Campaign Updates & News

Ag Giants Announce Big Move to Save Brazilian Rainforest

But Deforestation Outside of Brazilian Amazon Still Gets Green Light from Big Traders

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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.”

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Why IOI Is No Longer "The Worst Company You've Never Heard Of"

What a difference a season makes. It was just three months ago that we called IOI (and its North American division IOI Loders Croklaan) “the worst company you’ve never heard of." No kidding, this is the banner we've been running up atop our site for the past three months:

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Cut to this morning, when IOI, which trades about 10-15 percent of the world’s palm oil, announced a zero deforestation policy.

You can read the official Forest Heroes' press release on the announcement here.

Today's announcement indicates that IOI is transforming from “the worst company you’ve never heard of” to a palm oil giant that seems to be recognizing the importance of forest conservation. 

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Palm Oil Giant IOI Announces Zero-Deforestation Policy

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

KrispyKremeMadison_4-2.jpgCHICAGO, 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.”

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Tim Hortons Wants to be a Forest Hero Too: Now it needs to turn commitments into policy and action

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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!

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It's Been a Spook-tacular Year for Rainforests

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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.

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Bunge Joins the Second Green Revolution, Commits to Forest Conservation Policy for Palm Oil

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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 NavigatorBunge commits to deforestation-free palm oil

Union of Concerned ScientistsAgribusiness Giant Bunge Commits To Deforestation-Free Palm Oil

MongaBay: Bunge commits to zero deforestation palm oil

TCE TodayBunge makes sustainable palm oil pledge

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Agribusiness Giant Bunge Announces Forest Conservation Policy for Palm Oil

Here's the official Forest Heroes press release about Bunge's exciting announcement. 

AGRIBUSINESS GIANT BUNGE ANNOUNCES
FOREST CONSERVATION POLICY FOR PALM OIL
New York Company Key to Ending Climate Devastation in Heart of Borneo

WHITE PLAINS, NY – Forest, climate and consumer advocates today praised agribusiness giant Bunge for announcing a new policy to end deforestation and conserve forests in its palm oil supply chain. Bunge joins similar policies from traders Wilmar International, Golden Agri-Resources and Cargill, but it is set to have an outsized impact: the company is by far the largest buyer of palm oil from the Malaysian state of Sarawak, on the island of Borneo – the epicenter of devastating emissions of climate pollution locked in carbon-rich peatland.

“Bunge is joining the second green revolution that is breaking the link between agriculture and deforestation,” said Forest Heroes chairman Glenn Hurowitz, who negotiated Bunge’s policy in meetings in White Plains and Singapore over the last several months. “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. Customers want products made in an environmentally responsible way, period. That’s true for Sarawak, Indonesia, Africa, and beyond.”

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Forest Heroes has been campaigning to convince Bunge to announce a Forest Conservation Policy and take action in Sarawak. Today’s announcement comes following a successful international effort by Forest Heroes and its allies to persuade Bunge customers Dunkin’ Donuts and Krispy Kreme – major buyers of Bunge palm oil, which they use to fry their doughnuts – to announce their own Forest Conservation policies. Forest Heroes had initially named Bunge as a problem supplier in its Deforestation Doughnuts report this summer, but recognized progress by the company in its recent Green Tigers report that ranks the palm oil industry’s top suppliers.

“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.”

Peat is almost pure carbon, and destroying peatland to create palm oil plantations is the largest contributor to climate change in Southeast Asia – with Sarawak one of the top contributors. Just between 2005 and 2010, the state cleared a full third of its peatland, with a significant amount by the company Sarawak Oil Palms Bhd (SOP) and its affiliates. According to trade data, Bunge purchases 88 percent of SOP’s exports, and Bunge’s own filings show this represents 44 percent of their total palm oil trade.

“Today’s step is a real plus, but now several things need to happen,” said Hurowitz. “Most of all, this announcement gives the government of Sarawak and palm oil growers the market opportunity they need to protect forests, peat and local communities.

“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,” said Hurowitz. “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.”

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New York Times Covers Big UN Forests Announcements, Features Forest Heroes

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In its coverage of the UN Climate Summit, the New York Times paid special attention to the watershed announcements and pledges to stop the destruction of forests. The article, running on front page of the Business section in the New York edition of today's Times, quotes directly from Forest Heroes campaign chair Glenn Hurowitz's statement on the Kadin pledge, which was delivered to the UN Climate Summit. Here are a few paragraphs from the Times:

Tuesday’s declaration on forests was also endorsed by 32 governments, by numerous advocacy groups and by organizations representing indigenous people. Among corporations, it also included consumer goods companies that have pledged to impose tough standards on their suppliers of the oil, an ingredient in thousands of everyday products.

Cargill, the huge American commodity processor, went even further,extending a previous no-deforestation pledge that it had made on palm oil and soybeans to cover every commodity the company handles — one of the most sweeping environmental pledges ever made by a large agricultural company.

“We want to make sure we are treating the environment with respect,” David W. MacLennan, the company’s chief executive, said in an interview. “It’s the right thing to do for the planet, for indigenous peoples, for our customers and for our employees.”

The major Indonesian palm oil processors, including Cargill, issued a separate declaration on Tuesday pledging a crackdown on deforestation, and asking the Indonesian government to adopt stronger laws. Forest Heroes, an environmental group, called the declaration “a watershed moment in the history of both Indonesia and global agriculture. We should not underestimate the significance of what is happening.”

Read the rest of the article here

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The Kadin Pledge: A Watershed Moment for Forests at the UN Climate Summit

Yesterday, at the UN Climate Summit in New York City, four major palm oil companies joined with the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce, Kadin, in calling upon the Indonesian government to eliminate deforestation and peatland destruction nationwide.  The four companies--Wilmar, Golden Agri-Resources, Cargill, and Asian Agri--all reaffirmed their commitments to eliminate deforestation in their supply chains and called on the Indonesian government to be a partner in enshrining these reforms into national law.  

Here is Forest Heroes statement in support of the Kadin pledge, delivered at the Summit:

Statement on Kadin Pledge, delivered at the UN Climate Summit in New York City

Glenn Hurowitz, Chairman, Forest Heroes

September 23, 2014

New York - Today marks a watershed moment in the history of both Indonesia and global agriculture. We should not underestimate the significance of what is happening. Indonesia’s biggest agriculture producers are realizing that it is possible to grow more food while protecting forests, communities, and the global climate.  

This realization is upending one of the most fundamental theories about civilization’s growth. For thousands of years, people have assumed that spreading civilization meant converting diverse natural ecosystems into monocultures that served only man. Today, the actions of these companies and the Indonesian government are showing that that assumption is not true. We are seeing a second green revolution unfold before our eyes.

There are millions of acres of degraded land that are available for planting across Indonesia. Forest conservation policies are driving farmers to invest in expansion through yield improvement instead of forest clearance.  This development is having profound economic effects.

The rise of the “Asian tiger” economies has been one of the most profound developments of the past half-century. Too often in the past, this growth has come at the expense of forests, clean water, and clean air, and has damaged the well-being of the very communities it was meant to help. Today’s announcement shows that Asia’s economic future belongs to the Green Tigers, those companies and countries that understand that protecting forests and communities is essential to growth.

The companies here today are realizing that protecting forests is essential to securing market access around the world. Consumers want to know where their food comes from and that it’s produced in a way that is consistent with their values. That means that it’s produced in ways that do not harm forests or the climate, strengthen local communities, and respect workers’ and women’s rights. Companies that continue to clear forests or peatland or abuse human rights will simply not be able to sell to high-value markets.

Wall Street is weighing in too. Investors are increasingly wary of providing finance to companies engaged in deforestation. The message is clear: no forests, no cash. But companies that act responsibly will find what these companies are finding: investors are ready to finance the next stage of agriculture’s growth, so long as it is compatible with their goals to protect the forests.

Of course, companies cannot secure lasting gains for forests alone. They need government to ensure that rogue actors don’t undermine them by continuing to engage in deforestation. Government must be a partner in monitoring and enforcing these policies. There is much work to be done, but the Indonesian government’s strong support for these announcements could mean a real change.

The companies here today have created a dramatic political realignment. Companies that were once associated with deforestation are now calling on the government to ensure agriculture’s growth by protecting forests. Courageous private sector action has created a huge, but fleeting, opportunity for the Indonesian government to secure forest and community protection for the long term. Now it is up to the government to seize that opportunity.

On behalf of the Forest Heroes campaign and our millions of supporters around the world, I am here to say that we will support the Indonesian government as it does the hard work to realize this opportunity. As Indonesia makes progress, we will encourage the world’s biggest businesses and financiers to buy responsibly produced Indonesian agricultural products. We will work with governments around the world to provide incentives and training to smallholders to enable them to make a rapid transformation to deforestation-free production as well. And we will work hand in hand to spread this progress across commodities and around the world.

Congratulations to Dharsono Hartono, the US government, Wilmar, Golden Agri-Resources, Cargill and all the Forest Heroes who made this moment possible.

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Green Tigers Report Ranks Major Palm Oil Companies' Sustainability Performance

green_tigers_cover_page.jpgSoutheast Asia’s economies are roaring. But with the rise of the so-called “Asian tiger” economies, too many companies are still putting the region’s environment and economy at risk through continued deforestation and other irresponsible practices. But some countries and companies are choosing a different path. They are adapting to the revolutionized global market by evolving to ensure that their growth does not come at the expense of forests.

These are the Green Tigers -- those companies that are working aggressively to protect forests and reduce their overall environmental footprint are enjoying dramatically improved market access -- with strong prospects for continued international growth. 

The Green Tigers report by Forest Heroes ranks palm oil companies on their adherence to forest conservation requirements -- showing which companies are slated to prosper in the new era of forest protection, and which are lagging far behind.

Learn more about the report here

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