2015 In Review: Exposing Spin and Driving Innovation In the Palm Oil Industry

posted by Gemma Tillack

In 2014, we witnessed a wave of paper commitments to cut the destruction of rainforest and peatlands, and the exploitation of local communities and workers, from the supply chains of the biggest snack food companies and palm oil giants in the palm oil industry. A year later, it is clear that our role in driving the much-needed transformation in this controversial sector has never been more important.

With your help, we have exposed the greenwash being rolled out by brands like PepsiCo that refuse to take real action to cut ties with Conflict Palm Oil. We’ve continued to challenge the credibility of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil––the certification system that continues to certify rainforest and peatland destruction and human rights abuse. But we didn’t stop there. With your help we:

Named the culprits destroying rainforests in the Leuser Ecosystem––forests that are on the frontlines of Conflict Palm Oil expansion;

Stood in solidarity with communities in Liberia and Papua New Guinea saying “No” to palm oil development on their lands; and

Exposed the human trafficking and forced labor in the palm oil industry in Malaysia.

As well as exposing problems and false solutions, we’ve been at the forefront of driving innovation in the palm oil sector via the work of The Palm Oil Innovation Group (POIG). This initiative was launched by RAN with partners such as Greenpeace, WWF, Forest Peoples Programme and palm oil companies Daabon and AgroPalma, and is demonstrating that we can break the link between palm oil and its impacts on forests, our climate, communities and workers. The potential for this initiative to drive large scale change for forests, peatlands, communities and workers is growing. Recently, one of the largest palm oil companies in Indonesia, Musim Mas Group, has joined the POIG, committing to test new innovations and make the improvements needed to be independently verified as a truly responsible palm oil producer, processor and trader.

Standing shoulder to shoulder with our allies in the labor movement we have launched the Free and Fair Labor Principles that, once accepted and implemented as industry norms, will drive improvements in the working conditions for millions of plantation workers.

We also launched an educational platform that highlights the key elements of our broken food system.

The one thing we have learned this year is that we must be unrelenting in our demands for real change on the ground in the palm oil industry. The risk of paper commitments delivering nothing but lip service for corporations is too high.

The true costs of failure are unacceptable––we’ve seen this firsthand with the forest fires that swept across Indonesia destroying massive areas of rainforests and carbon rich peatlands, resulting in the loss of lives and a safe living environment for countless families and masses of carbon pollution that worsens climate change.

We must succeed in our efforts to drive system wide change in the palm oil sector. We simply can not give up until we do. And to do that, we need you!

In 2016 we will stand with our allies across Indonesia and act as a watchdog of the palm oil industry. Will you stand with us?