Wilmar Misses Deadline To Cut Conflict Palm Oil

posted by Gemma Tillack

Rainforest Action Network Calls Announcements “Disappointing,” Outlines Steps Needed To Drive Real Change On The Ground  

Rainforest Action Network has responded to announcements made by Wilmar International during the World Economic Forum in Davos by calling on the global palm oil behemoth to scale up its efforts and investments to drive real change for forests, peatlands, local communities and workers.

Wilmar released its “Policy Progress Update: 2013 – 2015” during the annual proceedings of the World Economic Forum, where key decision makers and ambassadors including Leonardo DiCaprio have called for increased efforts to halt the destruction of the world’s last intact ecosystems caused by the expansion of palm oil plantations. Wilmar’s Progress Update clearly shows that the palm oil giant has failed to eliminate rainforest destruction, climate pollution and egregious human rights violations from its global palm oil operations by its self-imposed deadline of December 31, 2015.

Wilmar first stated its intention to eliminate palm oil suppliers associated with deforestation, degradation of carbon-rich peatlands and human and worker rights’ violations in December 2013. Two years later, it is clear that not enough progress has been made to halt egregious practices in its supply chain. The following cases demonstrate that more action is needed before Wilmar can deliver on its commitments:

  • Palm oil expansion continues to drive deforestation in the 6.5 million acre global biodiversity hotspot known as The Leuser Ecosystem. Located in Aceh on the island of Sumatra, it is the last place on Earth where Sumatran orangutan, tiger, elephant, rhino and sunbear coexist in the wild, and the companies responsible for the destruction of rainforests and peatlands in the area sell palm oil to Wilmar’s key global suppliers.

  • In a recent Wall Street Journal report, forced labor and human trafficking were exposed in the operations of palm oil giant Felda Global Ventures (FGV)––a known supplier to Wilmar in Malaysia where a number of Wimar’s palm oil refineries are located.

  • The practice of landgrabbing is closely tied to deforestation, as palm oil companies seize community land for the further development of plantations. Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad (KLK), a known supplier to Wilmar, has attempted to pursue development in Collingwood Bay, Papua New Guinea and Grand Bassa County, Liberia despite active opposition and lack of Free, Prior and Informed Consent from local communities. In its own operations in Nigeria, Uganda, Sumatra, and Borneo, Wilmar has failed to resolve long-standing conflicts with communities, many of which have resulted from Wilmar’s own failure to solicit and obtain communities’ Free, Prior and Informed Consent.

  • An annually recurring issue, forest and plantation fires are currently ablaze across Indonesia, blanketing the skies of local villages and cities, as well as those cities across Southeast Asia, with toxic smoke. The fires are huge drivers of climate change, disrupt air traffic, provoke public health emergencies and trigger diplomatic crisis among Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Due to the fact that Wilmar’s has not enforced a moratorium on forest and peatland clearance or publicly named all of its suppliers in its global supply chain, Wilmar can not guarantee that it is not sourcing palm oil from plantations where fires are ablaze.

Wilmar sets the pace for the transformation of the palm oil sector. Wilmar must, as a matter of urgency, enact a moratorium on the clearance of forests and peatlands across all of its suppliers operations, including those in the Leuser Ecosystem. It is also crucial that Wilmar scales up efforts to resolve conflicts with communities across Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Nigeria and Uganda and actively monitors its suppliers to ensure compliance in all supplying countries with the social, environmental and transparency safeguards in its policy.

Wilmar’s progress report lacks a clear deadline for achieving 100% responsible supply chains. Until Wilmar commits to a new deadline, outlines a comprehensive implementation plan with time-bound milestones for achieving its goals of ending deforestation, degradation of carbon-rich peatlands and human and worker rights’ violations across its entire operations and those of its suppliers, and transparently reports against its progress, the status of Wilmar’s implementation will remain in question.

The global climate and biodiversity crisis is happening now. We simply can not afford to accept the ongoing expansion of commodities that are driving the destruction of the world’s last intact rainforests. With your help, we won’t.