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.”

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.”

On October 27, 2014
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