Major Global Brands and Banks Complicit in Production of Conflict Palm Oil on Stolen Community Lands in Indonesia

Nestlé, Mars, Mondelēz, Unilever, and Dutch bank ABN AMRO found in violation of their own policies against human rights abuses

*Publishable images from field and supply chain investigations available on request

Aceh, Indonesia – New field investigations by Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and documentation by Indonesian NGOs LBH Banda Aceh and Walhi Aceh have uncovered evidence that major brands continue to source Conflict Palm Oil. Controversial palm oil company PT. Dua Perkasa Lestari (PT. DPL) owned by Said Syamsul Bahri, former Chairman of the Regional Representative Council of the District City of Southwest Aceh who currently serves as Chairman of the DPD PAN Southwest Aceh, has continued to supply Conflict Palm Oil to major brands including Nestlé, Mars, Mondelēz, PepsiCo and Unilever via palm oil giants Golden Agri Resources (GAR) and Permata Hijau, despite PT. DPL’s gross violation of the rights of the Pante Cermin community in Aceh, Indonesia. 

LBH Banda Aceh and Walhi Aceh’s investigation reveals a decades-long unresolved conflict with the Pante Cermin community that includes a lack of proper permits by PT. DPL to operate in the first place, well documented land grabbing of customary lands, destruction of community food crops without Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), and the systematic use of military force to intimidate and displace community members in violation of the policies of Indonesia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs.  

“The fact that a company like PT. DPL has continued to supply the global market while actively violating the rights of local communities, misusing security apparati to intimidate community members, and ignoring substantial legal problems in its permitting process, means that major brands are not taking their responsibility to implement their ‘No Deforestation, No Peatland and No Exploitation’ policies seriously,” said Gemma Tillack with Rainforest Action Network. 

Syahrul, Director of Legal Aid (LBH) Banda Aceh stated that, “Since PT Dua Perkasa Lestari’s permit was issued in 2008, the community has been threatened with forceful eviction from their land. In fact, the company continues to clear land and destroy community crops by force. Most of the community members cannot survive because of economic limitations and other reasons but many are still committed to fight for their land. LBH has also reported this case to the Southwest Aceh District Government, the Aceh Provincial Government, the Aceh Parliament and the Presidential Staff Office, but it has still not been resolved the conflict and no one has come to verify the community’s land claims. With the COVID pandemic, it is more urgent than ever to protect communities’ rights to access their land to sustain their food and livelihood.”

The NGOs behind the investigation say Nestlé, Mars, Mondelēz, PepsiCo and Unilever need to place PT. DPL on a ‘No Buy’ list and engage with their suppliers and PT. DPL to immediately resolve this land conflict as a condition to resume their business. 

Multinational banks have also been complicit in facilitating GAR’s reckless palm oil sourcing practices. Bank Negara Indonesia, Bank Central Asia and Dutch bank ABN AMRO are three major banks with known active loans to GAR at this time. Japanese bank Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group has also been a major lender to GAR over the last few years.   

“It is shocking that ABN AMRO continues to finance a palm oil company that has repeatedly failed to respect human rights in its own operations and those of its third party suppliers like PT. Dua Perkasa Lestari. It is a blatant disregard of the bank’s human rights commitments.” said Ms. Tillack.  

GAR is part of the Sinar Mas Group, a group of companies controlled by the Widjaja family. Sinar Mas’ palm oil divisions received in excess of USD 3.5 billion in loans and underwriting for the period 2016 – April 2020 (the same period where evidence of human rights violations and deforestation by PT. DPL was raised with GAR). Banks that are financing GAR must intervene immediately to ensure that GAR adopts a No Buy position for PT. DPL until agreements are in place to return land to the Pante Cermin community members. If GAR fails to do so they must suspend financing for the palm oil giant.