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!
The sprawling palm oil industry is the destroyer of rainforests and tormentor of endangered species across
Southeast Asia, to hear environmental groups tell it.
And if there’s one executive who embodies this contentious $50 billion business, it’s Singaporean commodities magnate Kuok Khoon Hong. He’s the palm oil king, co-founder and chairman of giant Wilmar International Ltd, the industry’s biggest trading firm. It handles almost half of the global trade in the commodity.
Yet, these days Kuok is no longer portrayed as a villain by activists and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). He’s actually become central to their campaign to prod the industry into adopting new, eco-friendly business practices that may start to arrest the environmental damage in the region.
“I would consider myself an environmentalist today,” Kuok said in an e-mail. “I changed a few years ago when I saw the damage climate change had on the environment in some countries.”
The story of how Kuok’s position changed is based on an e-mail correspondence with him and interviews with industry executives, experts and environmentalists familiar with his thinking.