Now in its third season, VICE on HBO has provided powerful investigative reports on some of the most compelling and urgent issues around the world. In its latest episode airing tonight, the VICE team travels to Indonesia to see how the expansion of palm oil plantations and deforestation have impacted wildlife populations, local communities, and our global climate. The report also includes an interview with Forest Heroes chairman Glenn Hurowitz, among others.
Watch a sneak peak of the episode, showing the work of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program to protect critically endangered populations in Indonesia:
Attention now turns to Bunge, Cargill, and Louis Dreyfus
In one of the most significant developments yet in the rapid transformation of global agriculture toward responsible production, agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) will adopt a new No Deforestation policy, with a special focus on its soy and palm oil supply chains. ADM’s policy was released today and will be formally announced in May. It is the first of any major agricultural traders to extend an action plan for strong forest conservation beyond the Brazilian Amazon to other parts of South America where forests are also under threat from irresponsible practices related to soy and cattle production, such as Paraguay, Colombia, Bolivia, and the cerrado region of Brazil.
“ADM’s action plan for forest conservation in Latin America makes the company the leader among the big soy traders,” said Forest Heroes chairman Glenn Hurowitz. “ADM has shown that they can boost soy production by focusing expansion on degraded land and yield improvement, instead of sacrificing forests.”
Starbucks needs to meet the new benchmark for responsible production: No Deforestation, No Peat, and No Exploitation across all global commodities.
Starbucks knows its customers care about sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Though its stores span across the globe, the Seattle-based company has preserved its core demographic—the affluent, educated, and socially conscientious consumers known as LOHAS (Lifestyle of Health And Sustainability). These customers are willing to pay a higher price for higher standards, and have demanded that the company improve its performance on a number of key goals ranging from fair trade coffee to waste reduction. These values are also reflected in Starbuck’s political leadership on issues ranging from climate change to gay marriage.
Today, at its annual shareholders meeting, investors should call upon Starbucks to take the next big leadership opportunity: being among the first wave of major consumer brands to adopt a global forest conservation and human rights policy that requires suppliers of agricultural commodities like coffee, sugar, and palm oil to agree not to cut down forests, destroy carbon-rich peatlands, or harm workers or local communities.
Bloomberg BusinessWeek reporter Yuriy Humber recently investigated the fascinating inside story of how Wilmar International CEO Kuok Khoon Hong went from "forest foe" to one of the leading drivers of the palm oil industry’s move towards forest and human rights protection over the past year.
Check out a short excerpt below, and be sure to read the full story here!
Today, major palm oil trader IOI Loders Croklaan and its parent company IOI Corporation affirmed their shared commitment to source palm oil free of deforestation and human rights abuses. While IOI Loders Croklaan had previously said their policy applies to IOI Corporation, the parent company had not yet affirmed that fact, so this announcement addresses that important gap and signals buy-in by IOI Corporation.
“IOI’s commitment to forest conservation is yet another sign of the growing movement toward responsible palm oil,” said Forest Heroes campaign director Deborah Lapidus. “Being a responsible supplier means that your standards apply to the entire supply chain and subsidiaries.”
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.”