Statement from Forest Heroes Campaign Chairman Glenn Hurowitz on:
Major Indonesian Palm Oil Grower Announces New Direction on Conserving Forests and Peat
Serious Issues Remain, but Conservation Measures Offer a Template for Resolving Other Problems
“Today, the supply chain worked. Bumitama’s forest conservation steps mark a breakthrough in which a very large scale Indonesian palm oil supplier publicly announced meaningful steps for forest conservation in response to new No Deforestation policies from major agricultural traders like Wilmar and GAR. The second green revolution is happening before our eyes. Agricultural producers are realizing that they can expand without converting natural ecosystems, upending thousands of years of assumptions about civilization’s growth.
“Bumitama Agri announced that it would set aside more than 13,000 hectares of forest and peatland from development, after the results of a pilot study looking at deforestation’s impact on climate change and biodiversity. And they did it because they wanted access to global markets following zero-deforestation commitments from palm oil traders Wilmar and Golden Agri-Resources. Notably, in its press release, Bumitama also attributed the move to a “response to the changing global trend on sustainability.
“While today’s action is a positive move, Bumitama still has serious issues to address before it can be considered a responsible supplier. For instance, reports by Save our Borneo released on Friday found that the company is still illegally operating palm oil plantations in Borneo through its subsidiary PT Hati Prima Agro (HPA), despite a July Supreme Court decision that found that the company was operating without the legally-required permits. According to remote sensing and on the ground investigation, Bumitama had cleared more than 7000 hectares of forest since 2009. In order to win the confidence of customers and stakeholders, Bumitama must build on today’s positive action by ceasing operations on HPA and applying a comprehensive “No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation” policy to its full operations, including its third party suppliers and subsidiaries. We are encouraged that Bumitama has announced that it is developing a policy, but it must address serious issues like HPA immediately. See this story: Palm oil company continues to operate illegal plantation despite court ruling, for more detail on HPA.
“Forest Heroes has spent more than a year highlighting the serious problems with Bumitama’s forest and peat clearance. We launched an on-the-ground investigation into Bumitama’s clearance of orangutan habitat, co-authored a report looking at how the company was involved with illegal land grabs, and we’ve highlighted the company as part of our engagement with the doughnut sector’s use of irresponsible palm oil. We’ve talked to dozens of consumer companies and investors around the world to encourage them to alter their relationship with Bumitama.
“So we don’t say this lightly: while there are still major issues for the company to address, Bumitama deserves credit for today’s actions.
“While there have been other important quiet moves by palm oil producers to respond to Wilmar and GAR’s policies, this is the single most impressive public example yet that No Deforestation commitments from major global suppliers can have enormous impact, and both Wilmar and GAR merit praise for their significant contributions to today’s step forward. We congratulate the responsible products nonprofit TFT that spearheaded the sort of forest audit that made Bumitama’s decision possible, as well as the many civil society organizations around the world that united for a major effort to focus attention on the need to transform Bumitama. We particularly congratulate the hundreds of thousands of members of the online corporate campaign organization Sum of Us who have called for action on Bumitama.
“While this is an important step forward, it must not be a one-off. Now Bumitama should move to create its own comprehensive policy to protect forests, peat, and communities, with a transparent implementation plan that covers all its operations and suppliers.
“Finally, Bumitama’s part-owner, IOI Loders Croklaan, has told us that they have encouraged Bumitama to take today’s move. We welcome this work, and are continuing to engage with IOI Loders Croklaan and its customers about serious issues we’ve raised. IOI can build on Bumitama’s progress by issuing its own comprehensive forest and human rights policy and implementation plan.”