Delegation of Indonesian Indigenous leaders travel to Cincinnati to pressure the company toward action
**High-res photo and video available upon request
Cincinnati, OH – Today, commodity giant Procter & Gamble faced pressure in its hometown of Cincinnati, for the company’s failure to address its role in driving the destruction of climate-critical forests around the world. A broad coalition of concerned local residents, national climate justice advocates, and a delegation of Indigenous leaders from North Sumatra, Indonesia gathered in front of Cincinnati’s City Hall and marched to P&G headquarters.
Among the North Sumatran delegation was activist Delima Silalahi who was just named as a recipient of this year’s Goldman Prize –– the world’s preeminent environmental award –– for her successful work leading a campaign against a notoriously harmful P&G-linked company in Indonesia. The campaign secured the legal land rights of 17,824 acres to Indigenous communities in North Sumatra, Indonesia, preventing further destruction from the P&G-linked pulp company looking to clear the communities’ lands.
“We’ve worked alongside Indigenous communities in North Sumatra for years, fighting to prevent the clearing of more invaluable forests,” said Delima Silalahi, the Goldman Prize winner and program director for KSPPM, a Sumatra-based human rights and forest advocacy organization. “P&G contributes to land grabbing and intimidation against these Indigenous Batak communities through its ongoing business with its supplier, Royal Golden Eagle. P&G must immediately suspend its business ties and demonstrate it respects Indigenous communities.”
The protest comes on the heels of years of public pressure from shareholders, global environmental and human rights advocates, Cincinnati residents, and by the direct descendants of the original cofounders William Procter and James Gamble, calling on the company to reform its practices. Advocates have highlighted that P&G –– the world’s largest consumer company and major purchaser of forest-risk commodities like palm oil, tree pulp, and paper –– is failing to live up to its own claims and commitments.
Justine Epstein, a direct descendant of co-founder James Gamble, said, “Procter & Gamble is complicit in climate destruction and human rights abuses globally through its supply chain while continuing to make empty promises to protect forests and respect human rights. As a descendant of James Gamble, I stand in solidarity with the communities around the world fighting against P&G’s extractive ties. Major corporations like P&G must take substantive action towards systemic change that values the demands of impacted communities and protects our planet’s remaining forests. A livable future for all of us depends on it.”
From Canada’s Boreal forests to the rainforests of Indonesia, P&G is implicated through its supply chain in deforestation and human rights abuses around the world and continues to source from suppliers the company knows are causing serious human suffering and environmental harm. One of P&G’s notorious suppliers, Royal Golden Eagle (RGE), is connected to the controversial pulp and paper company, PT. Toba Pulp Lestari, that’s been operating on dozens of Batak Indigenous lands in North Sumatra, Indonesia, without their consent. One of the impacted communities, Pargamanan-Bintang Maria, has over 40 percent of their customary forest under the company’s concession and is at risk of deforestation indefinitely. The delegation of Indigenous leaders from Indonesia traveled from this community to meet with P&G executives directly.
Rajes Sitanggang, Raja Huta Indigenous leader and Community Chief of the Pargamanan-Bintang Maria community said, “We have traveled far to speak out against the environmental and social harms that the pulp and paper company Toba Pulp Lestari has committed on our Indigenous Batak community for over a decade. Procter & Gamble needs to stop business with its corporate group [Royal Golden Eagle] to show that companies that violate Indigenous rights and intimidate communities will not be accepted in the international market.”
Evajunita Lumban Gaol, head of the women’s group in Pargamanan-Bintang Maria, said, “Our land is our identity. We are a part of the forest and it is a part of us, and like Indigenous people around the world, we protect our land better than any company seeking to destroy it. We protect it for the many generations still to come.”
“The impacted communities, who have been working to keep their forests standing for decades, have called on us all to step up and be bold in the face of destruction and climate chaos. As a long-time resident of Cincinnati where P&G is headquartered, it’s clear to me that we are all connected in this fight. I want to do what I can to hold P&G accountable and demand that it respects communities’ rights and ends the deforestation it’s connected to around the world,” said concerned Cincinnati resident Midavi Hayden.
“The leadership at Procter & Gamble has known for years that their operations are connected with violating Indigenous land rights and the destruction of some of the world’s highest conservation value rainforest in Indonesia,” said Maggie Martin, Senior Forest Campaigner at Rainforest Action Network. “We demand that P&G stop flushing away our future. It’s past time that this company live up to its own promises and cut ties with its harmful suppliers.”