or user rights. Each company must also invest in long-term, meaningful programs to support smallholders in achieving compliance with their policies as well as work with communities to create alternative economic development pathways outside the unsustainable plantation model.
Left unchecked, palm oil expansion will lead to the loss of the Leuser Ecosystem’s lowland forests and its carbon-rich peatlands that need to be protected to secure a stable global climate. If a new pathway for development in Aceh is not created that has the protection of the Leuser Ecosystem at its core, millions of Achenese people will continue to see their land stolen, forests degraded, their water sources and air polluted, and their sources of livelihood destroyed.
New palm oil plantation. PT. Tualang Raya, within the Leuser Ecosystem, August 2015.
To make matters worse, a plan for greater development of the Leuser Ecosystem is currently being deliberated by the government of Aceh and the central government of Indonesia. If Aceh’s new spatial plan is implemented, it will remove protections from the Leuser Ecosystem and open up more critical lowland rainforest and peatlands to large-scale industrial development including more palm oil and pulp plantations, logging, mining and all the roads and other infrastructure that come with them. If this misguided land clearance plan is implemented by the government of Aceh it will be a disaster for the climate, forests, local people and the long term economic health and sustainability of the region.
The threats to the Leuser Ecosystem, and the local communities that rely on it, are real and ongoing. It is clear that the time to take action to protect the Leuser Ecosystem is now. We all have a role to play. We all have something to lose.
At 6.5 million acres, the Leuser Ecosystem is a world unto itself—a rich and verdant expanse of intact tropical lowland rainforests, cloud draped mountains and steamy peatlands. It is among the most biodiverse and ancient ecosystems ever documented by science, and it is the last place where Sumatran orangutans, elephants, tigers, rhinos and sun bears still roam side by side.
But the Leuser Ecosystem exists at a tenuous crossroads. Despite being protected under Indonesian national law, massive industrial development for palm oil, pulp and paper plantations and mining threaten the entire ecosystem, as well as the continued wellbeing of the millions of Acehnese people who depend on it for their food, water and livelihoods.
Will you raise your voice today to call for the protection of the Leuser Ecosystem?
In November 2014, RAN exposed the links between the ‘Big Three Buyers’ of palm oil from the Leuser Ecosystem region—Wilmar International, Musim Mas Group and Golden Agri-Resources Ltd—and the destruction on the ground in Indonesia. Since then, all of the Big Three Buyers have publicly confirmed that they source from palm oil companies with operations in or near the Leuser Ecosystem and have begun initiatives to bring these palm oil companies into compliance with their responsible palm oil policies.
These actions are all steps in the right direction. However, despite these efforts, Conflict Palm Oil continues to expand into the heart of the rainforests and peatlands of the Leuser Ecosystem. Wilmar, Musim Mas and Golden Agri-Resources, and their customers in the Snack Food 20, remain at high risk of sourcing Conflict Palm Oil produced inside the Leuser Ecosystem. It is clear that more action is needed throughout the entire supply chain to effect real changes on the ground inside the Leuser Ecosystem.
Time is running out, especially in the lowland rainforests and the carbon-rich peatlands which are at the frontlines of Conflict Palm Oil expansion. We need these buyers to take urgent action to intervene and secure the permanent protection of the priceless Leuser Ecosystem. Given the scale of the climate and biodiversity crisis, we simply cannot afford to lose the Leuser Ecosystem.
Add your name. Raise your voice today to protect the Leuser Ecosystem.
Read our latest report: The Last Place On Earth: Tracking Progress and New Opportunities To Protect The Leuser Ecosystem
Press Release: Ongoing Clearance by Palm Oil Industry Spurs Imminent Species Extinction and Massive Climate Impact, Says New Progress Report on Critical Leuser Ecosystem (English)
For more information read:
Photo Credit: Paul Hilton