Pages tagged "indigenous"

Activist Arrested at RBC's Waterloo

[caption id="attachment_6429" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Indigenous Activist Protests RBC Waterloo Branch"]RBC Banner[/caption] An activist was arrested this afternoon at the Waterloo Branch of RBC Bank. Mark Corbiere was charged with mischief for hanging a banner reading "Boycott RBC" and "Stop the Tar Sands" from the roof of the branch, located in uptown Waterloo. The protest was one of eight "Fossil Fools Day" protests at RBC branches across Canada. For the last five years, activists around the world have adopted April Fools Day as a day of pranks and protest against fossil fuels and climate change. According to Bloomberg, RBC is a top arranger of financing to companies operating in the tar sands. Those present report that Corbiere was joined by 10 supporters chanting and holding banners in front of the bank branch during the protest. CTV cameras were on scene to catch the action. After an hour of negotiations, police removed Corbiere from the roof and confiscated his banner.

Fossil Foolery in 13 Canadian Cities

From Maryam in Toronto:
In the spirit of Fossil Fools day, 13 Cities in Canada have taken action and pulled creative pranks and tricks on tar sands supporters. 8 communities in Canada: London, Toronto, Waterloo, Peterborough, New Westminster (BC), Duncan (BC), and Victoria all targeted RBC as the top financier in dirty tar sands projects. In Waterloo, one indigenous activist was arrested after a banner drop at a local branch of Royal Bank of Canada. [caption id="attachment_6343" align="alignright" width="300" caption="photo: Tristan Glenn"]photo: Tristan Glenn[/caption] In Montreal, 70 people staged a bike bloc protest shutting down the roads in and out of Montreal’s oil refining sector with clean, green people power.  A banner was hung in front of the Enbridge Trailbreaker Pipeline stating “Changeon le System, Pas le Climat. Trailbreaker=Tar Sands” where cyclists blockaded the road to draw attention to the downstream, destructive effects of the Athabasca Tar Sands.  “The east end of Montreal is a seldom seen and discussed region, but it is the largest urban oil refining center in Canada,” says Cameron Fenton, a member of Climate Justice Montreal.  ”It is a vast wasteland of oil, gas and chemical storage tanks, threatening the health of local residents and all Montrealers. If completed, the Trailbreaker would bring the direct effects of the Tar Sands right here.” In Edmonton and Calgary, local residents delivered “awards” in the shape of Black and Gold ducks to Premier Ed Stelmach and Environment Minister Jim Prentice respectively.  In Halifax, local youth called out Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Environment Minister Jim Prentice and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty in front of CBC radio for failing to respect the rights of first nations communities affected by tar sands development, and suspending the popular ecoEnergy retrofit program yesterday.  “Harper doesn’t grasp the science [of climate change] let alone the moral issues,” says Emily Rideout, student at Dalhousie University.  “I’d like to see Canada adopt a science-based target, pull out of the tar sands – or at least put a moratorium on development.  Instead, we’re cutting eco-energy programs and funding.” “Fossil Fools Day is an international day of action to hold dirty politicians and industries accountable for expanding a fossil fuel industry that is fast destroying our planet and our communities,” said Fenton. “In Canada, the biggest Fossil Fools are tar sands developers, investors and political supporters. It’s time they stop the foolery, stop the tar sands, and start building the green economy we want to leave for the next generation.” The group is calling for a global response to ensure that we respect Aboriginal title and peoples and avoid catastrophic climate change. “Tar sands projects are destroying our forests, our water systems, and are endangering people in Canada,” says Skye Augustine, student at the University of Victoria. “As a member of the G8 and the G20, we have the resources to look for alternatives and create a clean, green energy economy that protects people and the planet.” Worldwide, Fossil Fools Day is promoting strong, just climate legislation, corporate responsibility and a clean renewable energy future.  “It is time that Canada cleans up its dirty energy addiction,” said Kimia Ghomeshi, National G20 and Climate Organizer for the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition.  ”People in Canada are ready for change. We need to stop providing subsidies to dirty fossil fuel industries, make substantial investments into the renewable energy sector, and provide a just transition for workers in the tar sands. This is what real climate justice looks like.” In the lead up to the G8 and G20 meetings taking place in Canada in June 2010, climate justice activists are raising the profile of the tar sands industry in Canada as the key reason the Canadian government is refusing to do its fair share to set deep and binding greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, and tarnishing Canada’s international reputation as a result. For details of days of action leading up to the arrival of the G20 in Toronto, visit For photos, visit For nomination and action videos, visit For more information on Fossil Fools Day actions, visit

Cargill waits for RSPO while Sinar Mas destroys forests

Last week Nestle joined the ranks of other major food conglomerates to cancel their palm oil contracts from Sinar Mas, Indonesia's largest palm oil and wood pulp producer and notorious rainforest destroyer. Responding to the movements against Sinar Mas, Cargill also made an announcement on Sinar Mas last week; unfortunately Cargill chose to delay action and pass the burden of responsibility to the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil rather than live up to their own corporate responsibility statements and act immediately to remove Sinar Mas' dirty and dangerous palm oil from their supply chain. Kraft, Unilever, and Sainsbury's have also ended their direct palm oil contracts with Sinar Mas yet Cargill continues to stand behind their longstanding relationship with Sinar Mas. As palm oil production destroys forests, endangers forest peoples, and threatens the global climate, Cargill has met calls from Rainforest Action Network to end their support of Sinar Mas with stonewalling, inaction, and silence. The company has refused to disclose the size of their palm oil contract with the Indonesian multinational, all the while maintaining that they are committed to transparency and sustainability. The evidence out against Sinar Mas is known, but perhaps the palm oil Cargill buys from Sinar Mas and resells in Europe and the US is just too profitable, or Cargill does not truly care about Indonesia's forests, or they are not concerned about the underlying sustainability of the palm oil industry. Whatever the reason, Cargill's lack of action is unacceptable and violates their own commitments to sustainable production and environmental stewardship. [caption id="attachment_6241" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Sinar Mas has the world's largest landbank for palm oil production - much of it threatened rainforests"][/caption] Kraft, Nestle, and Unilever are all Cargill customers, and until Cargill removes Sinar Mas palm oil from their supply chain, these companies will not be able to live up to their very public commitments to disassociate with Sinar Mas. Under significant pressure from this powerful group of companies, Cargill last week finally made an announcement regarding Sinar Mas: "If the RSPO validates the allegations of improper land conversion or illegal planting in deep peat land as alleged in the Greenpeace report and Sinar Mas does not take corrective action, we will delist them." This public statement was long overdue, but falls far short of the actions of Cargill's customers and peers. Rather than cancel with a dirty and dangerous supplier, Cargill has passed the burden of responsibility to a powerless, controversial, and politically compromised Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) - an initiative of palm oil producers, traders, buyers, and NGOs. Unlike other companies that took unilateral action, Cargill is hoping to hide behind the decisions of the RSPO, who have up to this point been unable to hold their members accountable for unsustainable and destructive production practices.  And then the clause 'Corrective Action' - Sinar Mas has been destroying rainforests for at least 20 years, and their wood pulp arm, Asia Pulp and Paper, is such an egregious rainforest destroyer that almost all the major US outlets of paper and cardboard have canceled their contracts with Sinar Mas (Office Depot, Unisource, Target, etc). Unilever conducted an expensive audit of Sinar Mas' impacts, a publicly available document of Sinar Mas' destruction, and NGOs have released countless reports documenting Sinar Mas' actions on the ground. Are we to believe, as Cargill tells us, that the allegations against Sinar Mas are still unproven and that Sinar Mas can take corrective action to gain back Cargill's and their customers' trust? The time is now for Cargill to face up to their responsibility as a major palm oil producer, trader, and supplier and eliminate Sinar Mas palm oil from their supply chain and chain of custody. Today. Without statements passing on responsibility to powerless trade groups, and without any if's, but's, or when's.

Palm Oil Controversy Threatens General Mills Golden Reputation

“Few things are more important than a company’s reputation with stakeholders.  It represents the sum of all that we do – and reflects the value and trust that consumers, customers, employees, investors and communities place in our company, our brands and our people. We constantly strive to remain worthy of that trust…” says CEO Ken Powell. You're right about that, Mr. Powell - your company's reputation is everything, and it's massively at risk. Unfortunately for General Mills, over three hundred concerned cereal eaters across the U.S. and Canada took to the streets last week for a National Palm Oil Week of Action and distributed 20,000 spoof Cheerios postcards. Concerned citizens are raising awareness about General Mills’ role in rainforest destruction from California to Minnesota to Alberta, Canada: General Mills is definitely on the spot. In the world of Corporate Social Responsibility, the past two weeks have been an exciting time for companies like General Mills, receiving awards such as ‘Top Corporate Citizen,’ ranking 47th in the world’s  50 ‘Most Admired Companies’ and 29th on the ‘Diversity List.’ These awards recognize the company’s strong global reputation – at least according to Fortune Magazine and global business leaders. But what this small group of decision makers doesn't know is that millions of Indigenous peoples, endangered species and forests are at risk from palm oil expansion in Indonesia - thanks to General Mills. General Mills, a company recognized for its CSR record, refuses to have a conversation with RAN about their palm oil commitments because of our "antics."  It makes us wonder if General Mills is really committed to “sustainability.” "General Mills strives to be one of the most socially responsible consumer food companies in the world, and we're proud to be named one of the 100 Best Corporate Citizens for 2010," said Ken Powell, chairman and CEO of General Mills. "Each step we take across our businesses, big or small, advances our mission of Nourishing Lives." Which lives, exactly, is he nourishing? The lives of the children in the U.S. eating rainforest destruction-tainted Cheerios? Or the lives of the millions of forest-dependent people forced off their land to make way for monoculture palm oil plantations that release vast amounts of carbon into the atmosphere and destroy the precious habitat of endangered species, like orangutans and Sumatran tigers? Will General Mills continue claiming that they support responsible palm oil while purchasing it from one of the worst palm oil supplier in the world – Cargill? RAN won’t quit campaigning until General Mills starts truly honoring their commitment to “Corporate Social Responsibility” by sourcing only environmentally and socially responsible palm oil. Until then, these awards mean nothing. Over six hundred people and counting have already signed up for another national week of action for the first week of April! We will be passing out thousands of spoof Lucky Charms postcards as one of the many General Mills brands that contain palm oil ingredients. Due to our combined efforts, more than 45 American companies have committed to using only environmentally and socially responsible palm oil.  Guess who's not quite ready to make that same commitment? General Mills. Turns out Lucky Charms aren't so lucky for the local people, culture and biodiversity of Indonesia's lush tropical islands. When General Mills steps up and cancels their contract with Cargill, their performance will merit an award they are actually deserving of. Until then, anyone who uses the word 'responsible' in the same sentence as General Mills is misguided and misinformed.

Cargill customers cancel with Sinar Mas while Cargill continues to support rainforest destruction

Nestle, the world's largest food and beverage company, has become the latest major multinational to cancel their palm oil contract with Sinar Mas, one of Indonesia's largest conglomerates and a leading producer of both palm oil and wood pulp for paper and packaging products. A string of reports have shown that Sinar Mas is actively clear cutting Indonesia's forests, home to the endangered Orangutan, Sumatran Tiger, and Elephant, in violation of Indonesian law. Not only is Sinar Mas' palm oil dirty and dangerous, it is also illegal. [caption id="attachment_6162" align="alignnone" width="459" caption="Sinar Mas is clearing rainforests in Borneo without proper government approval"][/caption] With the world's major buyers of palm oil, including Uniliver, Kraft, Sainsbury and now Nestle cutting  ties with Sinar Mas, Cargill's support of Sinar Mas' rainforest destruction and  chain of illegalities has become all the more unacceptable. The world's CEOs, environmental groups, and local Indonesian communities all agree: Sinar Mas is a critical threat to the world's forests, forest peoples, and the climate. Those companies who buy from Sinar Mas have acted, and Sinar Mas is reeling from tens of millions of dollars of contract cancellations. [caption id="attachment_6161" align="alignnone" width="458" caption="Sinar Mas built this logging road in primary rainforest without government approval, violating Indonesian law. PT WKS, Riau, Sumatra"][/caption] Yet Cargill continues to stand by Sinar Mas. The Minnesota based agribusiness giant sells Sinar Mas palm oil worldwide, turning a profit as Sinar Mas illegally burns carbon rich peat forests and forcibly evicts local communities to make way for palm oil. Cargill has repeatedly refused to disclose the size of their palm oil contracts with Sinar Mas subsidiaries and affiliates, contracts  insiders believe Cargill pays Sinar Mas tens of millions of dollars a year for their dangerous palm oil. Although Kraft and Nestle have canceled their contracts with Sinar Mas, these companies are still not free of Sinar Mas' palm oil in their global supply chains. Both Kraft and Nestle are large buyers of palm oil from Cargill, and Cargill continues to supply palm oil to the global market from Sinar Mas. Until Cargill cancels with Sinar Mas, Nestle, Kraft, and USA companies such as General Mills, will be forced to support Sinar Mas' untenable palm oil operations in Indonesia. Business as usual has become unacceptable for buyers of palm oil. The top management of Unliver, Kraft, and Nestle have all acknowledged that systemic change is needed in Indonesia’s palm oil sector. But Cargill, with their business based on unsustainable clearing and burning of rainforests, refuses to act on the demands of their customers. Over the past months, Cargill has repeatedly told RAN that they will change their ways if they ‘hear it from our customers’. Well, Cargill’s customers have spoken, and Cargill management must disassociate themselves with Sinar Mas, other worst-of-the-worst palm oil producers, and put an immediate end to deforestation at their own palm oil plantations, or risk being the next palm oil supplier that Uniliver, Kraft, and Nestle cut all ties with. David Gilbert is a forest program research associate with RAN. He has lived and worked in the forests of the Amazon and Indonesia. He has a special focus on Indigenous rights and tropical forest conservation. He can be reached at davidgilbert AT ran DOT org

Emergildo's Story

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="302" caption="Emergildo Criollo Indigenous Ecuador leader of the Cofan people."]Emergildo Criollo[/caption] This past week, Emergildo Criollo, an Indigenous Ecuador leader of the Cofan people traveled 3,000 miles from his home in the Amazon rainforest to California. He came to California to share his story and ask for support in getting one of the world’s largest oil companies (Chevron) to clean up one of the largest environmental disasters in history. For a whirlwind few days this week, Emergildo shared his story with Chevron employees, California Senators and Assemblymembers, journalists, activists, and Chevron’s new CEO John Watson’s Lafayette neighbors. Here is the story that Emergildo told (translated from Spanish): “I want to start telling my story from when I was a child. In 1964, I was 6 and living by the river. As was the tradition of my people we would migrate from area to area to hunt. We were in (what is now called Lago Agrio) hunting. At one point we heard this really loud noise coming from the sky. We thought it was a large bird (it was a helicopter). We were scared and hid. The helicopter landed and we were very scared. They landed and started cutting down trees. They cut down about 10 hectares of trees. Texaco (now Chevron) set up a worker camp. Me and my father tried to sell our jewelry. I was wearing my traditional dress. The workers came up and lifted my dress. I was so embarrassed. They lifted it because they didn’t know if I was a little girl or boy. It was so humiliating. A few months passed and we saw great waves of oil floating down the river. We had to part the sheets of oil to get the water. As we walked we waded through oil. We tried to get it off our skin but we couldn’t get clean. After a bit we said we can’t live here anymore and we had to relocate. About a decade passed. I met my wife. She got pregnant and was drinking water that we didn’t know was contaminated. My son was born but didn’t grow well. He died at just 6 months. I took him to a hospital in Quito but they couldn’t do anything. Then our second son was born. I would take him to the river to swim. One day at the river he drank the water and started vomiting and vomiting. He soon started vomiting blood. Within 24 hours, he was dead too. After seeing this I realized we couldn’t drink from the river. We started digging wells and looking for subterranean water which we hoped was cleaner. After being exposed my wife became ill. She had uterine cancer and had to have a hysterectomy. She was never the same after. Always in pain. It wasn’t just my family that was affected by the polluted water. And not just my people, the Cofan, but all the other Indigenous communities and campesinos in the area. Many, many of our brothers and sisters have died as well. Before Texaco (now Chevron) arrived we lived well. We had plenty of food. Plenty of animals and plenty of medicinal plants. Everything has changed. All of our customs have been transformed since the company’s arrival. If you can imagine, we have lost our traditional healers and medicine with Texaco’ (now Chevron) arrival. The irony is we now have so many new illnesses and we have lost our abilities to heal. There were changes for the women as well. The women would traditionally get firewood by the river. Because of oil spills, the wood was drenched in thick, black oil. The oil coated their bodies and polluted the food they cooked over the wood. The women suffered as well. The Cofan women never had miscarriages before. With Texaco (now Chevron) and the contamination there were suddenly many miscarriages and children born with abnormalities. There has been so much pain for our women. This continues today. People are dying of cancer and oil-related illness. They just left so many open oil pits and never cleaned up. This is why we started the lawsuit. That’s what our lawsuit is about. To get Chevron to take responsibility. They need to see the supposed clean-up was not a proper clean-up. They just sprinkled dirt on the oil pits, covered them up. But if you dig even 50 cm it is thick with oil. This is not a proper clean up. The oil is still there.” These open waste pits had no protective liner. The oil would seep into the the ground, and then into the smaller rivers, and the larger rivers. The contamination affects so many people.” Emergildo’s story is the story of thousands of people in the region. What will it take for Chevron to do the right thing, clean up Ecuador, and put an end to the suffering?
Cross-posted at

CA Lawmakers Want to Help Make Chevron Clean Up Ecuador

Last night, Emergildo Criollo, the Indigenous leader from Ecuador, met with California legislators and asked for their support in the 16+ year campaign to demand Chevron remediate massive oil contamination affecting over 30,000 people. Along with supporters from Amazon Watch and Rainforest Action Network, Emergildo spoke with lawmakers about the impact of California’s largest company in Ecuador, and what they can do to support his community’s call for environmental cleanup and action to prevent such tragedies in the future. Emergildo Criollo meets with California Lawmakers in Sacramento Senator Fran Pavley and Assemblymember Jared Huffman hosted the reception in Sacramento entitled, “From Ecuador to California: California’s largest corporation, one of the world’s worst oil related disasters, and what California’s legislators can do.” Despite the pouring rain, the reception was packed with Senators, Assemblymembers, and their staff. Lawmakers in attendance included Senator Fran Pavley, Senator Loni Hancock, Assemblyman Manny Perez, Assemblyman Paul Fong, Assemblyman Ira Ruskin, and Assemblyman Jared Huffman. These key leaders from both the Environmental and Latino Caucuses not only listened to Emergildo’s story, but spoke of their desire to support the people of Ecuador who are suffering and dying because of Chevron’s operations. Assemblymember Jared Huffmand spoke of the need “to remedy a very serious environmental and human tragedy.” Emergildo Criollo meets with California Lawmakers in Sacramento At the reception, Emergildo shared his story. He told the lawmakers about how he was only 6 years old when Chevron (then Texaco) began oil drilling in his community. He spoke of how his family was forced to relocate because of the contamination. About he had to part centimeters of oil off of the river to drink the water. About how he has lost two sons and nursed a wife through uterine cancer because of the contamination. His family drank, bathed, and fished in water that was poisoned by oil dumping. After telling his story, Emergilod asked all of the Assemblymembers and Senators for their help and invited them to visit his home and see for themselves the devastation Chevron’s behavior has caused. Senator Loni Hancock, from the Contra Costa district where Chevron is headquartered, said she “would like to come and visit. This is an international issue and an issue here as well.” Assemblymember Manny Perez had a heartfelt exchange with Emergildo in Spanish and lawmaker after lawmaker stood up and said they wanted to learn more and to see what action they could take. We are excited about the possibilities moving forward and look forward to working closely with California’s legislators to make sure California’s largest corporation is held responsible for cleaning up one of the largest environmental disasters of all time. Learn more at

Indigenous And Hundreds More Challenge RBC On Tar Sands

Today more than 170 people rallied outside of the Royal Bank of Canada’s (RBC’s) Annual General Shareholder meeting (AGM) in Toronto after a series of creative non-violent actions all morning. Inside, First Nations Chiefs and community representatives from four different Nations demanded RBC phase out of its Tar Sands financing and to recognize the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent for Indigenous communities. Afterward, Indigenous leaders lead the crowd in a march to rally outside both RBC Headquarters buildings. Other cities across Canada supported the First Nations voices inside the AGM as well with solidarity actions from (click on a city for pictures) London, Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton, Victoria and more. Check out photos from those and our events in Toronto. And see some preliminary media coverage from the Wall Street Journal and Yahoo. See beautiful photos from Allan Lissner here. Since 2007 RBC has backed more than $16.7 billion (USD) in loans to companies operating in the tar sands—more than any other bank. Called, ‘the most destructive project on Earth,’ Alberta’s tar sands projects will eventually transform a Boreal forest the size of England into an industrial sacrifice zone complete with lakes full of toxic waste and man-made volcanoes spewing out clouds of global warming emissions. Outside the shareholder meeting school children, bank customers of every age, First Nations community representatives joined Rainforest Action Network, Indigenous Environmental Network, No One Is Illegal, and Council of Canadians made their outrage at RBC’s investments heard – to the thumping beats of street Samba band, the crowd shouted “Cultural Genocide: who do we thank? Dirty investments from Royal Bank! Inside the shareholder meeting, Chief Al Lameman of Beaver Lake First Nation, Alberta,Vice Chief Terry Teegee of the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council of BC, Hereditary Chief Warner Naziel of the Wet'suwe'ten First Nation of BC, and Gitz Crazyboy of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation addressed RBC CEO Gordon Nixon directly about the way tar sands extraction projects have jeopardized their health and their rights. Downstream communities have experienced polluted water, water reductions in rivers and aquifers, declines in wildlife populations such as moose and muskrat, and significant declines in fish populations. Tar sands has all but destroyed the traditional livelihood of First Nations in the northern Athabasca watershed. RBC is clearly feeling the public pressure over their tar sands financing. They spent half their shareholder meeting addressing the issue. Recently, the bank convened a high-level meeting with more than a dozen international banks for a “day of learning” about the reputational risks associated with the tar sands. In addition, according to information the bank provided to RAN during a February meeting in San Francisco, RBC is currently evaluating new lending criteria that would apply to the oil and gas sector, in particular to the tar sands. However, the bank has been reticent to include Free, Prior and Informed Consent in its policy, which would ensure that First Nations communities are respected in lending practices. [youtube nRE8aStTq5Y] “RBC’s significant financial relationship with companies pursuing tar sands development activities within our traditional territory and without consent warrants close attention,” said Chief Al Lameman of Beaver Lake First Nation. “RBC should update their policies to include a recognition of Free, Prior and Informed consent for Indigenous communities; this globally recognized concept was adopted by TD Bank Financial Group in 2007 and is endorsed by Indigenous communities across the political spectrum.” [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="211" caption="activists disrupt the RBC shareholder meeting inside"][/caption] Internationally, tar sands financing is gaining tremendous negative attention. An increasingly vocal group of shareholders and environmentalists turned last month’s BP, Shell and Royal Bank of Scotland annual meetings into a referendum on the oil extraction projects. Today’s marches, rallies, and actions were a triumphant roar of grassroots power from across the spectrum. The day concluded with an apt chant to RBC Headquarters, foreshadowing the growing flame of tar sands resistance across Canada, “Native communities under attack! We won’t stop until you act!”

Cargill leaves a palm oil mess in Papua New Guinea

Cargill Inc., the world’s largest agribusiness company, has announced the sale of their palm oil plantations in the remote tropical nation of Papua New Guinea (PNG). Cargill owns mills and plantations in Indonesia, Malaysia, and until today, PNG, and trades palm oil globally produced by at least 25 additional palm oil producers in Indonesia and Malaysia. A Cargill oil palm plantation in PNG - Photo by Greenpeace

Cargill's oil palm operations in PNG destroyed rainforests - Photo by Greenpeace PNG

Just three months ago RAN released a case study, based on original field research carried out by RAN and the International Accountability Project, on Cargill’s palm oil operations in PNG.  Commodity Colonialism reports that serious environmental and social issues threaten the sustainability of Cargill’s plantations there, with a special focus on the dangers of converting once independent and self sufficient Papuan farmers into indebted laborers through Cargill’s use of share cropping contracts. After five years of operations in PNG, Cargill is turning their palm oil plantations over to New Britain Palm Oil, along with a range of unfilled commitments to the people and government of PNG. It is unclear what will become of the thousands of indebted Papuans who remain bound under contract to exclusively produced oil palm for Cargill at prices set by the company, of the polluted rivers and watersheds Cargill is leaving behind, or the roads Cargill made a commitment to build and maintain in the rugged interior. Cargill did not release any official comments but insiders point to the strong criticisms of Cargill’s unsustainable palm oil production by customers and the media as a likely reason Cargill decided to exit the country. Recent contract cancellations against the Indonesian palm oil producer Sinar Mas, Cargill’s single-largest palm oil supplier, have led to questions of Cargill’s support of, and profits from, rainforest destruction in neighboring Indonesia.

Cargill's Oro Bay palm oil plantation - Photo by Greenpeace PNG

Back in PNG, local communities have spoken out on the damaging effects palm oil production has on the farms, forests, and rivers they have depended on for tens of thousands of years for survival. The lack of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) in Cargill’s sharecropping agreements, the lack of training to use dangerous pesticides, and the use of child labor are also among the most serious concerns expressed by locals living at Cargill’s three PNG plantations. Cargill’s entrance into palm oil production in PNG gave rise to concerns that the company would use its financial and political influence to undermine the strict protections the constitution of PNG provides to community forests and farms through the recognition of communities’ customary land rights. It appears that these strict constitutional protections, which prevented Cargill from rapidly expanding it’s PNG plantations, played a significant role in Cargill’s decision to stop producing oil palm in PNG. A World Bank social impact report that noted increases of debt, prostitution, alcohol, and violence at PNG’s palm oil plantation communities,  providing additional reasons for Cargill to disassociate themselves with PNG palm oil.
New Britain Palm Oil's Togulo palm oil operations in PNG replaced natural rainforest in 1979.  - Photo by Greenpeace PNG
New Britain Palm Oil (NBPO) is a long-time producer of palm oil in Papua New Guinea with a reputation for respecting local communities and a cautious approach to oil palm expansion, but NBPO’s plans for Cargill’s holdings are unknown. One this is for certain though, NBPO will now have to clean up Cargill’s palm oil mess in PNG. David Gilbert is a Research Fellow at RAN. He has worked in the tropical forests of the Amazon and Indonesia, with a special focus on forest conservation and indigenous rights. He can be reached at

Getting to Maybe with RBC

After a year of campaigning, this afternoon RBC and RAN finally sat opposite the same table to talk tar sands (here's the background for those just tuning in). In RBC's corner was COO Barbara Stymiest joined by Sandra Odendahl and Shari Austin. We correspond with Sandra and Shari pretty regularly.  Barbara was a new contact. She's one of nine members of RBC's "Group Executive" responsible for setting the overall strategic direction of the bank. Weighing in for RAN was Acting Executive Director Rebecca Tarbotton joined by Eriel Deranger and me. Our aim was to learn whether RBC is ready to begin putting its money where its mouth is on Indigenous rights, water quality and climate change by scaling back its financing in Canada's tar sands. The resounding conclusion? Maybe a little. Maybe. Enough to scale back the campaign? Read the play-by-play after the jump. Indigenous rights took much of the agenda . After a December letter from CEO Gord Nixon cited "little room for agreement" on Free, Prior Informed Consent, we were pleased to see the bank reconsidering its position. We heard about a recent trip by Stymiest and Odendahl to visit with three First Nations in the tar sands region.  We heard about the bank's keen interest in promoting dialogue between industry and First Nations and government. And while the bank appeared ready to strengthen its lending standards on Indigenous rights, recognizing "Consent" continues to be a deal-breaker for RBC.  Progress? Maybe a little, but not the standard already recognized by Toronto Dominion Bank--not to mention 143 countries (Canada, the US and New Zealand  excepted) signed onto the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. Next on the agenda was environmental lending standards in the tar sands. On the table was draft language for a new Environmental Risk Policy. The document would replace RBC's "outdated" policy that guides bank decisions on lending to companies operating in high-impact industries like the tar sands. The proprietary policy would be subject to internal audits and would prohibit lending to clients operating in ways "which adversely impact, in a non-reversible manner, critical natural habitats or freshwater resources." Good language.  In fact, it's the same language that we proposed to the bank one year ago now on the books at French bank Dexia. Asked whether the policy would change RBC's business in the sector, Stymiest said that we "should see change over time as new credits are vetted according to the policy." Progress? Maybe. The proposal still needs to be vetted internally with lenders, risk managers and external advisors. We're looking forward to the details. With virtually no time to spare, we took up climate change. The RBC team characterized measuring the "financed emissions" embedded in the bank's lending portfolio as impractical, but assured us that the bank is committed to promoting renewable energy. Nice, but not on par with Unicredit Bank's commitment to do just that. So are these commitments enough to cool the campaign? Should the 150+  people planning to descend on RBC's shareholder meeting next month bring champagne instead of chants. We want to hear from you in the comments.

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