Wilmar International, the biggest palm oil trader in the world, just launched a new website that makes public information about all of its roughly 800 suppliers and allows the public and forest advocates to report violations to its “No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation Policy.”
“No agricultural producer has ever aimed for this level of transparency at this massive scale,” said Glenn Hurowitz, Chairman of Forest Heroes. “Wilmar is setting the standard for responsibility in commodity production, and I hope its competitors will soon join them.”
Read Wilmar's statement about its new dashboard after the jump.
Fruit bats carrying the Ebola virus have been pushed closer to human populations by deforestation, according to a new study and World Health Organization report. Photo credit: David Brossard on Flickr.
There is no question that the tragic and deadly spread of Ebola in West Africa is tied to the longstanding poverty in the region, and exacerbated by a woefully inadequate medical response by the international health community.
Less obvious are the links between the rampant deforestation in the region, rapid agricultural development and the killer outbreak.
And while it would be imprudent and irresponsible to place the blame for the Ebola pandemic in any particular plantation in West Africa, there is a very interesting line of scientific inquiry underway that is finding that in general such plantations—including of palm oil—could play a significant role.
Researchers from the University of Minnesota, Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of United Nations and other institutions recently hypothesized that severe changes in the forest ecosystems disrupted an equilibrium that has been keeping the virus at bay in the wild.
In their commentary Did Ebola emerge in West Africa by a policy-driven phase change in agroecology? the authors review peer-reviewed studies showing that Ebola has been circulating in the region for years—and that this was not a “spontaneous outbreak,” as often reported. Rather, the authors suggest a new hypothesis: that the destruction of virgin forests and planting of vast monocultures forced the virus to “spill over” from its wildlife sources into human hosts.
Over the past year, the Forest Heroes campaign and our supporters and allies have put forward an extraordinary effort that has helped secure victory after victory as we've all transformed the palm oil industry together.
Today, we are proud to announce that the campaign -- and that includes all of you supporters -- has won the coveted BENNY award, as a "top activist campaign to make corporations more socially and environmentally responsible."
Read all about the BENNY award and the winning campaigns here.
Along with our friends at Greenpeace and the Rainforest Action Network, and with the support of integral allies like Green Century Funds, SumOfUs, Green Corps, Union of Concerned Scientists, and the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit 2014, Forest Heroes won the BENNY for our collective achievements in moving the world's largest palm oil companies to commit to protecting forests and respecting local communities and human rights.
According to Michael Marx, Chair of the 2014 BENNY Awards, "The National Selection Committee was unanimous in it choice of the International Palm Oil Campaign as a Top Corporate Campaign 2014 BENNY Award winner. The campaign, led by Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network, and Catapult is a textbook example of how a diverse coalition of NGOs can work together to achieve social and environmental change. Using investigative reports, grassroots organizing, social media, and shareholder action, these groups and a diverse set of allies working in Indonesia and Malaysia moved some of the largest consumer and commodity supplier companies in the world to adopt procurement policies that will protect against deforestation, climate pollution and human rights abuses not only due to palm oil production, but soy, beef and other agricultural products as well."
Specific to our work, Marx said that Forest Heroes "played a central role in transforming an entire industry, in just one year. Twelve months ago, major palm oil companies were almost unchecked in destroying rainforests and pushing Sumatran tigers to the edge of extinction. Today, 96 percent of the global market is covered by responsible sourcing guidelines. It would not have happened without smart grassroots organizing that helped regular people make their voices heard, combined with aggressive engagement with corporate executives that eventually led to a radical transformation. The Forest Heroes worked at every level to make change happen -- and it did."
Our work is not possible without our supporters -- our volunteers and activists -- our Forest Heroes. This is YOUR award.
Deborah Lapidus, Director of Forest Heroes, made the following remarks: "We accept this award on behalf of all the Forest Heroes out there: the hundreds of organizations and millions of visionary people around the world who took action to protect the world's rainforests and spur a revolution in global agriculture. This award helps send a powerful signal that there is tremendous energy and momentum to save the world's forests."
Congratulations, and thank you!
Today marks the one-year anniversary of Wilmar International's landmark No-Deforestation policy. This commitment started a domino effect across the entire palm oil industry and beyond that is giving new hope in the fight to protect the world's forests. Forest Heroes chair Glenn Hurowitz reflected on this year of transformation, originally published on Mongabay.com.
About one year ago today, I was pretty down. It was Thanksgiving night, and the Forest Heroes campaign, which I chair, had been running a big global campaign to persuade Wilmar International, Asia’s largest agribusiness company, to eliminate deforestation and human rights abuse throughout its enormous supply chain.
After four trips to Singapore in the space of a year, we were on the cusp of a breakthrough that I felt had the potential to transform global agriculture: we’d negotiated a "No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation" policy for Wilmar that would be applied through their enormous global supply chains on all six continents.
But Wilmar was refusing to act unless their competitors went along too, and their competitors seemed happy to watch Wilmar draw all the fire from our campaign as they went about business as usual. We thought we had been making progress with Wilmar, but I thought it might have all collapsed – and I wrote an email to my team, “Suit up – we’re going to war.”
But Deforestation Outside of Brazilian Amazon Still Gets Green Light from Big Traders
Forest and climate advocates today praised the extension of a landmark initiative by agribusiness giants to protect the Amazon rainforest from soy production in Brazil.
Following pressure from civil society and brand-name soy buyers, the Brazilian soy industry announced today that they would renew the Amazon Soy Moratorium, a historically successful forest protection measure that was set to expire at the end of 2014, through May 2016.
“The renewal of the Soy Moratorium shows that companies recognize that they can continue to expand production without sacrificing the world’s forests,” said Glenn Hurowitz, Chair of the Forest Heroes campaign, which worked with other groups to encourage major soy buyers around the world to support a renewal of the moratorium. “Brazil’s success on soy has sparked a second green revolution that is breaking the link between agriculture and deforestation, as we’re now seeing with palm oil in Southeast Asia. The transformation that started in Brazil is being exported around the world, and now is no time to slow down.”
The official Forest Heroes press release:
Over three quarters of global palm oil now covered by deforestation-free sourcing policies; Forest Heroes calls on rogue companies to join
CHICAGO, IL – Three quarters of the world’s palm oil is now covered by zero-deforestation sourcing requirements, following a palm oil policy announced today by edible oil giant IOI Loders Croklaan. The company trades 10 to 15 percent of the world’s palm oil.
“IOI’s move signals that palm oil companies who engage in deforestation really have nowhere left to go,” said Forest Heroes Chairman Glenn Hurowitz, who led negotiations with IOI in London, Malaysia, and the United States. “There’s no longer any excuse for responsible consumer companies to purchase from rogue actors like Sime Darby or Musim Mas that continue to destroy rainforests.”
Although they praised IOI’s move, advocates said that given the company’s recent history of deforestation and serious labor and human rights issues, they would be closely scrutinizing implementation efforts.
“This can’t just be a policy on paper,” said Forest Heroes Director Deborah Lapidus. “Given IOI’s record, they need to move rapidly to make their supply chain transparent, address serious human rights issues, and secure participation from a credible implementation partner. While we welcome IOI’s commitment to apply the new policy to IOI Group, third party suppliers and subsidiaries, we urge IOI Group to formally adopt the zero-deforestation policy right away.”
IOI Loders Croklaan’s commitment follows similar policies from fellow palm oil traders Wilmar International (~45% of global trade), Golden Agri-Resources (~10%), Cargill (~5%) and Bunge (~2%) over the past year. Today’s announcement follows a year of campaigning by Forest Heroes and its allies:
- In November 2013, Forest Heroes joined Friends of the Earth in publishing the Commodity Crimes report, which revealed that IOI had joined palm oil supplier Bumitama to clear areas of ultra-carbon rich peatlands and orangutan habitat in Borneo.
- In June, Forest Heroes targeted major players in the doughnut industry, including Dunkin’ Brands, Krispy Kreme and Tim Hortons that all fry their products in palm oil – as part of an effort to reach doughnut oil suppliers including IOI Loders Croklaan. The campaign included actions outside Krispy Kreme storefronts that highlighted deforestation connected to IOI (see amazing photo). With today’s announcement, all of the companies identified in the landmark Deforestation Doughnuts report have committed to zero-deforestation sourcing.
- In August, Forest Heroes launched an online campaign that named IOI “the worst company you’ve never heard of” and conducted aggressive global outreach to IOI’s 50 top customers and investors to share pictures of deforestation from their operations in Borneo.
Immediately following the announcement, Forest Heroes reclassified IOI Loders Croklaan from the Red to Yellow List in its Green Tigers guide to palm oil suppliers, and said the company may be improved further following implementation and effective governance.
In addition, Forest Heroes sent letters to its network of consumer companies and investors to update them on IOI’s policy and calling on them to shift their buying practices to responsible suppliers.
“Consumer companies now have many choices for deforestation-free palm oil sources,” said Lapidus. “We’re counting on brand-name companies to continue their commitments to real forest protection by only doing business with those suppliers who are taking serious steps for conservation.”
# # #
Timbit lovers rejoice! Tim Hortons has announced that it is going deforestation-free!
In September, we celebrated the rare “double victory” as both Dunkin’ Donuts and Krispy Kreme announced strong new deforestation-free palm oil policies, within 24 hours of one another.
Apparently Tim Hortons didn’t want to be the only major North American doughnut shop to serve up sweet breakfast treats with a side of deforestation.
So in late September, the company quietly announced its own commitment to responsible palm oil. The details, from the Tim Hortons’ corporate website:
Tim Hortons will source 100% of the palm oil we book in 2015 from sources verified as supporting sustainable production. Further, we are working with our product manufacturers, suppliers and other partners on developing a broader, more comprehensive palm oil sourcing policy.
We are committed to deforestation-free, peat-free palm oil sourcing, and protecting both High Conservation Value / High Carbon Stock forests. Our approach also focuses on fair labor practices consistent with International Labour Organization (ILO) standards, traceability and reporting on performance. We will communicate the results of our collaborative work in our next Sustainability and Responsibility Report.
This commitment is far from perfect -- this was a short statement, but not a full policy. There’s no mention of timelines or an implementation plan, and it lacks some significant details about the sourcing requirements -- but it’s a huge step in the right direction. Tim Hortons is, for the first time, publicly committing to zero-deforestation, zero-peat, and protections of high conservation stock and high conservation value forests, as well as labor rights and traceability.
So this is an incredibly encouraging development. Over the summer, our Forest Heroes community put the pressure on the big North American doughnut companies, and in in a couple of short weeks, the entire industry changed. Thanks to all who showed up at Dunkin Donuts and Krispy Kreme events, and who nudged the companies on social media and by email, and showed Tim Hortons what they could expect if they didn’t do right by the forests.
If you have a moment, please take to Twitter to thank Timmy's for taking the first step, and help nudge them to further action. Click here or copy and paste the sample Tweet below.
Thanks @TimHortons for taking the 1st step to deforestation-free #palmoil. http://bit.ly/1GubtwQ
Now let’s see a full policy with timelines.
We’ll be paying close attention to Timmy’s policies as they turn the announcement into action, and will keep you posted on how things develop. Thanks again!
Last October, nearly all of the Halloween candy handed out to adorably-costumed kids had direct ties to rainforest destruction. Most candy companies had no real policy for how they sourced their palm oil, the ubiquitous additive found in everything from candy bars to candy corn.
Without much pressure from consumer-facing companies, palm oil suppliers kept cutting down forests -- threatening the habitats of the critically endangered Sumatran tiger (my favourite animal, for the record) and orangutans -- and destroying carbon-rich peatlands, often using forced and child labor.
Not so sweet.
Last Halloween, if you wanted to hand out tiger-friendly treats, you had precious few options. Aside from a handful of small, environmentally-minded fair trade producers,Nestlé was the only major candy company to have a strong commitment to deforestation-free and peat-free palm oil.
Fast forward twelve months, and it's a heck of a lot easier to find a treat that isn't tricking the Sumatran tigers and orangutans out of their homes.
A quick glance at the Forest Heroes' tiger-friendly Halloween candy buying guide, published last October with our partners at SumOfUs.org, shows just how far we've come in a year.
Yesterday, another major palm oil trader committed to a new no deforestation, no peat, and no exploitation policy. The announcement from White Plains, New York-based Bunge comes on the heels of a successful campaign by Forest Heroes and allies to convince Dunkin' Donuts and Krispy Kreme -- two big customers of Bunge's palm oil -- to commit to deforestation-free doughnuts.
Clearly, the trader has heard from its customers that the American public doesn't want to choose between delicious treats and forest conservation.
“Today the supply chain worked, because consumer demand was heard,” said Kaytee Riek, Campaigns and Training Director with the global consumer watchdog SumOfUs, which is part of the Forest Heroes coalition, and whose activists have urged Bunge to take action over the last several months. “Consumers care about their forests and their climate. Forward-thinking commodity traders like Bunge are hearing this and profiting from it, while those like Musim Mas who cling to old models of “bulldoze and plant” risk losing access to customers and markets. Bunge made a smart decision today.”
Bunge now joins agribusiness giants Wilmar, Golden-Agri Resources, and Cargill in committing to responsible palm oil sourcing, which together comprise the vast majority of global palm oil trade.
"Bunge’s announcement sends a clear message to rogue actors in the palm oil industry that you can’t escape the push for forest and peat conservation," said Forest Heroes chairman Glenn Hurowitz. "Customers want products made in an environmentally responsible way, period. That’s true for Sarawak, Indonesia, Africa, and beyond."
Click here for the official Forest Heroes press release on the announcement.
What makes this announcement particularly important is that Bunge is committing to stop buying palm oil from suppliers that destroy ultra carbon-rich peatlands, known as "deep carbon". With this move, Bunge could help stop the rampant deforestation of peatlands in the Malyasian state of Sarawak, in the heart of the island of Borneo, where Bunge buys the majority of its palm oil.
Of course, this announcement is just the start, and now the company must get on with the hard work of rapidly implementing the policy, and extending it across all of the agri-giant's many commodities.
Hurowitz explained, "For its part, Bunge needs to move forward with fast, aggressive and transparent implementation, including in joint ventures like its Bumiraya Investindo plantations in Kalimantan. It needs to meet the demand from its consumer-facing customers for limiting the use of hazardous pesticides, treating methane effluent, and protecting wildlife. Finally, Bunge should build on the progress it’s making in palm oil and join competitors Wilmar and Cargill in applying its Forest Conservation Policy across all the commodities it trades around the world."
Below, find a roundup of the media coverage of this exciting announcement from Bunge.
E&E News: Agribusiness giant Bunge announces zero-deforestation commitment (subscription required)
Business Green: Agri-giant Bunge commits to zero deforestation palm oil
Food Navigator: Bunge commits to deforestation-free palm oil
Union of Concerned Scientists: Agribusiness Giant Bunge Commits To Deforestation-Free Palm Oil
MongaBay: Bunge commits to zero deforestation palm oil
TCE Today: Bunge makes sustainable palm oil pledge