“Sustainable” Palm Oil Controversy Escalates as International NGOs Call For Customers to Drop Palm Oil Giant IOI Group

IOI responds to the suspension of its sustainability certification by denying wrongdoing, fighting back with lawsuit against the RSPO


CONTACT: Emma Rae Lierley, Emma@ran.org, +1 425.281.1989


San Francisco, CA – Today, Rainforest Action Network joined with over twenty other NGOs, including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth USA and others, to send a letter to over a hundred global brands and traders with an urgent request for customers to immediately cut ties with the controversial palm oil supplier IOI Group.

The palm oil industry’s certification body, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), recently withdrew its sustainability certification from the problematic company amidst documented complaints of deforestation and the draining and burning of peatlands. Over the past years documented labor and human rights abuses on IOI Group-owned plantations have also gone unaddressed. IOI Group responded to the RSPO suspension with outright denial and a lawsuit against the RSPO.

“The drastic decision by IOI Group executives to sue the RSPO shows that the Malaysian-based palm oil giant is digging in its heels rather than truly trying to solve its serious Conflict Palm Oil problem. Companies that continue to source from IOI are taking a major risk by associating their brand reputation with a supplier known to be connected to conflicts with communities, exploitation of workers and the ongoing clearing and burning of natural forests,” said Gemma Tillack, Agribusiness Campaign Director for Rainforest Action Network (RAN).

Brands such as Unilever, Mars, Hershey’s, Kellogg’s, Dunkin’ Brands, Nestle and Ferrero have dropped IOI as a supplier. Meanwhile, others in RAN’s Snack Food 20 group of companies have failed to issue public responses or have not broken their ties with IOI, one of the most controversial suppliers in a highly controversial industry.

Ivy Schlegel, spokesperson for Greenpeace US, said, “Whatever IOI was hoping to achieve through this lawsuit has backfired, with even more of its customers now deserting the destructive company. Instead of trying to bully its critics, IOI should stop creating the conditions for forest fires by trashing Indonesia’s peatlands.”

In a letter sent to over a hundred major brands and traders, the international coalition of environmental and human rights advocates outlined the actions that must be taken by IOI Group prior to it being reconsidered as a supplier. These actions include: dropping the legal case against the RSPO; implementing an immediate moratorium on all plantation development and expansion; identifying and protecting all remaining forests and restoring peatlands it has burnt and degraded; tackling the exploitative employment and trafficking of migrant workers outlined in the Finnwatch report titled, “The Law of the Jungle,” and resolving long-standing conflicts with the Long Teran Kanan (LTK) community for a failure to respect customary land rights in Sarawak.  

To review the letter to brands and traders and the list of NGO signatories please visit: http://www.ran.org/ioi_statement